XML News from Monday, November 7, 2005

Benjamin Pasero has released of RSSOwl 1.2, an open source RSS reader written in Java and based on the SWT toolkit. Version 1.2 adds assorted new features, most importantly support for Atom 1.0. RSSOwl is the best open source RSS client I've seen written in Java. That said, it still doesn't feel right to me. Even ignoring various small user interface inconsistencies, news just doesn't flow in this client. The goal of an RSS news reader is to help you get through large quantities of information quickly. RSSOwl doesn't do that. The biggest problem is that it doesn't treat read and unread items differently. If I've already read a news item, I don't want it to keep showing up when I'm paging through the news with the arrow key. I can use Command-N (Ctrl-N for Windows/Linux folk) to go to the next unread item. However, that's not enough. the arrow key and the space bar should both advance to the next unread item, rather than the next item. Furthermore, previously read items should be hidden by default. Usenet news readers have acted like this for years. Even Thunderbird can do this (and that feature has been a huge help in organizing and responding to my email). Why can't RSS reader do the same? (Actually, some can but these are all either closed source, or operate on platforms I don't use.)