Every so often we highlight the tools that have passed our seven day rule (thanks Jeff for turning the phrase). These are things that quickly become indispensible in our work and play online. Whether they be applications, services, or any collection of code that grows on us, if we’re still using it after a week’s worth of trial, it’s worth shelling out some cash to have it in our arsenal.
Does it significantly improve over an existing solution or solve a lingering problem?
Feed aggregation is a tempestuous beast, and finding the right combination of whip and chair is no easy task. Traditionally you've had two types of solutions; web and desktop. Web aggregators have been slow, poorly designed, or weighed down by advertising. Desktop aggregators on the other hand tend to be resource hogs, only function on Windows or Mac OS X, or provide no AFK solution.
NewsGator is the best solution we've found that addresses both sides of the feed-reading coin. NewsGator provides solid desktop applications for both platforms in the forms of FeedDemon for Windows and NetNewsWire for Mac OS X. And of course, if you find yourself at a foreign machine with only the glow of bandwidth to keep you company, you can browse all of your feeds using the NewsGator Online web interface.
Does it play well with my other applications, or does it clobber them?
FeedDemon took up very little of our available desktop power throughout our initial tests. It worked quietly in the background, keeping us briefed while giving most of our processing power to editing video for 10 and battling the Microsoft email leviathan. NetNewsWire did just as well on our MacBook at home.
Does it have an effective UI, or is the experience awkward and weird?
The interface is clean, with minimal screen clutter translating into maximum reading real estate. When a feed is selected from the list, it remains highlighted while displaying it's articles with plenty of space between each one, and simple icons for reading, clipping, and emailing below each article. One particular nicety here; NewsGator doesn't mark all of a feed's items as read just by selecting that feed, something that has annoyed us with other RSS readers before.
Does it support multiple platforms and devices?
NewsGator Online will synchronize with either FeedDemon on Windows or NetNewsWire on Mac OS X. There's also support for HTML-capable mobile devices, any POP3 email client, and even a version that will run in Windows Media Center (perfect for the couch potato info junkie). This is as close to the nirvana of a hosted, amended OPML file as you can get.
Does it make me more productive and entertained?
Having an end-to-end solution for managing feeds is by far the most impressive value-add with NewsGator. Whether we're at home or at work, adding a new feed was a quick and painless process--in some cases it was as easy as punching a NewsGator button on the site itself. Even when we were out and about sans mobile device (GASP!), amending our feed list was as easy as finding the first open web terminal, logging into our NewsGator Online account, and typing in the URL.
Does it allow me to move my data around easily?
RSS, Atom, and OPML are each first class citizens in NewsGator. From the online interface we were able to expose our OPML file for the world to see. Also, from either FeedDemon or NetNewsWire we were able to export to a single OPML file, which will make testing any future aggregators a breeze. Hopefully in future updates the NewsGator Online interface will write an OPML file for easy download, even though we couldn't imagine using the web reader without a desktop counterpart.
Does it quickly become part of my daily digital routine?
As if feed aggregation wasn't already intertwined with our DNA, NewsGator made the activity more seamless and second-nature than checking email. The statistics on how much information we were able to ingest as compared to traditional web browsing must be staggering. Perhaps NewsGator could build in those sort of reading statistics (hint hint)?