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  In Search of the Perfect RSS Reader 


For the last year or two, I've been switching from reader to reader. While each one had features that I loved, they all seemed to fall short on one thing or another and I was never really 100% pleased with any of them. I went from SharpReader, to RSSBandit, to NewsGator, to SharpReader again, to FeedDemon, back to SharpReader, to Gush, back again to NewsGator, and then Sauce Reader. Just as I was about to start building my own aggregator, I decided to give RSSBandit another try (after reading how Josh Ledgard always has such good things to say about it). Well, I've found my winner.

I don't know what specifically changed in RSSBandit since I last tried it, but it's gone through significant changes. The last time I used it was back around the time Dare wrote his article for MSDN about it. So it's a whole different app from back then. Anyway, I decided to post a quick, top of the head rundown of what I liked and didn't like about the aggregators I've tried over the last year+.

Note: I've tried to base all this on the current versions of these applications. Please let me know if I've misrepresented any of these.

 RSSBandit
RSSBandit has the best of everything. One of the things that I was wanting in an aggregator was support for the CommentAPI so I could read and post comments from it. RSSBandit has a nice interface and has a really clean and professional look to it. I like nice looking software. For me, that was one of the biggest things in the favor of RSSBandit. I love the “auto-discover” feeds, where you can scan a given URI for feeds. Search folders and some cool searching features. Written in .NET (I love to support the cause). Also, when a post is updated, it just updates the content of the post (seems to pull it each time you view it instead of caching it?). I like that it does not pull down a second copy of the post, however I do wish it would somehow indicate that the contents of the post has changed. The only gripes I had about RSSBandit are very small (and they're not really gripes, just small things I'd change if it were mine). I hate the splash screen. It is ugly and does not match the rest of the clean and XP/Office/VS/etc look of the application. Also, I don't like the icon. The smiley-face with the eye-patch. Give me a break. I don't really care for silly looking software (at least since it is open source I can change that myself if I really want to). But overall, a completly awesome job Dare (and other sourceforge team members)

 SharpReader
SharpReader is a great aggregator - functionally. It is a really popular one in the circles I am in so obviously it got a lot of things right. It supports the CommentAPI, which is cool and a huge plus IMO. Also written in .NET. It does everything an aggregator needs to do. But that is it. Nothing more. Nothing exciting and I think the UI leaves a lot to be desired. Drab Windows98 looking 256-color icons and an overall boring look to it (Sorry Luke). I also did not like the tray popups. I know you can turn them off - but I do want tray notifications, just not a separate one for every feed. But as I said, functionally, it gives you everything you need in an aggregator - so I am not saying that Luke didn't do an awesome job or anything. It's just not all that good on the eyes IMO.

 NewsGator
NewsGator was awesome for the fact that it was just a freakin cool idea. Seemed to make so much sense to me that it was one of those things I was kicking myself about for not thinking of it first. Another great .NET app. One of my favorite features of NewsGator was that it added some browser integration so you could right-click on a RSS link in your browser and select “subscribe in NewsGator”. That is just cool. Since NewsGator exists inside of Outlooks let's you take advantage of everything that Outlook offers as far as search folders and more. A huge plus for NewsGator and a reason why I kept going back to it. But, as much as I thought it was a great idea to have an RSS reader integrated into Outlook, I got to the point where I really wanted it separate. I get enough stuff coming into my inbox. Those items are either work related or spam. Either way they are items that have different priorities than feeds I subscribe to. Work related e-mail is something I need to react to immediately in most cases. That's not the case with my subscribed feeds. Also, it does not support the CommentAPI which was a big deal to me. When a post changes you get a second (or third, forth, fifth, etc) item in the subscription folder. I didn't care for that.

 FeedDemon
I really liked FeedDemon at first. I loved the way it worked and looked. But that started to change the more I used it. Here's what I liked. Watches, like search folders, allows you to make custom feeds more or less based on certain keywords from your other subscribed feeds. The News Bin let's you sort of tag posts that are important to you so you can come back to them later. Sort of like your favorite posts or saved ones. But, there seems to be just so much that is missing. It does not support the CommentAPI and that started to really bug me. Also, it does not update the post or let you know in anyway that a post has been updated. Even if you know that a post was updated, I could not find anyway to have it redownload the text of the post - even if I deleted the cached post. That drove me nuts. I don't like having links open inside my RSS reader, but if you choose to have links open in the default browser it will hijack any open browser to do so instead of opening a new one. I hate that (and will be posting about that next). This one, although it reallt started off strong with me, just seemed to fall short (sorry Nick).

