Microsoft MVP Logo

For the purposes of this post, when I say feed, I mean blogs or anything that syndicates their site via RSS, ATOM, RDF, or carrier pigeon.

Readers of this blog will no doubt know that I have specific demands for a full-featured feed aggregator and newsgroup (NNTP) reader/poster. I’m also quite fickle in jumping between different applications. Before I go any further…

  • I don’t want an online reader. My reader must be a thick client running on my PC… just my requirement.
  • It must also be easy to use, designed with useability in mind (I’m not trying to steer the Space Shuttle), and be visually appealing (NOT Windows 3.1 or 95 GUI-looking).
  • The client must also not integrate within another application like Outlook (ala Newsgator Outlook Ed.). Email is mission critical… Outlook is always open (unless I can’t be distracted), and I don’t mind the frequent “new mail” alerts but I can’t take the constant barrage of tons of posts coming in from feeds and NNTP. Seems Chris Sells had this same issue… I feel his pain.

I use feeds and newsgroups as research tools. What has escaped me is why (1) there are so few good NNTP aggregators, (2) so many crappy NNTP aggregators, (3) so many “middle-of-the-pack” feed aggregators, and (4) none that do a good job of meshing NNTP and feed aggregation in one application.

For feeds, I’ve tried NewsGator Outlook Edition, RSSBandit, SharpReader, and lately FeedDemon. I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for in FeedDemon, but I was still stuck with using Outlook Express for my NNTP. Alas, I still wasn’t satisfied (I think Mic wrote a song for memaybe that was Bono, nah… it’s not that significant). Finally I was at a point where I chatted with a few online developer buddies who had interest in my “NNTP+Feed offline aggregator”… I started scoping it out, listing required features, etc.

But then, last week, I had a breakthrough… (at least it feels that way after a week)…

I don’t work with many bloggers… in fact few in my local development circle (the ones I can lunch/work with on a daily basis) don’t read many blogs if any with a few exceptions (most I’ve mentioned here in this space before). One of my coworkers came over to my desk last week and shared that he had seen the light and decided he wanted to get into the blogsphere both as a consumer and contributor. I might be mistaken, but I don’t think he understood the whole aggregator concept as I was getting the impression he was going out and hitting his 30+ favorite blogs every few days to see if there was new content… at any rate that’s not the point. So I felt compelled to explain the concept of syndication & aggregators. When listing a few out there, I remembered one I had discounted a long time ago had just had a new full version release: Omea Reader.

Last time I ditched Omea Reader (the free version of Omea Pro) because it was a memory hog. My work laptop (where I do most of my feed & NNTP reading/posting) recently had a nice memory upgrade so I thought “let’s give it another go”. After a week, I’m very much sold… so much so I’m almost to the point uninstalling FeedDemon & purging Outlook Express.

You can read all about the Omea Reader 2.0 features on their site & view screenshots, but there are a few things I wanted to point out that sold me:

  • *User define-able views: I can create a view very similar to Outlook 2003’s search folders. For example, I have a view called “My Posts (public)” which will show entire threads that I’ve posted to (either being the initiator or a responder).
  • *Customizeable notifications: After posting to a newsgroup, I can [quickly] create a notification that will show a desktop alert (similar to a MessageBox or Javascript alert) or a desktop notification (similar to Outlook 2003’s new mail default alert) when there is activity on an entire thread (I said ENTIRE thread!)
  • Newsgroups are downloaded the same way feeds are – on a schedule, not on demand: ‘nuff said
  • *Comments in feeds: the RSSBandit guys started this. When you read a post, you can click an expando next to the subject (if there are comments present) to view all the comments to a post AND submit a comment straight from Omea!
  • Search across feeds & NNTP: ‘nuff said.
  • Organization: workspaces… they just rock.
  • Categories: quickly mark feeds/posts to a specific category and use your custom views to read or find stuff later.
  • *Plug-in architecture: the app is written in .NET 1.1 and has a slick plugin archtecture so if I need something specific, I’ll just write it myself.

I’ve still yet to really tap the full power of Omea Reader such as using Workspaces. One great design decision on the part of JetBrains is that even though Omea integrates with Outlook for mail, tasks, sucks in your favorites, etc, you can disable these and just use specific features. For example right now I am only using the NNTP and feeds features (I plan to investigate that IM tab).

What changed? The memory is still a bit of an issue, but when compared to Outlook 2003, it’s not bad. When it’s collecting feeds and newsgroup posts I’ve seen the memory consumption spike around 150MB-190MB, but the CPU was fine. When it’s not colleting data, it sits around 50–80MB. That’s acceptable for an app that’s collecting so much data. Of couse, it was an issue when I had 768MB RAM on my laptop, but with 2GB, it’s doable. Their newsgroups seem to be monitored quite a bit as a few of my questions have already been answered (unlike other apps’ support forums). I’m working on a list of new feature requests for the next release

There’s my testimonial and $.02 on Omea Reader. If you’re not happy with your NNTP/feed solution, let me suggest to go get ths 4MB downloadable installer and give it a shot. I’m a satisfied customer. Good job JetBrains!

Comments powered by Disqus