Review: Net News Wire 2.0 Beta

27 February, 2005

As part of my New Year's resolution to pay for more of the software that I use all the time, I recently purchased a license for NetNewsWire 2.0. Even though it's still in beta, over the month long trial I found myself growing ever more dependant on the program and, therefore, amazed on the trial's expiration to learn I'd only had the thing a month. If that's not a reason to buy software, I don't know of one.

I'd first tried NNWlite (their free version) sometime in late 2003 when I first heard of RSS, but couldn't really grasp the utility. A lot of the feeds I subscribed to contained only headlines and not the full articles; they hadn't implemented the in-app tabbed browser; etc. Basically, NNWlite, at that point, was constantly throwing you back into Safari, rather than just letting you get at the content you subsrcibe to within itself, which is, I've found, what makes using an aggregator so useful, saving you time browsing around the web.

Now, not only do more feeds provide full stories (and there just simply are more interesting feeds around), but also, now NNW has great support for enclosures (podcasting was actually what made me look again at using an RSS Reader) along with their rocking browser system (the first time I accidentally hit cmd+q instead of cmd+w, and then re-launched the program, I was thrilled to find that it remembered all the tabs I had open and just reloaded those pages. If only Safari would do something like this, I'd lose great links a lot less often).

Having sung its praises for three paragraphs now, there is something I really wish that NNW would do that it doesn't: support bookmarks and therefore, and more importantly, bookmarklets. Being able to tag pages to is the main reason for my desire, though there are other neat things to do with bookmarklets as well (see my previous post on bookmarklets) this is the big one. Right now, when I find a page I want to tag, I've got to copy the URL into Safari, wait for it to load, and then trigger the bookmarklet to tag it. Though the kind folks at Ranchero were nice enough to point me towards an apple script for posting, it only works on individual News Items themselves, not web pages you've opened, which, in my experience, is really what you want to tag.

This small complaint aside, Net News Wire, has really changed the way I use the web. I use it nearly as much as Safari; I'm reading a lot more things (blogs and otherwise) on a consistent basis in not too much more time than before. This plus the great podcasting functionality (the one problem there is the lack of the ability to tell NNW only to download the enclosure in the most recent item in a new feed which can result in undesirable mass downloading on new subscriptions) has really made it indespensable.

What I really wonder and where the rubber's going to meet the road is when Safari RSS comes out with the release of Tiger, if NNW will turn out to be obselete. My experience with NNW has made me feel like browser-integration is inevitable for RSS readers (if their browser's behaviour was 15% more Safari-like, they supported standard browser plug-ins like Shockwave, and they supported bookmarks, I would drop Safari right now). The question now is just whether Net News Wire or Safari RSS will integrate the other's functionality first.

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