 Sauce Reader
I really had very little complaints with Sauce Reader. I thought it was great. I loved the way it looked. I liked how you use it. Overall I thought it was great. Problem was that it did not support the CommentAPI and at the point when I started using Sauce Reader I had already decided that I won't settle for a reader without it. Granted I did use it for a very short time - but my impressions were all good (except for the missing CommentAPI support).

 Gush
Gush was weird (how did this one get in here anyway?!). I am not sure what I really think of it, but decided to include it here anyway because it does have some strong parts to it. Gush is a Flash application believe it or not. It has RSS, IM, and more all built into one app. It did a lot of things, but I just couldn't get used to the non-standard UI - even though it looked really nice.

It's been a good ride, but I am very happy now with RSSBandit. Complete and looks nice too (other than that silly icon and splash screen). Great stuff Dare. But, whether you use RSSBandit or something else, do make sure you use an RSS reader. Reading blogs with a browser looses all the benfits that syndicated content brings.

Hopefully the authors of some of the other aggregators mentioned are following Josh's advice of living in their world and listening to mine.




                   



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Comments

  1. josh ledgard 5/14/2004 12:34 PM
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    Yeah. I didn't realize what I fan I have become until recently. Not to keep gushing, but RSS bandit also has the rt click button in IE when you rt click on a feed that says "Subscribe to in default news aggregator". And in the newest version you can synch two or more clients with a web share or FTP location. :-)

    Good reviews though!
  2. Ryan Farley 5/14/2004 12:37 PM
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    Cool! I didn't notice that one, that makes it even better! Thanks Josh. I should have mentioned the sync thing, that is cool and will be great for when I am on my laptop.
  3. Nathan 5/14/2004 2:45 PM
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    Your comments about the necessity of comments API support are very interesting. We're hearing more & more requests for this in Sauce Reader and it is very high on our major features to add list. Keep an eye on us, we're improving rapidly and have lots of exciting ideas to come in the months ahead :)

    cheers, Nathan
  4. Redmond 5/14/2004 10:30 PM
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    You did not try NewzCrawler (www.newzcrawler.com)? Big mistake. :)
  5. RoudyBob 5/15/2004 8:03 AM
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    Great roundup, Ryan. I'm a NewsGator fan, as you know. Tell me why I should care about the Comment API other than not having to see duplicate messages? Is there anything else of importance there? It's like the saying goes - you don't know what you're missing until you know what you're missing...

    Also - some of your recent posts look very nice - graphical bullets, etc. Is this your own HTML magic or is RSS bandit allowing you to create "richer" posts?
  6. RoudyBob.NET 5/15/2004 10:08 AM
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  7. ZOKSZIGEN 5/15/2004 12:05 PM
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  8. Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life 5/15/2004 2:02 PM
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  9. SteelePrice.Net 5/15/2004 9:09 PM
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  10. Peter 5/15/2004 8:03 PM
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    Well thought out comments. I would like to respond to the FeedDemon section.

    Determining if a post has been updated is difficult, and once you do, how do you notify the user? If I find a word misspelled and republish it might confuse people as there would not be a noticeable difference.

    The comment api is a personal preference. I really don't see myself ever using it.

    As for hijacking the open browser window, that depends on how the browser is configured.

    Tools > Internet Options
    Advanced tab
    [un-check] Reuse windows for launching shortcuts
  11. Ryan Farley 5/15/2004 8:29 PM
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    Peter,

    Thanks for the comments. I realize that determining if a post has been updated is difficult, but often the post is updated to add additional thoughts the author had or something. I definately want to see those. Basically, I would want my reader to always be able to show me exactly what the text shows on the author's blog, not just the first publication of the text.

    For the CommentAPI, it *is* a personal preference. To me, there are too many good things at times that surface in a post's comments that you miss out on with a reader that does not support CommentAPI. While it is a preference, it is not a preference that FeedDemon allows you to have.

    As far as hijacking the open browser window, it does not depend on how the browser is configured. Sure, I can change the settings in IE, but that effects *everything*, not just my RSS reader. That is not what I want. I'll be posting next on how this can be implemented in code to not hijack the open browser window when launching links from applications.

    -Ryan
  12. Ryan Farley 5/15/2004 8:31 PM
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    Nathan, thanks for the update. It would be great to see CommentAPI supported in Sauce Reader. As I mentioned, I really had nothing bad to say about SauceReader other than that. Keep up the good work ;-)
  13. Ryan Farley 5/15/2004 8:33 PM
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    Redmond,

    I was thinking I should have included that one. Truth is, I didn't try it because I had already dumped enough money to readers that didn't work out so I started to focus more on the free/opensource ones. Maybe I'll load up an eval copy and give it a try. Thanks.

