Well despite only just starting this blog it’s time to get into a serious post.  A post about my favourite piece of software, and the new beta version coming out (hopefully) next week.  I’m talking about FeedDemon, and the fantastic new version 2.0 that I’ve been given access to.  I want to start with some background, so buckle up for a decent read.  This should probably be 2 posts, but hey I’m still new at this :)

I became addicted to RSS not long after I started seriously reading blogs, about 2 and a half years ago.  I tried all the different readers, hated most of them and then heard about this FeedDemon thing in September 2003.  Despite not using Topstyle I had heard about it and how good it was, so immediately investigated – and have been hooked ever since.

As a software developer / tester I quickly found myself at home on the newsgroups, sharing my experiences, feedback and even helping to support the product.  For my efforts during that pre-release period Nick gave me a free copy; this was one piece of software that I couldn’t bear to not pay for so I went and bought a copy anyway.  Best money I ever spent, because all upgrades since then have been free.  The list of features added in that time (including podcasting support) is insane; and there will be another 2 years free from the next release date.

 

But this isn’t a glowing review of the FeedDemon that has been.  In the last 2 years I’ve spent many hours hanging out on the FD newsgroups, then forums, then NG forums; I’ve never expected anything in return but Nick decided that the efforts of myself and another forum regular by the name of critter were worthy of inclusion in the private 2.0 alpha! :D

I received the first build a little over 2 weeks ago, and I haven’t had this much fun with a piece of software (that I wasn’t coding) since the FD 1.0 alpha.  Nick, critter and I have had lengthy detailed discussions about UI elements, UI design, bugs, usability and just about every other aspect of the FD experience.  I just counted and we’re way over 110 messages back and forth, we’re having one of those all too rare “users and developers partying together” moments.  I’m very proud to say that some of my suggestions have been included, although I’m not pretentious enough to point out which ones ;)

Now I’m totally biased, and FD was already my favourite piece of software.  But the improvements in 2.0 are bordering on unbelievable, and for anyone who hasn’t tried the 1.6 beta this is going to feel almost like a new product.

I don’t think I’m allowed to post screenshots, so here’s a dot point list of the most obvious improvements I love.  This is just the changes since 1.6 RC2; the improvements over 1.5 would take another large post to cover :)

  • Reduced UI clutter.
    Nick has clearly put hours into going through what was becoming a complicated options dialog and finding ways to remove options by making FD smarter.  He’s also restrucured the menus and toolbars a little, removing needless submenus and improving the location of some items.
  • Surfer style improvements.
    Mostly tweaks here and there but the official inclusion of a “mark post as read” button has brought to the front an often-requested feature and one that works so well in conjunction with the other changes.
  • Moving the unread counter.
    This is one wasn’t requested all that often, but did bug me a lot; for feeds with long titles the unread count was easily pushed off the viewable area.  Now, if a feed title is long FD forces the count to be displayed right before the edge while still allowing you to scroll horizontally :D
  • MediaRSS support.
    I’d never even heard of MediaRSS before Nick mentioned the FD support; I’m now addicted to viewing flickr feeds through a newspaper full of thumbnails.
  • Unread feed view.
    I haven’t used this much yet, but that’s more due to how I’ve been reading my RSS feeds while on holidays.  It certainly looks fantastic and combined with “mark feed as read when switching” is bound to be the best way yet to power through your unread items.
  • Treeview.
    The big benefit that came out of delaying FD’s release and the one you’ve all been waiting for.  This is an unbelievable improvement, and it provides so many benefits that it needs a new list:
    • You can see everything on one page and still have it organised
    • The new folder-level newspaper for the surfer style can show full individual posts without expanding the folder
    • Everything is more compact than the old style so you can see more before scrolling
    • FD remembers which folders you had expanded between sessions (or can collapse unused folders explorer-style)

    The one thing it can’t do, and one that may upset some, is subfolders.  I don’t think it’s needed though, maybe in a later release but this is a big enough improvement on its own.

  • Drag and Drop.
    An unexpected improvement, Nick has removed the Manage Subscriptions dialog in favour of the ability to drag and drop feeds between folders.

So, there you have it. The best feed reader is getting better and proving why it was worthy of purchase by NG. I’ll finish with a quote that I came up with the other day – this is going to sound like marketing spiel but I’m seriously this impressed with it.

The combination of better presentation in the feed list with the unread feed view and the improved newspaper functionality are simply fantastic.  I’ve been thoroughly enjoying managing my data in an intuitive and easy way.

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