FeedDemon, the price is finally right

Two days ago, widespread announcement was made that all of the consumer NewsGator products are now available for free. I’m not surprised that it happened, just that it took so long to happen.

One of my requirements for a desktop feed reader is that it sync. and integrate with a web-based reader, which FeedDemon does thanks to NewsGator Online. Since the price is right (free, as in beer!) I decided to give FeedDemon 2.6 another look.

Right off the bat, the use of MSIE for rendering HTML inside the application makes me very uneasy: there’s a reason why I haven’t used IE in over a year, in favor of Firefox 2. I’m sure it won’t be long before someone figures out how to exploit the embedded IE inside FeedDemon through a specially crafted feed entry. Perhaps it’ll involve a prefetched link or malicious image file enclosure. Now that it’s free, and a lot more people start using it, it’ll eventually become a target.

Importing my current feed subscriptions OPML from Google Reader into FeedDemon worked perfectly. All the items I’d already read in Google Reader showed up as unread in FeedDemon, naturally, and I dreaded having to go through and mark them all read again. However, one awesome feature of FeedDemon is the Panic Button: it lets you mark things as read in bulk across all your subscriptions. It’s not very flexible–after all, it is a panic button–but it’s convenient. Nice job, Nick.

As far as feed reading goes, FeedDemon does an adequate job. The newspaper styles that ship with it aren’t going to wow you, but they work. I’m glad that the typical vi-style keyboard shortcuts are mapped (e.g., “j” and “k” for next and previous item, respectively). It’s great that Ctrl-K brings up a dialogue that lets you customize your keyboard shortcuts. However, I would make a usability improvement change and add the keyboard shortcut to the tooltip in the newspaper view:

FeedDemon newspaper tooltip screenshot

Sure, I can hit Ctrl-K and see that the keyboard shortcut is “c” to clip an item. I might even be brave enough to guess at it and mash a few buttons. Or, it could just display it in the tooltip, like: “Add to clippings folder [c]”–there, no guesswork and it saves me a step from having to look for it in the keyboard shortcut list. Of course, this assumes you can find it in the keyboard shortcut list–in this particular case, “Add to clippings folder” doesn’t even appear in the list, while “Clip item” and “Clip item to default clippings folder” do. Want to take a guess as to which one the “Add to clippings folder” button invokes? Heh. (It happens to invoke the “Cliip item” function. Would you have known that without experimenting?)

Another nice feature of FeedDemon is the “Dinosaurs” report, which gives you a list of your subscribed feeds that haven’t updated in “X” days, where X is either 10, 30, 60 or 120. This is really handy for feed management when you have lots of subscriptions like I do.

I’m going to try to use FeedDemon exclusively for a week and see if it doesn’t drive me crazy. I might have to hack on my own newspaper style (which seem to be pre-processed XSLT files in the FeedDemon\Data\Styles directory, yay!) because all of the out-of-the-box styles really suck, IMHO. I’m so glad that Nick implemented the newspaper styles this way; not being able to customize the dispaly style would really suck, unless they were incredibly good to begin with.

Are you a FeedDemon user? Got any tips or tricks to share with a newbie like me? I’d love to hear about them. Help me get through this week!

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Dossy!

    I share your concerns about security, which is why I’ve spent considerable time making FeedDemon as secure as possible (this post in my blog provides some examples of the security measures I’ve implemented). I’m obviously biased, but I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find another RSS reader that’s as secure as FeedDemon.

    You’re right that the newspaper tooltips need to include shortcuts – I’m kind of surprised I never noticed that before. I’ve added this to our bugtracker, so it’ll be fixed in a future release.

    If you end up creating your own styles, I hope you’ll blog about them – I’m sure other FeedDemon users (myself included) would love to see them.

    Thanks again!

  2. Nick: Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! It’s another reason why I’m hoping I can make it through my one week trial with FeedDemon–I prefer to use software written by people who interact with their actual end-users.

    I do agree that FeedDemon’s security is, IMHO, the best of the Windows based desktop feed readers. My concern is that the weakest link is in using the Microsoft-supplied HTML renderer. Hopefully this is and will remain a non-issue. Of course, “hoping” isn’t a valid means for mitigating security risk. :-)

    When I do come up with a newspaper style I’m happy with, I will certainly blog about it and unless FeedDemon’s license prohibits it, post the .fdxml2 file for others to try.

    At this point, my biggest “issue” is the reproducible crash bug that I encountered. Other than that, I’ve managed to catch up on all my unread items (!) inside of a few hours–something that I haven’t managed to do in Google Reader for weeks (without simply marking everything as read, of course). So far, so great!

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