The Top 5 Mac RSS Apps Reviewed

rss readers reviewedRSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is the widely used, XML based system for distributing syndication of many news sites and blogs. In order to use this popular technology, the use of an aggregator is required. There are many popular RSS aggregators available on the mac platform. In this post I will review and compare a few of the newest and most popular: NetNewsWire, Newsfire, Newslife, Vienna, and, OS X’s own built in web browser/RSS reader, Safari.

NetNewsWire Ranchero Software, $25.95

Pros: Free Lite version available, auto-collection, smart folders, search, synchronization with newsgator service, scriptable, built-in efficient web browser.

Cons: No item threading, No ability to put items in context, No spotlight integration, No customizable color labels, lowest automatic refresh time is 30 minutes.

netnewscreen

Newsfire Dave Watanabe, $20

Pros: Sleek design, efficiently functional interface, integrated search, smart folders, integrates with several desktop del.icio.us applications such as Pukka, fairly quick automatic refresh time of merely 5 minutes.

Cons: No Labels, no AI for efficient Smart Folders, no way to archive feeds, no integrated synchronization.

Newsfirexscreen

Newslife ThinkMac Software, $20, Public Beta

Pros: Easy to use, familiar and efficient interface, works seamlessly with OS X apps like Safari and iTunes, includes tools for quick posting to social bookmarking sites like digg and del.icio.us, “Speck” article text to speech capabilities.

Cons: In beta and still rather buggy, fastest automatic refresh time is 20 minutes, $20 is a rather steep price for it’s present state- even though it’s in public beta the nag screens can become quite an annoyance.

newslifescreen.jpg

Vienna Open Community UK, Freeware, Open Source

Pros: Simple and easy-to-use interface, smart folders, ability to flag individual articles.

Cons: Vienna cannot learn which item to place in a smart folder by experience, no colored labels for organizing items, very little support for podcasts or any other media delivered via RSS, no integration with online RSS services.

viennascreen.jpg

Safari RSS Apple Inc., Bundled with Mac OS X

Pros: Built into OS X, allows for integrated RSS reading and web browsing seamlessly, Solid search and archiving, modifiable article length.

Cons: Safari may not be your browser of preference so the advantage of having RSS integrated in your web browser (though there are a few more browsers with this same capability, notably firefox), most of the “standard” features (smart folders, social bookmarking etc.) are not present.

safarirssscreen.jpg

Conclusion: Go with Newsfire if you have the money, otherwise go with NetNewsWire Lite. Both have solid, intuitive interfaces, and the great features you’ve come to expect from modern RSS applications.

Comments

35 Responses to “The Top 5 Mac RSS Apps Reviewed”

  1. leebo on April 18th, 2007 9:17 am

    Im a long time user of Vienna and cannot be prized away from it due to its integrated browser. Its something you neglected to mention but I feel if anyone is thinking of using a new RSS reader then its worth noting.
    I use the built in Safari-based browser tabs as temporary bookmarks for articles I want to refer back to or for tech items Ill be considering buying. None of the other RSS readers offer this facility or anything like it and so Vienna has my loyalty, plus its Smart folders,flagging abilities, and refreshing rate have me sold…even though its free!

  2. Adam on April 18th, 2007 9:30 am

    Another reader you may want to consider looking at is Shrook which is free and has worked very well for me the past several months. Very simple interface, inline browser, limited feature-set (a good thing…)

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  4. Anthony Sigalas on April 18th, 2007 10:19 am

    The new NetNewsWire 3.0 beta has a lot of UI enhancements (like full screen mode), vertical and horizontal tabs, the new combined view (great for flickr feeds as it loads all the images at once), spotlight search and so on. It has successfully replaced Newsfie and Vienna as my RSS feed viewer of choice. I must say that I disliked NetNewsWire 2.1 look and feel, but I LOVE NetNewsWire 3.0 new look and feel. You can grab and try the 3.0beta, here: http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/beta.php

  5. gulup_jamun on April 18th, 2007 10:28 am

    what about google reader (with the css design from hickdesign)? i’ve just switched from vienna to google reader, using the new css design and reader notifier.

  6. Sam on April 18th, 2007 10:34 am

    If you read a large number of feeds (think 100+) Newsfire doesn’t handle it gracefully (spinning beachball, unresponsiveness, etc). If you read a smaller number of feeds, though, it is a great app. I used it for almost 2 years before becoming fed up with the slowdowns it suffers from.

    NetNewsWire has no issue with large numbers of feeds, and seems to be extremely stable. It is currently my preferred newsreader. I have only two issues with it. 1. There should be more granular control over where embedded attachments are saved. 2. I keep, at the top of my feeds list, a smart folder that displays all unread items from the other feeds sorted by source. When I ‘mark read’ items in that smart folder, I also have to manually ‘refresh’ the smart list for the items to clear from it. I wish there were a way to setup a key combo to combine those actions.

  7. Sam on April 18th, 2007 10:40 am

    @gulup_jamun

    Concerning Google Reader, it can be nice to have offline reading capability at times.

    Also, I find it infuriating that there is no way to ‘search’ your own feeds without resorting to a GreaseMonkey script. Google not having search built in to one of their products? That’s just silly.

