Aggregating the Aggregators: RSS Reader Round-Up

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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

FeedDemon
www.feeddemon.com
Price-$29.95
Type-Standalone

While FeedDemon bears the highest upfront cost of the aggregators covered in this article, it also boasts the largest feature set. Included in this standalone aggregator is the ability to set up keyword-based Watches, which sift through all incoming feeds and then collect any news items that contain the keyword or phrase. You can subscribe to a Search channel from within FeedDemon, enabling you to actively search out content based on keywords through services from BlogDigger, DayPop, and Feedster. FeedDemon also offers easy-to-set-up podcasting, allowing you to download audio enclosures and have them automatically sync with your media player, be it an iPod or Windows Media Player 10.

FeedDemon has a powerful, readable, and customizable user interface. It comes with a news item list that displays all the news items from the currently selected channel. Options are listed in the channel bar on the left and Watches appear at the bottom of the channel bar. Where FeedDemon really shines is in its tabbed Web browser window, which serves as the primary viewing window for news items, displaying them in a newspaper format. FeedDemon comes with a host of different styles for viewing news items in various newspaper-esque styles. These aren't merely skins of different colors; each style has its own unique look and feel. If you don't find one that you like, there's also the option to download additional styles.

During installation of FeedDemon, users are given the option to choose any or all of about 15 channel groups with related feeds already set up in them. This provides a quick and easy way to subscribe to a number of popular RSS feeds, especially for novices. That said, novice users who select all of the preset channel groups may eschew deleting feeds they don't need and end up with RSS feed glut as they continue to add feeds. By integrating Web browsing and including automatic feed detection, users can find feeds online and subscribe to them without ever having to leave FeedDemon. Otherwise, FeedDemon's feed-finding abilities don't quite match up to its online competitors in terms of feed directories and relevancy rankings, although its integration with RSS search engines like Feedster arguably negates this slight disadvantage.


Sidebar: RSS In Your Browser

As with many of its features—like tabbed browsing—Mozilla's Firefox browser is the first to market with built-in RSS capabilities. With a feature appropriately named Live Bookmarks, Firefox allows its users to subscribe to RSS feeds from within their bookmarks toolbar. An icon pops open in the lower right corner when a site you're visiting has an available RSS feed. Adding a feed is as simple as clicking on the icon, selecting an RSS feed, and then saving it with the rest of your bookmarks. Firefox's automatic detection isn't perfect, so sometimes manually entering an RSS feed's URL is necessary, although testing demonstrated a very high success rate, especially considering the newness of the feature.

Apple followed suit shortly after Firefox's release, unveiling Safari RSS for their Tiger OS. It features automatic RSS feed detection; Safari RSS notification, which lets you know when new content arrives; and keyword search across news items for matching headlines. As is common with most things Apple, Safari RSS has a feature that captures the functionality found in other programs but does so with a feature that's unique and very easy to use: a slider control for customizing the displayed length of each article summary.

Internet Explorer, on the other hand, has no built-in support for RSS feeds. It has been promised as a feature in Longhorn, Microsoft's next-generation OS, which has a distant, hazy, and repeatedly postponed release date of sometime in 2006.


Companies Featured in this Article

Apple Computer, Inc. www.apple.com
Blogdigger www.blogdigger.com
Blog*Spot from Pyra Labs www.pyra.com
www.blogger.com
DayPop www.daypop.com
Feedster www.feedster.com
Google www.google.com
LiveJournal www.livejournal.com
Microsoft Corporation www.microsoft.com
Mozilla Foundation www.mozilla.org
NewsMonster.org www.newsmonster.org
Technorati, Inc. www.technorati.com
Xanga.com, Inc. www.xanga.com
Yahoo!, Inc. www.yahoo.com

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