phil wilson :: a geek commodity

9:54 AM

permanent link to post Aggregators: Part Two 

Friday, April 02, 2004

Sauce Reader

Nice installer, nice tutorial/introduction screens. Slow startup (as with all the aggregators that use the .net runtime). Listens for feed:// URLs and listens on the radio port so you can click on the orange coffee mug on sites (although I hardly ever see these). Also auto-detects feeds for the current page viewed in the embedded web browser.

Imported my OPML file well. Good internal AND web search. Nicely breaks up posts into periods. Has a nice address bar. Overall pretty good. A couple of minor UI tweaks I’d like, like being able to turn on text to describe the buttons on the toolbar, as well as a couple of internal inconsistencies. Also there’s no OCS import. Supports Atom, which is great, seeing as my RSS feed is shit. I managed to make it crash a few times, but I was using a beta version, so I can’t complain too much about that. Has a great right-click “blog this” functionality as well as linking in to technorati. The developers are very receptive to feedback in their dedicated newsgroup and seem very keen to hear from users.

An extra bonus is that its built-in post viewer allows the use of different styles, which are just CSS files which you can edit to your hearts content. Find yellow on red easiest to read? Just change the CSS and you’re away.

Sauce Reader has a different target than most of the aggregators I looked at in that it hopes to become a fully-fledged desktop-based weblogging tool, with the ability to make new posts, add comments and so on so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

The main desktop aggregators I’ve used before this are Syndirella and Sharpreader. In terms of features I’d say this is much better than either.

Sharpreader revisited

In all fairness, it’s probably been at least six months since I used Sharpreader, and it’s a lot better than I remember it being. The URL bar is still only really used for adding new feeds, but you can also type the URL of a site and it will autodetect the feed, which is nice. But it means no navigation via the URL bar, and if you use the embedded IE pane then you can’t see the URL of the page you’re on. There’s also a good “filter” functionality which is basically a search across your feeds and works pretty well, although now I’ve got it, I want to be able to save filters and have them appear as internal feeds. It supports Atom, which is good. It doesn’t import or export OCS, which is bad. The originally much-vaunted advanced threading for related posts is kind of nice, but nothing to get too excited about. The pop-up notification of new posts is terrible. Drag’n’drop support for URLs is OK. You can drag a URL to the URL bar or on top of an existing feed to subscribe to it. You can’t just drop it anywhere in the left pane, which is what I expected. Still, much more professional feel to it than Sauce Reader.

Syndirella revisited

Ah Syndirella, my old friend. I spent many months living in Syndirella, and even now, with no development for the past year (at least on the version I downloaded) still outstrips SharpReader and SauceReader in terms of core functionality. There’s no Atom support, because it didn’t exist when Syndirella was written, but it does import and export of BOTH OPML and OCS (for which it gets double points) as well as providing a good user experience – everything I could want to do with a feed is just there, all just a click or two away. Plus it seemed to have better error reporting. I suspect that it wasn’t better, just a lot more obvious.