ANN: FeedDemon Pre-Release

FeedDemon is now available from the FeedDemon Beta Site, and you’ll definitely want to upgrade to it if you’re running an earlier pre-release.

For one thing, it offers completely redesigned synching with Google Reader which corrects many of the issues customers have been reporting in our support forums.  There are a number of other additions and improvements, too, including a new “quick tag” feature and support for in the short URL preview.

As mentioned in my previous post, NewsGator is shutting down their synchronization platform at the end of the month, so at startup FeedDemon now offers to convert you from NewsGator sync to Google Reader sync.  The conversion process may take a few minutes while it adds your subscriptions to Google Reader and syncs your pre-existing flags, but once it’s done FeedDemon will be synched with Google Reader.

As always, if you run into any problems with this build, please let me know by posting in the FeedDemon 3.0 Beta Forum, and be sure to include the build number ( in your subject line.

BTW, there’s also a new FeedDemon 3.0 Frequently Asked Questions page – it’s pretty bare-bones at the moment, but I’ll update it over time as I get more feedback about the new version.

The End of NewsGator Sync: What it Means for FeedDemon Customers

Today NewsGator announced that their consumer synchronization platform will no longer be available as of August 31, 2009.  Rather than re-hash the announcement here, I invite you to read it on NewsGator's official company blog.  There's also an FAQ which addresses most of the questions about this announcement.

So how will this impact you if you're a FeedDemon customer who relies on NewsGator sync?  Honestly, this shouldn't have much impact on you.  FeedDemon 3.0 still offers syncrhonization – – but instead of synching with NewsGator, it syncs with Google Reader.

The first time you run FeedDemon 3.0, you'll be asked whether to convert your NewsGator subscriptions to Google Reader subscriptions.  Once the conversion completes, FeedDemon will sync with Google Reader instead of NewsGator.

If you're among the few customers who created synched clippings in FeedDemon, your clippings will no longer be synched after the conversion, and the RSS feed for your synched clippings will no longer update.  However, prior to the end of NewsGator sync, we'll provide a way to redirect your synched clippings feed so that anyone subscribed to it will be unaffected by the change.  Most of you will want to redirect to your Google Reader shared items feed (here's mine) since FeedDemon 3.0 includes the ability to copy articles to your Google Reader shared items.

What does this mean for the future of FeedDemon?  For the record I want to make it clear that FeedDemon's lifespan won't be cut short by this change.  FeedDemon (and NetNewsWire, for that matter) continues to have a very bright future.  I'm excited about being able to take full advantage of the power of Google Reader sync.

The Google Reader team has been making some interesting moves lately which enable me to take FeedDemon where I've long wanted it to go.  If you're a FeedDemon customer, I think you're going to love where FeedDemon will take you now that it's tied to Google Reader instead of NewsGator.

Bing Search in FeedDemon

Now that Microsoft’s Bing search engine is live, I figured I’d create a "search definition" for FeedDemon to simplify subscribing to Bing search feeds.  Here's how to use it:

  1. View this page in FeedDemon, then click here to install the Bing search definition
  2. Click the Subscribe button, then type the keyword you wish to search for and click Next
  3. Select "Bing" from the list of search engines and click Next
  4. Select the folder you want to place this feed in, then click Next
  5. Click Finish

After installing this search definition, you’ll also be able to search Bing directly from FeedDemon’s address bar.  Before you can do this, though, you’ll first need to select Bing as your search provider from the search button at the right of FeedDemon’s address bar, like this:

Note that FeedDemon’s address bar supports all of Bing’s advanced search keywords, including the feed: keyword which enables finding RSS feeds about a specific topic (ex: type feed:fitness to find fitness-related feeds).

Update: FeedDemon's automatic error reporting shows that there's a bug in older versions of FeedDemon which may cause a file access error downloading the above file when not logged into Windows as an admin.  This bug was fixed in FeedDemon 3.0 RC2.

Is Your RSS Reader Broken?

Dare Obasanjo believes that RSS readers which are modeled after email clients are broken:

“…it seems to me that the way we think of RSS readers needs to fundamentally change. Presenting information as a news feed where the user isn’t pressured to read every item or feel like a failure is one way to move the needle on the user experience here.”

I couldn’t agree more.  The fact that FeedDemon’s Panic Button is one of its most popular features is a clear sign that information overload resulting from “RSS as email” is a problem among my customers.

It’s no secret that I regret designing the first version of FeedDemon to work like an email client, and every version since then has been an attempt to drag myself and my customers (some of them screaming and kicking) away from that model.  It’s been such a slow crawl out of that hole that I’ve often considered building something brand new instead of trying to morph FeedDemon into a tool that doesn’t make information consumption a chore.

