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 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 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 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.
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).
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 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.