I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect RSS aggregator for quite some time now. I found a few good ones, so I figured I could write a little something on my experiences.
The functionality is mostly the same on all aggregators. You get a list of source feeds, post titles and excerpts. The differences lie mostly in how the software let you read the posts with as little effort as possible.
On Mac, I’ve tried first NewsFire, which has a really, really sleek interface. Everything is very polished and moves around smoothly, with little animations and swooshing sounds. However, in the last version I used (0.6.2 or something like that), in order to update the feeds you had to quit and restart NewsFire, which is not really useful in a software that’s supposed to help you stay up-to-date 🙂 (note that NewsFire 1.0 was released only a few days ago, so this bug might be fixed). Prompted by this problem (and the sudden realization that NewsFire was actually a shareware), I decided to try NetNewsWire, more specifically the Beta, Lite version (screenshot). It’s extremely nice, lacks somehow the polish and fun of NewsFire but has some good features of its own (for example, it can present new posts from several sources in an aggregated list). I actually like the presentation of NetNewsWire better : the sources, post titles and excerpts are presented simultaneously, while in NewsFire you have to switch between the titles and excerpts continously.
I’ll stick with NetNewsWire for now, see how it goes.
On Linux, I’ve first tried Straw, which was developed under python, and needs plenty of weird dependencies to run properly. Once you’ve managed to install everything (which can be tricky), it works quite well. However, Straw takes ages to update the feeds, even with the ADNS Python bindings which are supposed to speed things up (it’s better, but still slow). Apparently, version 0.25 has seen speed improvements, so maybe I should try it again. In the meantime, I’ve tried liferea – generally quite good, compiles easily (very little dependencies), and a lot faster than Straw last time I tried. A few bugs though, e.g. read posts showing up as unread after a refresh, a few crashes here and there, etc. The last aggregator I tried is Blam and is the best on any platform in my opinion. All the required features are there, it does a really good job at keeping track of read posts, it’s using gecko (well, to be honest the other two do it too) so the rendering is flawless, refreshes are very, very fast. But mostly, the interface is dead simple : Blam is the first and only reader to understand that RSS readers do not need a toolbar, and that a unique “Refresh” button is all that’s needed in 99% of cases. After using Blam, I don’t understand why there’s so many preferences in all the others, you don’t need most of this stuff.
Weirdly enough, I’ve tried a few RSS readers on Windows (like Feedreader, FeedDemon, and others) but for whatever reasons I cannot get myself to use them regularly (they’re either bloated with thousands of functions, or do not feel integrated enough, or take forever to load, or…). The best option I found on Windows was to use Sage, an extension for Firefox. I’m still looking for a good aggregator on Windows, so if anybody has a suggestion, I’d take it.