Critter's Cave

Tag: Newsgator

FeedDemon 2.0 – definitely worth the wait!

by on Jan.09, 2006, under Uncategorized

On February 9, 2005, Nick Bradbury released the most recent version of FeedDemon – version 1.5. In the almost year since a LOT has happened. Nick’s one-man show, Bradsoft, was purchased by NewsGator, Nick underwent brain surgery, and became one of the founding Board members of the AttentionTrust non-profit organization. With all this happening he still found time to work on the next version of FeedDemon – 1.6. After a lengthy beta period, and nearing a releasable product, he decided to add features that had been clamored for but were always promised “for the 2.0 version” :) and is going to skip 1.6 and go to version 2.0, which should be out in public beta very soon.
I have been honored, along with Andrew “Spyder” Herron to be the first non-Newsgator-employees to take a look at and provide feedback on FeedDemon 2.0
One of the most striking (and welcome) differences between 1.5 (and the 1.6 betas) and 2.0 is the change in the UI. Something that frustrated me (and many others) to no end was how groups of feeds (folders, which were called channel groups in older versions of FD) were handled. It should be noted here that FeedDemon was one of the earliest RSS feed aggregators out there and as such, some of the decisions made during the initial design of the program turned out to be not very well-suited to how the usage of news feeds evolved over the subsequent two years. The most obvious aspect of this was his choice to show only one folder (channel group in older versions) at a time. As it turned out many of us would subscribe to hundreds (even thousands) of feeds and having to go through a drop-down, pick the folder we wanted and then browse through those feeds was a significant drain on time. This led to one of the most common feature requests – a treeview/explorer view/whatever you want to call it view. With 2.0, a treeview has been implemented that allows one to see all their folders at once – no more going folder-by-folder. It is just an absolute pleasure to work worth over the current version.
There are some really neat things like tag search subscriptions for technorati, flickr, and deli.cio.us; keyword subs using popular blog search engines; and a subscription overview page that shows not only the unread counts, but also the feeds you pay the most and least attention to – which is really useful for getting rid of feeds that seemed neat at the time, but eventually lost their luster or just didn’t contain the content you wanted.
Probably the most significant new (well, completely revamped and updated) feature (which really was the biggest priority of the 1.6 beta series) is the feeed synchronization feature. Registered users of FeedDemon 1.5 get a free two-year subscription to the Newsgator.com service. As part of this service, they are allowed to synchronize the read/unread status of their feeds with Newsgator. This allows someone, for instance, to read their news feeds at work, let FeedDemon synch with Newsgator and then check for new feeds when they get home, or on the road, or wherever via Newsgator.com. Mac users should be able to sync with Newsgator – and therefore FeedDemon via Newsgator – when a new version of NetNewsWire ( which was also acquired by Newsgator this year) is released, thus allowing cross-platform synchronization (OK, technically cross-platform synching is currently possible because I was able to get FeedDemon 1.5 and the 1.6 betas to work under Wine in Linux :), though it took me a couple of hours and I’ve since lost my notes so I can’t provide any help and since I don’t work for Newsgator, they can’t help either – sorry!).
2.0 is just so much more usable than 1.x it is amazing. No way, no how would I want to switch back to the old version – no matter what bug I may encounter. And yes, I have encounted some bugs here and there, but hey, it’s pre-beta! It’s not going to be perfect but I’ve seen full-blown betas introduced by companies (*cough*Microsoft*cough*) that were a lot less ready-for-prime-time than this.
One of the big efforts that is being made for this release is making it new-user/non-techie friendly. Many of the dialogs have been revamped to be less jargon-y, the help and tutorials are going to be updated to help ease the new user into the world or RSS aggregation – Nick and the gang really, really want this to be accessible to the newbies (and I’m tired of “newbies” being used like a dirty word or insult – every single one of us was a newb at one point or another) while still having the power and flexibility to be attractive to us Power Users as well, and I think they have accomplished that goal.

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