Company: Ranchero Software

Price: $39.95

Everyone knows what a RSS feed is, well maybe not everyone. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is send me your home address and I’ll personally come kick you to death for being so out of touch. I’m joking, my knees feel like gravel in a Ziplock bag, I couldn’t kick an ant to death. The threat does illustrate a point, most computer articles assume you have a fairly good rapport with a computer. The implication is that on some level you understand the inner workings and the supposed benefits of this or that feature. This is a mistaken notion: Many folks don’t care to know the particulars of any one process they just want the thing to do something useful. Not a big demand to my way of thinking, but products that meet this criteria are fairly rare. So let’s take a look at a Mac add on that adds premium functionality with minimal fuss: NetNewsWire by Ranchero software.

What NetNewsWire (hereafter referred to as NNW, don’t confuse it with the Hitchcock movie) does is pretty simple. NNW fetches all the headlines from your particular sites of choice (as long as they have the appropriate news feed) and displays them in a window. The end product looks exactly like this:

A picture may be worth a thousand words but this snap needs a little explanation. On the left hand side you have a list of sites you’ve subscribed to, on the upper left you have the headlines from the selected site and in the lower left pane you have the first few lines of the article. What’s so great about all this? Think of all the content you can avoid and even more useful imagine the time and carpal tunnel damaging clicks you can eschew by knowing whether or not a particular site contains something actually worth reading. Once you decide an article is worth reading a click opens said link in your favorite browser. That’s what I call that functionality.

At this point you can see the benefits of NNW and if you can’t… well give me a second. Reflect for a moment on the time savings afforded to the dial up user (most folks still use dial up). Instead of clicking and waiting followed by disappointment or elation you can cherry pick your stops. Now think of the guy who should be working but is instead surfing (you know who you are) the man hours saved boggles the mind. These benefits, while impressive, wouldn’t be worth much if NNW is hard to set up or difficult to use. Fortunately NNW is fairly easy to get running. In my case I downloaded NNW and opened it. NNW comes with fifteen sites built in (you can unsubscribe) so when you first fire up the program you get a dock icon that looks like this:

That’s a lotta content

The red rectangle works like the red dots in Mail, the number represents unread headlines (as you can see there’s a bunch headlines out there). In any event with minimal effort you’re on your way to headline filled nirvana. This is the paragraph where the contrary information is usually presented. For example if you really hate something, this is where you put the positive features. If a product is pretty great this section is generally reserved for minor complaints. My complaint, small as it was, was going to be that the RSS feeds can be hard to find. A trivial complaint to be sure, but at least it was something. Talking to Brent at Ranchero software I discovered that all you really had to do was click subscribe and type the name of the web site in the box that says “RSS URL”. I am told that NNW will then usually find the RSS feed if one exists. I tried this protocol and NNW found the RSS feed every time. Still, The folks at Ranchero say NNW generally finds the feed so I’ll guess NNW misses a few. Even at less than 100% the concept is pretty good: Just type in the URL of the site and NNW will find the feed! That’s a feature so simple even an Alabama graduate could master it.

So adding content to NNW is no problem but how do you find the content you want to add? Well NNW won’t let you down. NNW features a drawer which contains 886 sites you might want to subscribe to (thankfully the sites are organized by topic).

NNW doesn’t stop with a paltry 886 sites, nope, the last option under the “subscriptions” drop down menu is “Find More Sites”. I don’t know how many more sites you can find with this feature but you’ll give up looking before you use up that particular resource. I’d say NNW has all the bases covered: ease of use, functionality and a clean look.

Bottom Line: NNW is extremely useful, easy to use and simple to set up, all in all a great way to add functionality to your Mac. NNW also excels at following blogs, blogs are possibly the most uneven form of internet publishing, a crap shoot of content. NNW allows you to skip “Wow, I just learned to dislocate my finger at will” while reading “This is the Mock Up of the New iMac i was Contracted To Do”. I’m not sure which is worth more: finding the really good stuff or avoiding the really bad stuff, either way NNW is worth the cash outlay.

Pros: Adds useful functionality to your Mac
Cons: None

MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5, it should come bundled with Safari

Chris Seibold

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