  8. leebo on April 18th, 2007 10:45 am

    AFter having a quick look at the Netnewswire 3 I can say that I was wrong. It seems to have everything I like about Vienna and elements of Omniweb too! Wonderful.
    Its a shame that it will cost me so much to get but Im pleased that it blows Newsfire out the water , not from any App point of view but beacuse of Watanabe’s awful customer service attitude.
    As for google reader it is a good RSS gatherer but Im not sure the Hicksdesign css that I tried out through Safari was that satisfactory. I think it still needs some glossing.
    Anyway, its Vienna for me and maybe Netnewswire 3 when its out of beta.

  9. Ben on April 18th, 2007 11:37 am

    I tried all of these a while back (Shrook included) when I got fed up with Flock and was forced to de-integrate all of its features using separate apps. (Of course, Flock, like Safari, has its own RSS aggregator built in too.) Initially, I went with NewsFire, but that was before I fell in love with Google Reader. Seriously, gReader is so much better than any of these, and contrary to what a previous commenter said, you can read news offline provided that you load all of the items before disconnecting (although the photos/videos won’t show up).

  10. Meane on April 18th, 2007 11:51 am

    Google Reader is great, but I haven’t found the search yet (is this because I am stupid?)

    I use Peel daily. That, alongside The Filter are my favourite little OSX apps.

  11. Michael on April 18th, 2007 12:00 pm

    like leebo, I use Vienna and love the integrated browser. Before I select an application that I will use regularly, I try demos of several and find which one I like best. I tried all the ones above and even more and preferred Vienna. Not having to leave Vienna to read more on rss items that interest me is awesome and helps with my workflow. I know newsfire is a favorite in the mac community, but I think a lot of people choose it more bc of the UI, which is no surprise considering it’s developed by Dave Watanabe.

  12. Yohannes Wijaya on April 18th, 2007 12:37 pm

    the only reason why i stick with NNW is its synchronization with newsgator online. otherwise, i would have gone w/ vienna for sure. newsfire has not integrated built-in browser up to today which is a shame, despite its sleek ui.

  13. Miles Evans on April 18th, 2007 2:08 pm

    Consider this my vote for NNW. I’m not a big fan of a built in browser, and NNW seems to handle a large list quite nicely. Also for recent Windows switchers it operates quite similar to Feeddemon.

  14. E.T.Cook on April 18th, 2007 3:13 pm

    No question NNW is the only choice. Newsfire is pretty, and has some nice features, but it handles my large RSS terribly. It will be unresponsive to the point that it crashes, especially during the initial import of my OPML of just under 500 feeds.

  15. Ben on April 18th, 2007 3:57 pm

    Also, some of you may want to try out Google Reader now that you can make it look like a native OSX app with this skin. Very cool.

  16. Jon Kantro on April 18th, 2007 4:18 pm

    I’m a fan of NewsLife. The latest beta works fine for me. It’s simple, has the nicest interface of the above listed reader imho.

  17. shadownight on April 18th, 2007 5:39 pm

    I think NetNewsWire (or NNW Lite) is much more efficient that NewsFire. The fact that you see the headlines in a list above the viewing area lets you skim quickly through different headlines, while with NewsFire you need to click back and forth or use the spacebar to go through unread posts. For the casual reader, NewsFire is maybe better, but I find NNW better for efficient use.

  18. Nick Cotton on April 18th, 2007 7:24 pm

    I really like Google Reader, but the fact that it doesn’t have search (umm.. Google, that’s what you do!) is a killer for me.

  19. skootn on April 19th, 2007 1:43 am

    I use netvibes.com via firefox with an advanced bookmark manager extension and delicous. werks gr8

  20. Ram Prasad on April 19th, 2007 1:59 am

    I bought (thorough the last macheist) Newsfire .. but I could not use it for more than a week (I was a NNW user before) because of no integrated browser. It gets painful when you need to open too many external browser windows. Also, Newsfire is not stable enough when loading (initially ) just over 20 feeds. (even later, it was too slow handling the feeds).

    NNW is good, but sometimes might crash trying to sync to newsgator (and the newsgator subscription is not free for more than a year either, AFAIK).

    I am using Google reader now, and it is pretty nice (see the feeds at work, and continue at home after). With the new Mac-like skin (digg), it is as good as using a desktop reader.

    Vienna is the next best thing .. so here goes the ranking:

    1. Google Reader (they still need to fix some minor issues with read/undread feeds)

    2. Vienna

    3. Netnewswire

    (Sorry. Newsfire is not worth the money.)

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  22. Scott on April 19th, 2007 5:19 pm

    Vienna is by far the best in my opinion for free readers. I like newsfire but i dont want to pay for it.

  23. Andreas on April 19th, 2007 6:51 pm

    Great writeup. Personally I use NewsFire, and love it. There are some things that could’ve been better, but it looks great and I hasn’t crashed once.

    NetNewsWire 3 looks promising though…

  24. SWGS on April 26th, 2007 10:41 am

    I can’t believe you ding NetNewsWire because you can’t refresh feeds more often than 30 mins. You should not be refreshing ALL your feeds more than every 30 mins, its a waste, and puts a strain on the web server you are accessing.

    Don’t waste more money with David Watanabe, who doesn’t ever seem to appreciate your business anyway.

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  31. anonymous on August 22nd, 2008 7:05 am

    is there any rss reader which can save the webpages viewed through it automatically?

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