Today’s RSS-client market is dominated by NetNewsWire and Google Reader, in no small part because both are good and free. But folks on the lookout for a different—better, some say—experience have been checking out Fever, a self-hosted, Web-based reader with a flexible interface and a fresh approach to slicing through the Internet’s thick jungle of news. Mac users now have another big reason to take a look: Chill Pill, a free desktop client for Fever.
(Some background on Fever: Fever costs $30 and is self-hosted, which means you need to have your own Web host that runs Apache, PHP, and MySQL, so it certainly isn’t for everyone. Accessing Fever in your browser provides an interface with a list of feeds and groups folders on the left, and the main reading pane for headlines and articles on the right. One of Fever’s key features is its Hot list that displays the “important” discussions occurring across your feeds. Each original piece of news is listed with a collection of articles related to that news. In other words, Fever does all the work to let you browse by topic. This feature and other organization options actually encourage you to subscribe to even more feeds and build your own personal, intelligent corner of the Web.)
On Chill Pill’s initial run, it asks for your Fever URL. At first glance, the program doesn’t seem to offer much more than if you’d created a Fever-specific browser with Fluid. Fortunately, Chill Pill has some cool tricks up its sleeve.
For example, a handful of preferences allow you to better integrate Fever with your Mac, allowing you to customize alerts, choose whether links to sites are opened in your default browser in the background, and more. You can also set Chill Pill to be your Mac’s default RSS reader—something Fever, being a Web app, cannot do on its own. Clicking an RSS link in Safari, Firefox, or elsewhere will thus open a dialog within Chill Pill, where you can customize which Fever group(s) the new feed gets added to, as well as configure Fever’s other feed-handling features.
One of Chill Pill’s best features is its support for styles that can customize Fever’s appearance and interface. A great example of these styles is called Stacked, which moves Fever’s list of feeds below the list of groups to free up more space. Another style, called “Clean,” reorganizes or hides some of Fever’s panels to make more room for reading space.
One of the most notable advantages of Chill Pill over Fever in your browser is the capability to customize Fever’s many keyboard shortcuts. In fact, since Chill Pill offers menu options and shortcuts for features that don’t have keyboard shortcuts in Fever itself, Chill Pill provides far more customization than Fever.
An occasional downside to Chill Pill is that, since it’s essentially a front-end for a Web app, its performance is often dependent on that Web app—if Fever is slow to respond, so, too, is Chill Pill. For example, after clicking Chill Pill’s new-feed button, Fever’s feed dialog sometimes takes a while to appear.
As a fan of Fever, I’ve been impressed by Chill Pill—enough so that I’ve deleted my Fluid instance of Fever and removed Fever’s URL from Safari’s Top Sites. I really like being able to run my Web-based newsreader in a dedicated application that integrates so well with the service it’s designed for, and I’m still surprised that Chill Pill is free. Fever itself may not be for everyone, but every Fever user should take a look at Chill Pill.
Want to stay up to date with the latest Gems? Sign up for the Mac Gems newsletter for a weekly e-mail summary of Gems reviews sent directly to your Inbox.