    -Ryan
  14. Ryan Farley 5/15/2004 8:41 PM
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    Bob,

    The CommentAPI more or less gives you the ability to view and post comments to a post. Take a look at the following screenshot from RSSBandit: http://www.rssbandit.org/swimages/reply_items.gif

    With NewsGator, or other reader that does not support CommentAPI you don't know that the post has comments unless you happen to launch the webpage that contains the post (for example, you won't know that I've replied to your comments here unless you happen to launch this page). Also, you have to launch the webpage to add your own comments also. The CommentAPI also allows you to view trackbacks and follow them to the originally referenced post. Pretty cool stuff.

    As far as the look on my recent posts, I've been tweaking out my CSS file to make things look prettier - so yeah, some magic ;-)
  15. Impersonation Failure 5/15/2004 11:21 PM
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  16. Ryan Farley 5/15/2004 9:27 PM
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    Redmond,

    I just went to check out NewzCrazle - no support for CommentAPI!! As I mentioned, I'm no longer interested in a reader that does not support that. So Newzcrawler is out (but the NNTP support looks cool)

    -Ryan
  17. Sanjay Vyas 5/16/2004 6:00 AM
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    I am a big fan of Comment API too which is why I am sticking to #Reader. I really liked Sauce but discontinued it due to lack of CommentAPI. I agree with you on the dull UI and tray notifications of #Reader but my main grouse is #Reader does not handle disconnected scenario very well. I am a laptop user and the moment I disconnnect, it fills up my screen with RED errors all over the place indicating unable to connect (yeah, yeah, i know...). Btw, does #Reader allow you to post comments using CommentAPI? If it does, how dumb of me not to discover it.
  18. schrankmonster blog 5/16/2004 3:21 PM
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  19. Ryan Farley 5/16/2004 1:50 PM
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    Sanjay,

    I don't know of any way to actually post comments to a blog post from SharpReader - but you *can* with RSSBandit. A big reason why I loved RSSBandit is because I can do 100% of everything without leaving the tool. No need to ever launch a browser at all. I have to admit, I've never tested out how RSSBandit handles being disconnected from the network. My guess is it would just add entries to it "special" folder, which is where it posts errors retrieving feeds etc (so I would expect it to handle it well).

    -Ryan
  20. Impersonation Failure 5/17/2004 12:59 AM
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  21. Impersonation Failure 5/17/2004 1:01 AM
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    Ryan Farley gave a quick rundown of the pro's and con's of some of the more popular rss reader's here.
  22. sarah gilbert 5/17/2004 12:33 AM
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    you should have tried <a href="http://www.jyte.com">Jyte</a>, too... it is free, and offers continuous searching in addition to the feed reading capabilities.
  23. Redmond 5/17/2004 1:33 AM
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    NewzCrawler HAS CommentAPI posting (I use ver 1.7) as well as CommentRSS. If feed supports comments then CommentThis! action will be activated so you can post comments to this feed.
  24. Ryan Farley 5/17/2004 6:29 AM
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    Sarah,

    Does Jyte support the CommentAPI? It does not appear to on the site you linked. Besides, I'm afraid that would have fallen under the boring & uninteresting UI category (sorry).

    Redmond,

    My bad. I looked all over the newzcrawler site and could not find *any* mention of it, so I assumed it did not have it. Guess I'll give it a try after all (although it will take a lot for it to get me away from RSSBandit - I am loving it more every day).
  25. Chris 5/17/2004 11:01 AM
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    I've evaluated NewsGator, intraVnews, Bloglines, FeedDemon, SharpReader, RSS Bandit, Newz Crawler, and Sauce Reader. I like facets of each. Like you however, on the whole, I'm liking RSS Bandit more each day; it seems to have the best balance of features, IMO.

    Alerts and multi-computer synchronization are important features to me; RSS Bandit does a good job on both counts. My only gripes are related to its Feed Alerts: windows are opaque, not transparent; only four titles are displayed per feed; there's no apparent way to review multiple items.

    Newz Crawler's scrolling News Ticker feature is *really* cool. By default, it displays the titles of today's unread posts, allowing you to click on a post to display it. Neat.
  26. Ryan Farley 5/17/2004 11:23 AM
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    Hi Chris,

    I agree with you, alerts and sync were a big deal to me too. I don't really care for the popup window for alerts in RSSBandit and found that I just stick with the more generic notification bubble. It doesn't give me the detail I really want, but at least a summary that there is something new. I've been fine with that so far.

