I was recently made aware of a new aggregator that came on the scene, SharpReader. Following some other reviews by some people, I’m going to try to gather my own thoughts about it.

Reasons I like SharpReader better than Syndirella

(I figured I’d start with the nice things.)

  1. Categories and sortable feed lists. This is something that bothered me about Syndirella. The list was in the order that it was added in. If I had to delete a feed in order to replace it with a new URL for the feed, the order would get screwed up. Categories are a nice touch also, especially when you consider the next feature of SharpReader I like.
  2. Selecting a category shows you all of the entries of every feed in that category in date order. This is a nice way to read all new entries at once and an interesting alternate view.
  3. The subscribe feature is a mixed bag. Like Mark, I was thrown for a loop the first time I tried to add a feed. I’m used to boxes like that being display only, a la Syndirella. However, I see Luke’s point. Once you get the hang of it, it is easier in a lot of ways. Perhaps a submit button akin to the “Go” button found in so many browsers, such as IE, would add a needed visual cue to help first time users along. You could always make it an option, like the browsers do for users who no longer want it hanging around.
  4. I like the bar at the top of the content pane that holds identifying details. The comments link is a little more accessible than Syndirella’s, which is a context menu off the list item title. SharpReader’s positioning of the comment link in the content pane makes sense to me, since I’d think you’d be most likely to comment on a feed while you’re reading it.
  5. SharpReader is under more active development than Syndirella. At least for the time being. Dmitry is apparently out of the game from this point on. Sad news to me, since he did a lot of good work on Syndirella and was very responsive until near the end. I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised to hear this, since he had abandoned Syndirella for several weeks beforehand. It remains to be seen if Luke will continue to improve SharpReader.
  6. An important point, especially in light of Syndirella’s possibly ceased development, is SharpReader’s support of <html_body>. This is apparently replacing <content_encoded> as the new fad for putting encoded, full content of entries in an RSS feed. Getting the full content is something that I consider de rigueur for any feed. It drives me crazy to have to switch back and forth between mybrowser and reader. Until they can be more interwoven, I’ll stick with full text content whenever possible.

Reasons I like Syndirella better than SharpReader

  1. The interface does feel a bit smoother. I like the key bindings, like space bar taking you to the next unread item. SharpReader could well benefit from some more key strokes for doing things. Ins brings up Syndirella’s add feed dialog.
  2. Syndirella allows me to specify the font it uses for displaying the content of an item. SharpReader currently only allows me to specify the font for the feed and item titles. The dialog box for this is also a little confusing. It demonstrates the fonts for both read and unread, but you can’t modify them separately. There is a single button for changing the font. It pops up the standard Windows dialog box for fonts. The changes you make will show up in both read and unread, but unread is always bold. If you set the read font to bold, then they will both be bold. Not that you’d necessarily want to do this, but the interface seems a bit off to me. It should be clearer what properties apply to what.
  3. Syndirella puts a link at the bottom of the content that is the text of the URL. This isn’t necessary, but I like being able to see the location of the entry at a glance. SharpReader has a similar link, but does not use the URL for the link text.

While SharpReader has a lot of good features and I enjoy using it, I’m not sure that I would be as likely to stick with it if Dmitry wasn’t giving up on Syndirella. Syndirella really does have a more polished interface and I was looking forward to where Dmitry was going. C’est la vie in the free software world, though. You can’t dictate somebody’s hobby. Dmitry released what I think is his last version of Syndirella. I would be really happy if someone else would take up the Syndirella flag.

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