honekamp.net

Ugh, Kafasis

Admittedly, I have never been that much into football. Never played in a team, never even bothered to watch a match live in a stadium (although the nearest Bundesliga pitch is more or less around the corner).

But, frankly, I also don’t publish less … informed … opinions or repeat them on a podcast. No offense, but anybody working in the software business should really know better than trying to fix something that he does not even remotely understand.

Even if it is not about software.

Timing

They say, timing is everything, and mine isn’t particularly good. Or maybe its Silvio Rizzi’s timing, dunno.

Whatever, just as I sung the praise of using a regular web-browser for reading my Feedbin subscriptions, Reeder for Mac comes along as a series of betas.

Admittedly, beta 1 was pretty rough and, at least in my impression, closer to a proof of concept than something I would like to use on a daily basis.

Since the release of beta 3 I’m using Reeder as my regular feed reader and I’ve not looked back to using the browser ever since. Not to mention Readkit, which Reeder simply blows out of the water.

Betas 4 and 5 added further improvements and polish, e.g. sharing was added and also the preference dialog has again been massively improved.

One thing that I’m missing in the current release is the ability to hover the mouse cursor over a link in an article and get some form of displaying the underlying URL. But maybe this feature makes it to a later version. I can imagine that many others would like to see this ability.

Anyway, I can’t wait to get to see the final result.

New Reeder Beta

A new beta of Reeder for Mac came along and, what can I say, it looks very good. There are many improvements in comparison to the first beta. For example, beta 2 fixes the annoying habit of beta 1 to require the discrete GPU and this alone is a huge win for me.

Another aspect that improved significantly is the preference dialog. It is now possible to set a custom reading font and I feel no shame in admitting that I couldn’t wait to change the reading font from Helvetica Neue to Avenir Next.

Also, Readbility has been added as a mobilizer for truncated articles in RSS feeds. Like I mentioned before, the changes from beta 1 to beta 2 are truly impressive.

As a side note, I think I may have found a funny issue that was worth reporting back to the developer: if the app is configured to open links in the default browser rather than in Reeders internal browser and a loaded article contains embedded videos than each of the embedded videos will load into a separate tab in the default browser while the text of the article still remains in Reeder.

Despite this minor quirk, I give the new release a thumbs up. If the improvements keep coming in at a similar pace we can expect a final product that really lives up to its brand.

Feedbin

I’m on my third RSS Service within the last twelve months. And in contrast to most other people, I’m not even counting Google Reader.

I retired my Fever server last summer, mostly because eventually I found it too slow and cumbersome to comfortably use it. Sure, it is a cool idea to host your own RSS server, but still1.

At the time, Feed Wrangler seemed to bye most obvious candidate for switching to. After all, it was less expensive than running my own server and third-party app support was available.

And man, the third-party turned out a blessing because Feed Wrangler’s website and the first-party apps are anything else than pretty and I would only use them for administrative tasks.

In principle, Feed Wrangler works as advertised. However, I grew out of it eventually, partially because of the ponderous web-site, and partly because I was looking for a more elegant overall solution.

Enter Feedbin. I have had a look at Feedbin before, but at the time the difference between Feed Wrangler and Feedbin, in terms of elegance, was arguably diminishable.

And it probably wasn’t just me, Macdrifter also had the impression that Feedbin’s early days weren’t much smoother.

In stark contrast to Feed Wrangler, however, Feedbin has come a long way since I switched away from Fever to Feed Wrangler, it has undergone massive improvements that (in my personal impression) completely invalidate any of Gabe’s complaints.

The import of my feeds, for example, went perfect. All feeds made it to Feedbin in perfect shape, no complaints there.

Another thing on Gabe’s list was bad performance. In contrast to that, today’s performance of Feedbin is absolutely top-notch. I am reading feeds in the browser2 enough to qualify for making this statement.

Here’s a list of things that I found (after a period of reading my feeds with Feedbin for about six weeks3) remarkable about Feedbin:

Search in Feedbin is exactly as fast and accurate as you would wish it to be. It is hard to quantify this aspect, but on the other hand, instant results speak for themselves.

Subscribe

Subscriptions can be created using one of the usual bookmark lets or else by e-mail. Yes, e-mail the address of a feed to your specific Feedbin subscription address and there you go.

Browser

The experience in the browser is nuts compared to what both Fever and Feed Wrangler deliver. In fact, reading feeds in the browser is so good that I haven’t touched Readkit4 for a while now and I’m totally able to put my finger on what makes the difference:

  • Footnotes, Bigfoot style. Yes, that’s right. Footnotes are generally rendered as graphical click targets that produce little pop-ups containing the footnote’s text when clicked.
  • Syntax coloring for many programming languages. Who doesn’t read blogs that feature code snippets? Hm?
  • All your browser extensions available. This makes following links a breeze. No need to switch apps or deal with inferior in-app browsers.
  • Customizable experience. Themes for night and day, fonts, resizable columns. You name it.
  • Keyboard navigation. Granted, you can also get this from dedicated reading apps. But having a full-featured keyboard navigation directly in the browser is nothing to turn up one’s nose at.

Tags

You’re either into structuring your sea of feeds or you just ignore this or similar features in other services. Feedbin’s tags work well for me and I’ll leave it at that.

One less compelling aspect is that Readability is the only available mobilizer for Feedbin. It would be nice to have more options for this purpose.

However, this does not destroy the overall impression that Feedbin will make it as my preferred choice for reading feeds for the foreseeable future.

  1. It did not help that the perspectives for significant further development of Fever weren’t so great, according to Fever’s own developer, Shaun Inman.

  2. More on that later.

  3. And counting …

  4. Mind you, Readkit is a blessing for other services that do not deliver such a superior experience in the browser.

Reeder 2 for Mac

Finally, Reeder 2 for Mac is in beta and available for download off the website. I’ve been waiting for this for quite a while and couldn’t, like many others, wait to get some first-hand experience.

A lot of what makes Reeder Reeder is already visible in the beta. The overall color choices, the screen layout, the animations. Speaking of which, I’m not necessarily a big fan of animations, but for Reeder I have always made an exception.

However, a surprisingly lot of features is still missing, and the app is very open about missing pieces that will (hopefully) fall into place later. Going into more detail at this point may render the article overly critical, which is neither intended nor warranted because the shortcomings may very likely be fixed any time soon.

I like what I’ve seen and will keep an eye on the further development. In other words, I tend to take the current package as what it is: a demonstration unit that is far away from showing the full production polish, not ready for day-to-day use.

It takes courage to expose such a prominent, if not iconic app in this shape to the public and I applaud Silvio Rizzi for this move.