I was an early adopter. I launched this blog in February of 2003 and had built a backlog of articles for launch day; it included two that mentioned NNW, including NetNewsWire 1.0. Since that time, it has not failed to be a part of my daily routine.
Lite 4.0 · That’s the label attached to Brent’s most recent iteration, now in the hands of Black Pixel; it’s in the Mac App Store. I’d resisted using it because it doesn’t sync with Google Reader. But then, NetNewsWire classic doesn’t really, either; the syncing was buggy and, I eventually realized, was silently dropping a few feeds I really care about.
Anyhow, I’m glad I switched. Brent has said repeatedly that he thinks “Lite 4.0” is his best code ever, and I agree. It does less than NNW classic, but for the basic routine of plowing through a lot of feeds to see what’s new, you just can’t beat it. It’s blindingly fast, the presentation is visually tasty, and the number of keystrokes to do anything is always 1.
There’s only one level of foldering; no biggie. It sorts your feeds by title and you can’t re-sort manually; a case where removing choices is a victory. Another is the loss of the fine-tuning for what fields you display in the articles-in-a-feed readout. Speed and polish and good defaults win; how many times do we have to re-learn this?
Syncing · I guess syncing with Google Reader must be hard, because I’ve never seen it done well. But I would really like it to work, because I use a variety of other devices to read feeds. In particular, I use my phone, or Galaxy Tab, in circumstances where you don’t want to unfold a computer: say, on a bus or a train or a plane waiting to take off.
As of this week, I guess apps on Apple platforms are supposed to sync with each other automagically; that’s a good thing. My portables are Androids; since Black Pixel is proudly Apple-only, I don’t suppose they’re going to building mobile clients for me. If they could manage Google Reader sync, though, anyone with a browser (i.e. everyone) could play along with NetNewsWire.
The notion of syncing all your devices, but only if they’re from Apple, is insane. By “insane” I mean “like before the Internet”. Back then you could connect all your IBM computers in a IBM network, and your DEC computers in a DEC network, and so on; let’s please not go back.
Gruber, in that same interview, has a clever feature proposal: some feeds that sync and some that don’t.
Speaking of Features · I have one big and two small feature requests. The big one is to do like Brent said: abandon the other code bases and built everything on NNW Lite 4.0. Feels like a no-brainer. Next, I want a one-finger keyboard shortcut that does what command-slash does: wherever you are, leave there and go to the next unread article. [Update: Brent, in the comments below, advises us that the ' key does what I want.] And finally (this is more of a bug-fix) make sure the left column scrolls automatically so that I can always glance over there to remind me what feed I’m reading.
The Big Question · That would be: “Do we need apps at all, or can we live entirely in the browser?” Feed reading throws this into particularly sharp relief, because Google Reader in the browser is a pretty sweet way to motor through feeds. But on my Androids the native Google Reader app is better, and on my Mac, NNW is better.
So there’s life in apps yet. I’m counting on Black Pixel to help keep it that way.