NewsGator, owners of some of the best stand alone feed readers for Mac and PC have updated their applications to be free. NetNewsWire, their flagship news aggregator for Macintosh and one of the first desktop feed readers is the biggest product to be updated.
For the PC side of things, head over to Heather Havenstein's story today. Below, I'll talk about the Mac Product, NetNewsWire.
NetNewsWire is a commercial desktop news aggregator for Mac OS X, featuring a three-paned interface similar to Apple's Mail client. It was developed by Brent and Sheila Simmons for their company Ranchero Software.
NetNewsWire was one of the first desktop RSS readers on any platform when it first appeared publicly on July 12, 2002. Version 1.0 was released on February 11, 2003, and version 2.0 was released in May 2005. NetNewsWire's features include the ability to create custom feed views, custom downloading and opening of podcasts, synchronization of feeds and feed status between computers, Bloglines support, and a built-in tabbed browser.
In October 2005, NewsGator bought Ranchero and NetNewsWire, bringing their NewsGator Online RSS synchronization service to OS X. NetNewsWire 3.0 was released on June 5, 2007. It includes Spotlight indexing of news items, integration with iCal, iPhoto, Address Book, and VoodooPad, Growl support, a new user interface, performance enhancements, and more.
NetNewsWire is well regarded by many users and reviewers. According to FeedBurner, NetNewsWire was the most popular desktop newsreader on all platforms in 2005 (Google Feedfetcher is now the biggest). The software received a Macworld Editor's Choice Award in 2003 and 2005 and maintains a 4.8 out of five stars rating among reviewers at VersionTracker. Ars Technica calls NetNewsWire's built-in browser "hands-down the best of any Mac newsreader," and Walter Mossberg, technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, says that NetNewsWire is his favorite for Mac OS X.
The update isn't just its freeness, it has some new features:
New features include HTML archiving, a new Combined View that performs much better than earlier versions, and new toolbar icons.
The focus of this release has been bug fixes and performance: see the change notes for a detailed (and long!) list of all the bug fixes and changes.
Other competitors in the field of RSS feed readers for the Mac are the Vienna project and, of course, Google Reader which is a service - not a desktop reader. Apple, too, had made feed reading part of Mail.app and Safari in recent years.
Check here for a comparison between the two products.
Vienna has been open source/free since its inception and is a great product - with many similar features as NetNewsWire. Under heavy loads it does get sluggish sometimes and some of the cool features of NetNewsWire haven't been implemented yet. You can import and export your feeds as an OPML file between NetNewsWire and Vienna.
Google Reader is also great - especially for people who move machines quite often. However, one of the great things about feed readers is that they make great offline reading - which obviously Google hasn't been able to replicate - yet. NewsGator has you covered in this area too because it also offers an online service which you can sync your NetNewsWire feeds to update.