I’m now well into my 3rd day as an active iPad user. Overall, the experience has been very positive, but there have been a few challenges.
The first and most important has been finding a rock solid and reliable RSS feed reader. I use and very much like Google Reader for my desktop RSS feed reader. In fact, because the large, large majority of my online content is accessed and managed via my feed reader, it is fair to say that Google Reader is my online control center.
But I do not like the way Google Reader- the regular or the mobile version- works on the iPad. I don’t know the cause (and I don’t really care), but the pages just don’t display and refresh as crisply as they do on a desktop. All of this sent me into a state of panic, given that an iPad without an elegant RSS feed reader would be of very little use to me.
So I did what any good nerd should do- I sent out an SOS via Twitter.
Lots of my friends immediately suggested NetNewsWire. I’ve been hearing my buddy Dave rave about this Mac-only program for a long time, so I decided to fork over $10 and give it a try.
It was instantaneously clear to me that NetNewsWire is a vast improvement over Google Reader on the iPad. And since it (supposedly, but see below) syncs with Google Reader, it became not only my default RSS feed reader on my iPad, but also my most used app.
Here’s what I like about it, and some things that I really don’t like.
1. The layout and feel of the app is superb. I love the way my Google Reader folders appear and expand. It just feels natural and intuitive.
2. I love the way I can click on a feed link and the web page loads right there in the app (this is the only thing keeping idiotic partial feeds in my reading list). It’s a better implemented version of the “Preview” feature that Better GReader adds to Google Reader. Why doesn’t Google add this stuff the the native app? Thank goodness for Gina Trapani, but why does she have to come along and organize Google’s apps?
3. I like the way the app handles sharing. Click an icon and you can immediately email, send to Twitter or save to Instapaper (but see item D below).
I Want the Developer to Fix:
A. The Google Reader Sync doesn’t work very well. I compared Google Reader on my desktop and NetNewsWire on my iPad, side by side. The sync wasn’t just delayed, it seemed sort of random. Refreshing the feeds didn’t help. This needs to be fixed.
B. Why do read items and starred items appear in the list along with unread items? I really, really don’t like this. There should be an option to display only unread items. For that matter, are there any options at all? I couldn’t find a settings (or the equivalent) menu.
The blue dots are the unread items. Read and starred items are also displayed. Why?
C. I don’t like having to confirm that I want to mark an entire list as read. Why isn’t there an option to mark items as read immediately, without the confirmation? This isn’t a huge deal, but it would make my reading go faster, and fast is good.
D. I wish the sharing feature allowed sharing at more locations. Even more, I wish I could configure a standard intro before the shared item, the way I add “Interesting:” before items I share via Google Reader.
E. Finally, I wish I could select my URL shortener. TinyURL works fine, but I use Bit.ly for everything else, and would rather be consistent. I don’t live and die by Bit.ly’s stat tracking features, but I have gotten used to them.
Overall, I like NetNewsWire. In fact, it largely saved the iPad experience for me. It may even overtake Things as the Mac-only app I’d most like to use on my Windows computers.
But it could be better, and for $10 I expect the developers to get right on it.