Guest Post from Brent Simmons: What Can I Learn from You?

Hi! I’m Brent SimmonsNetNewsWire developer and Nick’s co-worker at NewsGator.

Just the other day, in private conversation with a few Mac developers, I called FeedDemon an honorary Mac application. I didn’t have to spell it out, they knew what I meant: that it’s not just usable and aesthetically pleasing, it’s fun to use.

I have a little experience with Windows, even with Windows development — but that was a few years ago. I have a new Dell laptop, and my total time in front of Windows XP so far is just a few hours. A big part of that, I hate to say, was configuring the wireless networking. (Is it actually difficult, or was it just my being unfamiliar with Windows?)

Here’s the thing about Windows: the successful apps are, almost by definition, doing lots of things very well. On Windows I haven’t seen as much of the raw glamour that some Mac apps exude, but then my recent experience is limited — and glamour can get in the way, can be as much a barrier to usability as a good thing.

What FeedDemon showed me is that what I personally look for — apps that delight users — exist on Windows.

But Windows is still largely unknown territory for me. I’m sure there is more to learn from FeedDemon, other Windows apps, from Windows users, and especially from people who use Windows and Macs regularly. So, some questions:

If you’re a FeedDemon user, what features should be added to NetNewsWire?

Are there aspects of Windows UI design that should be applied to Mac apps?

What are the best things about Windows apps that Mac apps lack? And what are the worst things, things that Mac apps should avoid?

What are the cool things about the Windows user community?

Thanks, folks!

PS: Here’s Nick’s guest post in my blog.

8 thoughts on “Guest Post from Brent Simmons: What Can I Learn from You?

  1. I would love to sit down with the both of you and tell you exactly what every rss reader on the market is lacking right now and some ideas to improve on them.
    the only problem is, nick sort of did a code frezze as he is just trying to get feed demon out the door to make his new boss’s at newsgator happy.

  2. Stefan, rather than wait to sit down with both of us, why not just share your ideas?
    BTW, as recent posts to my blog have illustrated, FeedDemon 1.6 isn’t frozen – in fact, RC2 is due out next week, and contains a number of improvements.

  3. Well there are just a few I can name right now. For one thing, I use Firefox as my default browser, and my basic behavior is to click a bunch of links one after the other, any headlines I find interesting you know, then go into Firefox and continently have about 20-40 tabs worth of news open.
    Now both on my laptop and my desktop I experience this issue, where if I click on a link then sometimes the interface becomes inaccessible. What I mean by that is the pointer turns into the pointing hand; you know what I am talking about the pointer that you use when you hover over a link. Anyway after clicking some headlines, it can be completely random, doesn’t matter which feed or article, every once in a while the interface freezes and I can’t click on anything, my cursor is stuck with that little hand pointing.
    The pane that is on the left, the one you scroll thru all your feeds. My biggest gripes are in here. Keep the bottom portion of that pane static. Imagine you are using outlook 2003, if you want a screen shot I can supply you with one, well in that interface the left most pane is split into two regions. One that is static and can’t be scrolled thru, the other is dynamic and can be scrolled thru much like your is right now. The parts that would be static are the portions that say “watches” “newsbins” In the beginning it was fine just the way it was, then I started having 40+ feeds in a folder and 5+ watches. I am scrolling like a mad man just to get access to the content I want to see.
    Another gripe about the left most pane. I have mentioned this in the forum, but can we please have an option to only see feeds with updated data? Some feeds in a list of 40 update every few minutes, others once or twice a week. Why should those be there, in my way, when I am scrolling up and down? That and it isn’t relevant to me since I want to see what new feeds I have coming in, fresh.
    Tagging is the new influenza of the computer sector. From photo managing, to mp3’s with ID3 tags, sorting information by Meta data is how things are done. I don’t like the fact that I can’t have the same feed in more than one folder. I also don’t like this whole concept of folders to begin with. When I add a feed, there are multiple folders that feed could fit in to. For all I know it could be a blog about the economy and technology. Do I put it in my Stock Market folder, or my technology folder? Decisions, decisions. I might as well have the ability to tag that feed with both pieces of Meta data and be able to search thru my feeds with that information. I can elaborate more if you want me to.
    When I restart feed demon, my window arrangement isn’t in place. Now imagine the default layout, with three panes. You have your left most, the one in the middle with the messages, and the one on the right with all the news. I have the one with all the messages hiding. Now when I fully shut down feed demon then relaunch it that window in the middle comes back out of no where and is open only a few pixels width. I have to rehide that window every time!
    Back to the tagging feature, that should be on one of the static tabs I mentioned previously. Let’s create a scenario. I open up feed demon, and have a whole bunch of tags to click on. I click technology, now I click on some specific feed that has new content, I see that hey the content in this blog has more content then I originally thought, and there should be a little editing box in the left most pane that lets me add Meta data (a tag) to this feed so now it can have more information!
    I am in history class right now so I have to cut this off, but this is all I can get in right now, if you want me to elaborate anything feel free to comment back or just email me DevilsRejection at

  4. Stefan: Just a FYI but you can enable the Outlook 2003 look right now with a small registry change. It puts the headings (Watches, News Bins, etc.) at the bottom in the Outlook 2003 group style and is fixed when you scroll the left pane up and down.
    I am sure Nick can dig up the information for you to give it a try :)

  5. I’m a NetNewsWire user and have never user FeedDemon, but I do use both Macs and Windows and have a little omission in the Mac interface which bugs me.
    In Windows, it’s a standard feature of the system list view control that if you double-click on a column’s resizing “edge” on the right side of its column header, it will automatically resize that column to be as long as is necessary to fit all the contents.
    In NNW, nothing happens, although I don’t really miss it there. In the Finder, nothing happens on a double click, and this is where I really start to miss it. I don’t even know of any alternative means of auto-sizing the columns.
    Where the double-click does work is Excel and iTunes. I was quite surprised to see it work even in the Mac version of iTunes. (Which also has the Auto-Size feature accessible from the Ctrl-click context menus.)

  6. I was a huge FeedDemon user until about 5 months ago, when i changed over to the mac.
    I was very disappointed that i had to give up FeedDemon at the time, but was pleased that i managed to find NetNewsWire.
    The announcement that you’re all part of the same team is great news.
    There are several features that i still miss from FeedDemon that i think would be a lovely addition to NetNewsWire.
    Watches and News Bins.
    I loved being able to drag links into a News Bin and then come back to them at a later date when i had more time, or for archiving purposes. A very useful feature!
    The watches were also useful for researching and just picking out specifics from any feed in your list.
    The other thing that i prefer slightly more on FeedDemon is the themeing.
    I’m not really someone who wants bells and whistles, but i am insanely fussy when it comes to the look and presentation of things and i just felt i had better control over those things under FeedDemons themeing system.
    With those items said above, i enjoy using NetNewsWire and think it is a topnotch product :)
    It’s good to see some collaboration going on with the “opposite team” (windows/mac) so to speak!

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