    I saw the scrolling ticker on the NewzCrawler site. It did look cool. I also like the Newspaper view in FeedDemon and the same type of rollup of new posts in SharpReader. But all in all, I've been loving RSSBandit. Since I posted this I've grown more and more attached to it (so it's really confirmed that I made the right choice)

    -Ryan
  27. Jeremy Brayton 5/17/2004 1:50 PM
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    I too belong to the RSSBandit camp. I have some minor gripes with it but overall it's wonderful.

    The commentapi sections are slightly buggy. Like say for instance on this post. In the rss syndicated version on my machine it showed you had 2 comments. When I clicked the 'comments' link at the bottom of the post, it then proceeded to 'fill in' the remainder of comments. This is also done when you click on the little + or - to expand the tree. That's probably how it's designed but it just seemed buggy looking at it.

    I haven't evaluated any of the pay aggrigators. Why? I believe they should be free. I don't quite understand thier motives but whatever, software does cost time. I'm just glad that RSSBandit is free. Sharpreader is free as well and was the one I used at first. I would switch back if I had to, but it's good to know that not everyone is asking for a handout.


  28. Nauman Leghari 5/17/2004 6:06 PM
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    Surely, RssBandit has the most slick and advanced functionality over its competitors. But have you evaluated these aggregators over a network? I know that you may not need to, but I tried every news aggregator and most of them (not newsgator) failed to retrieve many news feed through the proxy connection. I don't know the reason but this is the only reason that I switched to a web based rss reader.
  29. Ryan Farley 5/17/2004 7:19 PM
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    Nauman,

    I used all of these from a network through a firewall without any problems. While the network does have address translation via the firewall, I did not used these behind a configured proxy so did not have to change any proxy settings in the apps.

    -Ryan
  30. Scott Mitchell 5/21/2004 11:11 AM
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    I am trying out FeedDemon and like it b/c of its low memory usage. SharpReader and RSSBandit - at least when I used them six months to a year ago - were both memory HOGs. I'm sorry, but an RSS Reader shouldn't take 100+ MB of memory.

    The only thing, right now, keeping me from buying FeedDemon is the lack of commentAPI support. I want to be able to see the posts that have been made in response to a blog entry in my aggregator, and not have to click through to the actual entry *just to check*.
  31. Ryan Farley 5/21/2004 11:29 AM
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    Scott,

    I totally agree. I loved FeedDemon when I first started using it, it just ran really "light" and I liked the UI as well. However, I just could not get past a few things, such as not being able to see the changes to a post after it was updated and (like you) the lack of CommentAPI. I could see myself possibly going back to it sometime if these were addressed.

    -Ryan
  32. Stan 5/23/2004 6:19 PM
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    What have you found to be the best techniques to read posts in RSS Bandit? There doesn't seem to be a way to filter to just see posts (from multiple feeds) from the last hour, week, or day.
  33. Ryan Farley 5/23/2004 8:55 PM
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    Stan,

    You can view all unread posts, and also create a search folder to view the posts within a certain time. For me, I just go to the unread posts folder and sort by date/time and work my way down the list. You can also build search folders to get "special" lists of what kinds of posts you want to currently read from your subscriptions.

    -Ryan
  34. Ulrich Schwanitz 5/25/2004 7:30 AM
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    Ryan and all,
    Would like to invite you for taking a look at IzyNews, the (probably) newest kid around the block.

    IzyNews integrates into eMail (not just Outlook 200x, but also Pocket PC, Mozilla, Evolution, Entourage, what-have-you-on-whatever-platform) and supports synchronization across multiple clients. CommentAPI and more is in the works.

    And BTW: It does not require the .NET runtime, because IzyNews is 100% installation-free ;-) but still not a browser app.

    http://izynews.com
  35. Ryan Farley 5/25/2004 11:10 AM
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    Hi Ulrich,

    Interesting idea. Not bad at all. I'll be interested to see how IzyNews implements the CommentAPI. The summary view looks nice too.

