NewsGator update: NetNewsWire, FeedDemon and SmartRead

NetNewsWire is finally updated for NewsGator syncing! It’s been quite some time since I used NetNewsWire, preferring FeedDemon so I could keep feeds in sync across multiple computers, including my PDA.

So far, the new version appears to work nicely. I downloaded it, entered my NewsGator username and password and now all my feeds are here. No starting over. Even though my PC is sitting 2 feet away, I’ve been playing with the new Mac version. It’s been a while. Takes some getting used. But the syncing is great and I like that I can post to del.icio.us or blog to ecto and I get that pretty Safari rendering (as opposed to FeedDemon, which does Internet Explorer by default). It’s quite fast, too. I have the applications open on both computers. When the application polls NewsGator (every 10 minutes on FeedDemon, every 30 minutes on NetNewsWire) articles that I’ve read in NetNewsWire are automatically marked read in FeedDemon. This is what I was talkin’ about, people. Brent Simmons already has a quality product, this just makes it near perfect. I just have to get used to it again. I’d love if it could mark articles as read automatically when I move to a new unread article, I’m not sure if I’m missing a setting somewhere.

When I’m on my PDA, I typically log into my NewsGator Mobile location using the Opera mobile web browser. It was nice to sit on Amtrak last night and read feeds instead of a magazine. NG Mobile Edition doesn’t have any of the bells & whistles of the full online version. All you can do is click and read. No clips, no adding feeds, etc. It’s fast, and it gets the job done. My biggest beef is that I wish it had some mobile conversion technology like Skweezer or MobileLeap where if you click on a link it forces the page into mobile format. Reading a page designed for a 1024×768 screen on a small screen can be painful.

Instead of improving the online version, NewsGator did what they’ve become good at…they bought a desktop application (and the whole company) in the platform they were after. For mobility, they bought SmartRead, an application for Windows Mobile.

Can I say? NewsGator people…I don’t get it.

Your acquisitions of Ranchero (NetNewsWire) and Bradsoft (FeedDemon) made sense because they were the two leading aggregators on their respective platforms. Both excellent applications already. Made better because they worked together.

I never heard of SmartRead before NewsGator bought them, and after trying the demo, I know why. I tried it. It’s unusable. I have nothing against the developers of SmartRead, I’m sure they’re brilliant folks, but does anyone actually use SmartRead?

Why do I hate it? I’m glad you asked.

You fire it up and it asks for your NewsGator username and password. Great, with you so far. You have a choice of getting feeds right away or updating as you do. If you get the feeds right away, you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. No progress bar to tell you how you’re doing in the process. Just a spinning beach ball (yes, Mac-folks, Windows Mobile’s wait cursor is a spinning beach ball…don’t argue with me about which came first). So you have no way of knowing if you’re on article 36 of 4602 or it’s just timed out. And this is with my phone connected to my WiFi router. I can’t imagine what would happen if I tried over GPRS/EDGE.

Okay, so soft reset and try again without updating all the feeds first. You get a listing of all your feeds with (0/0) after the title (not my screen shot):

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In order to see if there’s unread articles, you have to click on each feed, hold and select “refresh” and wait and see what happens. Are you kidding me? I have hundreds of feeds, and this application has no way of telling me whether 3 have unread articles or 300. I could select to refresh all feeds, but see spinning beach ball comment above. Can I click on the folder name and refresh that way? Nope. Once it tells you if there’s article to be read in dem dere hills, you have to click on the feed name, then click on “View” to actually see the headlines. The intuitive way would be to click and hold and select “View” or have a click or double-click to view. But no. Two clicks on opposite ends of the screen are the only way to see what headlines there are to read. First time I was ever grateful for the small screen. At least the “View” button is on the left for us southpaws. And forget one-handed browsing.

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To read the article, you have to click on the headline and then “View” at the bottom.

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Click on a link and you can read more in a completely unusable browser that you can’t link instead to an alternate preferred browser. Then back up to read the next article.

I know, it’s just a preview. But isn’t a preview is supposed to be a hint of what’s to come? If this is a hint of what’s to come, wake me when it’s something that looks and acts like the complete opposite of what I tried. It’s possible to make a slick portable application. Many have done it. NewsGator has set very high standards by bringing in the leaders in this field…Nick Bradbury and Brent Simmons. The Windows Mobile version deserves no less. Did anyone at NewsGator actually load this thing up with more than 3 feeds and try and use it? I have to doubt it, or they wouldn’t be talking about it. I’ll stick to the browser version, hoping that they enhance it as promised quickly.

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3 thoughts on “NewsGator update: NetNewsWire, FeedDemon and SmartRead

  1. Judi – thanks for your comments about smartread. We’re definitely aware of the issues you mention, and there is a private build floating around our office that addresses nearly all of them. If you’re going to be at MIX next week, by chance, I’ll be demoing some of it on stage; look me up afterwards, and I’ll walk you through the changes – I think you’ll feel much better!

  2. Hi Judi,

    I just want to reiterate what Greg has said. I have been hard at work with Greg to work through many of the issues you bring up.

    I am planning to have a private Beta release next week and would love to have someone with your passion take another look. Additional input would be greatly appreciated.

    This product is in an early stage of development, as you have witnessed first hand, but I am diligently working to get the product up to NewsGator standards.

    -kevin

  3. Pingback: A View From Home

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