News readers take the work out of Web browsing by delivering content from your favorite Web sites directly to your desktop. This software, based on RSS or Really Simple Syndication, compiles headlines from user subscriptions and presents them in a convenient, clickable format.
There are several excellent RSS news readers (also known as news aggregators or feed readers) for the Mac ( Reviews , March 2005 ). David Watanabe’s NewsFire 1.0 is one of two newsreaders—along with Ranchero Software’s NetNewsWire 2—that I eagerly anticipated. NewsFire 1.0 does not disappoint: it is an excellent application at a great price.
I liked NewsFire’s simple interface because everything worked as we anticipated. Lists of feeds are displayed in a column on the left, while articles appear in a main window on the right. You can jump from article to article by hitting the space bar; hitting Enter will open the article in your default Web browser. I would have preferred more options on how to display feeds—for example I’d like to be able to set custom fonts and backgrounds.
I particularly liked NewsFire’s organization features. You can sort feeds into groups—I use categories such as Blogs, News, and Mac to help keep my feeds organized in a topical fashion. You can also set up Smart Groups, similar to filters in Apple Mail or Smart Playlists in iTunes, which automatically filter feeds and aggregate articles for you. For example, you could set up a Smart Group that would display new feeds that have Barry Bonds in the title. A search box, integrated into the reader, lets you query your subscribed feeds, plus news sites and weblogs, and the results are displayed as a list of articles.
Another great feature is NewsFire’s ability to save searches, which is extremely useful for finding all the news or weblog posts on various items of interest, without having to continually search the Web.
Like many RSS readers, NewsFire has an automatic feed finder. Enter a site’s URL, and NewsFire will look for its feeds. This worked very well on the weblogs I tested. NewsFire found all three feeds published on Andrew Baio’s popular Waxy.org, for example; one more than I knew he published. But on larger sites, it ran into problems. NewsFire only looks for feeds directly linked from the URL you query. Since many news sites publish feeds in subdirectories, and don’t link to them on the main page, NewsFire won’t discover them when you query the top-level domain name. For example, when we searched “www.washingtonpost.com,” NewsFire failed to discover any of The Washington Post’s 136 feeds.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
NewsFire 1.0 is an excellent application and I highly recommend it. It’s a great value compared to other RSS readers in its category, and I expect that it will only continue to improve. Although it has a few minor hitches, none of these are deal-breakers.It’s a snap to organize your feeds into groups with NewsFire.