As I’ve mentioned before, I read a lot of stuff via RSS. For a long time, my reader of choice has been NetNewsWire, despite occasional concerns over changes of functionality and changes of ownership. But lately, I’ve had a few issues.
The first is a performance issue. When displaying an item containing images, or embedded videos, or adverts, NetNewsWire would often pause for what seemed an inordinately long time before displaying the whole thing, which rather defeats the object of using an RSS reader to quickly scan through things. But I sort of got used to that, and put up with it.
But some time in April, some more serious borkage arose. I subscribe to several feeds from BBC News – my local news, technology news and the main headlines. It’s a lot quicker and easier to check them by RSS than on the webpage, and you’re much less likely to miss something of interest that way. But quite suddenly, this broke. If I had a list of stories in one column, then selected the headline of one, the corresponding story would display in the next column. But if I then attempted to move to another story, no matter which headline I selected, the first story would remain displayed. Oh dear.
After fiddling around a bit, I checked out the support forum, which turned out to be a Google group, which you can’t even view without being logged in to a Google account. I’m more used to support forums being open for viewing, but never mind. A quick look showed other people having precisely the same issue. Apparently, BBC News started adding some additional information to their feeds, and a confirmed bug in NetNewsWire was causing the borkage.
OK, if it’s a confirmed bug, no doubt you’ll have a plan for fixing it, I thought. Well, perhaps they have, but the last update wasn’t very promising. There are a couple of workarounds:
One involves switching to a different view – rather than the three-column layout (List of feeds, titles, articles) that I’m used to, there’s a slightly messy-looking layout that loses the list of titles, but does display the articles. I tried it for a bit, but found it profoundly irritating to use.
The next option was a Heath Robinson brown paper and string solution, involving using Yahoo Pipes to subscribe to the BBC feeds, getting that to modify them a bit and produce feeds that NetNewsWire could see. I looked at the instructions, got almost as far as setting something up, and then decided that this was silly. So, I had a look for another RSS reader.
I’ve vaguely looked before, and hadn’t been impressed with the apps that weren’t actually NetNewsWire, so I’d stayed put. Once I actually already had, having got it from the Mac App Store a while ago, is Reeder. Like NetNewsWire, this is available for iPhone and iPad as well as OS X, and synchronises with Google Reader. Well, technically, it only works with Google Reader, as it’s a client for that service rather than an independent application.
Now I can’t remember what I didn’t like about Reeder when I first tried it, but whatever it was is either something that doesn’t annoy me now, or has gone away in an update. First things first, it works. No problem with BBC News, and it doesn’t sit there thinking about it before loading an article.
I’ve got it set up in the same three-column view I’m used to, which it displays in a quite acceptable form. The content is generally clearer and easier to read, thanks to a default font size of “quite large”. But there’s more. In addition to being able to open the article in Chrome (or whatever your default browser happens to be), Reeder also incorporates Readability, which is one of those services that produces versions of web pages that are easier to read on mobile devices and indeed in RSS readers. Thsi is nice for feeds that only include an extract, such as BBC News. By clicking the Readability label, or pressing the assigned shortcut (shortcut keys can be customised if you wish), you can read the whole article in a clear simple format without leaving Reeder. Nice.
As with NetNewsWire, you can quickly navigate around using the keyboard, and apart from remembering a few shortcuts, it’s almost identical in operation. Except it works, and it’s faster.
Downside – it’s not free, but at £6.99 or $9.99, it’s not expensive for something I use every day. And it’s a small price for the removal of several annoyances.