    I will keep my eye on IzyNews - but to tell the truth it would take a lot for me to change back to consuming RSS via my e-mail client. Part of why I switched away from NewsGator was because I really wanted a separate reader for my syndicated content subscriptions.
  36. Akilesh Ayyar 5/25/2004 9:17 PM
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    I just tried Rssbandit for the 2nd time. For me the UI just isn't as slick as SharpReader's. For instance, adding a feed can be a painful process. In sharpreader, I can copy the URL into the address bar in the aggregator, press enter, and hit subscribe. Done. To do the same in Rssbandit, I have to go to File-->New Feed, fill in the dialogue, click the "Find title [automatically]" button, and then hit OK. MUCH more painful process.

    Another problem with Rssbandit is that once I click on a headline, the text of the item seems to take a second or two to show up. With Sharpreader it comes up instantaneously. I don't know why this difference exists, but it does, and it's significant to me...
  37. Ryan Farley 5/25/2004 9:48 PM
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    Akilesh,

    I've thought the same thing about the process for subscribing to a new blog. I usually just use the right-click context menu in IE. But I did like how in FeedDemon it would at least read the URL from the clipboard for you. I'd have to disagree about the UI. SharpReader's UI just doesnt compare. But that's just my opinion. I know that some people prefer the simpler UI of SharpReader (many people have mentioned that to me, they just wants something that "does the job" and don't care for a frilly UI)

    -Ryan
  38. Steve 5/26/2004 11:25 AM
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    I'm with Akilesh. After using RSS Bandit for a few weeks, I have to say that the interface is nice-looking, but very quirky. I never know what it's going to do next. The lack of intelligent mouse support is a big minus in my book. You have to click on each section before moving the scroll wheel; otherwise, the movements affect the last active section.

    Have you checked out Pluck? Lots of potential.

    Me, I'm liking NewzCrawler more each time I use it. v1.7 RC4 was just released.
  39. Ryan Farley 5/26/2004 11:34 AM
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    Hi Steve,

    NewsCrawler does look nice. I do plan on giving it a whirl. RSSBandit does have some quirks, but all in all I am loving it (and more every day).

    Haven't seen pluck before. Looks really well done. I couldn't tell from the site if it supports the CommentAPI, do you know if it does? But I am not sure how I would feel about a web-based reader. I've never really been a fan of web clients, I'm a fat gui kind of guy.

    -Ryan
  40. Steve 5/26/2004 8:19 PM
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    I'm with you on the smart- vs. web-client; I prefer the smart client.

    NewzCrawler supports the CommentAPI, BTW. The first RC was a bit unstable; however, the seems much more solid.
  41. 6/5/2004 9:48 AM
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    my weblog &raquo; ?? ?????????????? ???????????????????? RSS ????????????????????
  42. Spike 7/5/2004 12:07 PM
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    NewzCrawler 1.7 final is out.
  43. Craig 8/18/2004 7:16 AM
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    The thing I don't like about RSS Bandit is that you can't delete a feed item. Sometimes I just want to press the Delete key and clear off some items and not wait for them to expire in a week. It's seems like a no-brainer to add yet they don't have that feature? Why? Weird. It's kept me from using RSS Bandit, for now I'll stick with SauceReader and hope they add the CommentAPI in.
  44. Ryan Farley 8/18/2004 7:24 AM
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    Craig,

    I agree that would be nice. I'm not sure I'd use that feature since I like to keep old posts around, but I can see where a lot of people would like that. SauceReader does have a lot of promise, but it would still take a lot for me to move away from RSSBandit.

    -Ryan
  45. Craig 8/19/2004 5:50 AM
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    I asked about CommentRSS api in Sauce Reader. Apparently they have an alpha version running now that includes it. So I guess stay tuned for their next release.
  46. Nathan 8/27/2004 2:52 PM
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    As mentioned above, Sauce Reader v1.7 does support the comment api. By default, Sauce Reader automatically downloads comments during the feed refresh, notifying you when they are available for reading. You can also set it up for the more common get comments on demand implementation.

    cheers, Nathan
  47. Tim 8/3/2005 5:37 AM
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    I prefer RSS Popper - its .NET and works perfectly with Outlook
  48. { public virtual blog; } 10/9/2006 7:31 PM
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    Well, it is done. I've made a switch to a new RSS reader. I've used RSS Bandit for quite a while now. I tried many different readers and ended up quite satisfied with RSS Bandit. But it just didn't excite me any more. I had tried Sauce Reader in the past, although to be honest, I was so in to RSS Bandit at the time that I'm not sure I really gave it a fair shake, but I have now and I am really liking it so far.
  49. Wool 11/2/2009 11:21 PM
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    I use Yahoo widget RSS Reader
  50. 1/16/2013 7:56 AM
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    RSS Reader Shoot-Out | schrankmonster blog
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