But then I come to my senses, realize that I love being able to focus on FeedDemon, and get back to making it into the application it should be :)

So what do I think it should be?  I think an RSS reader should enable you to read individual feeds if that’s what you’re into, but at the same time it should sift through the noise and find the articles that interest you. 

Many services attempt to do that by aggregating the most popular articles around the web, but I’m not a fan of that approach since it brings you too much stuff you don’t care about (you might not, for example, care about Britney Spears regardless of whether everyone else does).  Instead, my approach has been to have FeedDemon pay attention to the stuff you’re paying attention to, and use that to locate the stuff that’s most relevant.

You can see this most clearly in features like “Popular Topics” (which shows you the most popular articles across all your feeds), and the new dashboard-like start page in FeedDemon 3.0.  If you’re unfamiliar with FeedDemon, or you’re not using the FeedDemon 3.0 Beta, here’s what they look like (click to enlarge):

FD3 Popular Topics   FD3 Dashboard

These are the kinds of features I want to focus much more on in FeedDemon.  I want to eventually build a tool that automatically brings you the stuff that’s important to both you and the people you “follow” with as little effort from you as possible and without violating your privacy in the process.

In my mind the “RSS as email” approach has been dead for quite some time, and it’s been a while since I invested in email-like features.  The real question is whether long-time users of RSS readers are ready to give up how they’re used to consuming their feeds (?).

ANN: FeedDemon 3.0 Beta 4 with Google Reader Synchronization

It has been fun watching the news spread about the latest FeedDemon 3.0 Beta even though I never “officially” announced it.  It started with a couple tweets from me, then spread to Twitter at large and on to web sites like Digital Inspiration, Shooting at Bubbles and Lifehacker.

So, I guess I should make it official now: the first beta of FeedDemon 3.0 with Google Reader synchronization is now available from the FeedDemon Beta Site.  If you're new to FeedDemon, you'll be given a choice between NewsGator and Google Reader synchronization at startup.  If you're already synching with NewsGator, you can convert to Google Reader by selecting Tools | Synchronization Options | Advanced and clicking “Convert Now.”

Since this is a beta release, it comes with the usual “use at your own risk” warning.  I try to make my beta releases very reliable, but there’s still a good chance you’ll encounter a hair-raising bug or two, so please don’t download this unless you’re comfortable using unfinished software.

I should also add that Google Reader synchronization is still a work in progress.  I’ve been using it for several weeks and overall it has worked very well, but there are some missing pieces.  In particular:

  1. Tags you add in FeedDemon are synched with Google Reader, but tags you add in Google Reader won’t always sync back to FeedDemon.
  2. If you convert from NewsGator synching to Google Reader synching, flags/tags you add to items that existed prior to the conversion may not sync with Google Reader.
  3. If you have thousands of unread items in Google Reader, FeedDemon will not download them all.  This isn’t actually a bug – I do this on purpose, primarily because I couldn’t justify consuming so much of someone else’s bandwidth to download items you’ll most likely never read.  If you have a ton of old, unread items in Google Reader, I recommend selecting “Mark all Read” to be free of them :)

The first two issues are ones I’m actively working on, and my goal is to have them resolved prior to the final release of FeedDemon 3.0.

PS: If you follow me on Twitter, please understand that I can’t provide tech support on Twitter (I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work).  Our support forums are a much better place to report problems and ask questions!

Making Short URLs Suck Less

All this chatter about how short URLs suck makes me want to remind folks about FeedDemon 3.0’s “short URL preview,” which I blogged about a few months back.

As the screenshot below illustrates, just mouse over a short URL to see a balloon tip containing the actual URL it points to:


A even better example of this feature can be found in this excellent post from Digital Inspiration, which explains why FeedDemon 3.0 is “an almost perfect Twitter client.”

Anti-Virus Software Hates Us

One of the things I despise about Windows is how much time developers have to spend working around problems in third-party firewall and anti-virus software.

Case in point: I’m seeing quite a few error reports about the new FeedDemon 3.0 beta that are caused by AV software locking files that FeedDemon is trying to access.  Many AV programs monitor the file system for changed files, and when they find one, they scan it for viruses – temporarily locking it in the process.  This has always been a problem, but it’s now an even bigger problem since FeedDemon stores your feed content in a single SQLite database file.  Every time that database file changes, your AV software scans it to make sure it’s not infected.

In some cases this causes file permission errors when FeedDemon tries to access its database, but more often than not it simply slows FeedDemon down since it has to wait for the file lock to be released.

Most people report that the new FeedDemon is a lot faster than previous versions, so if you’re finding it slower, chances are your AV software is the culprit.

The good news is that you can probably stop this from happening.  FeedDemon’s database uses the file extension .FDB, so if your AV software has an “exclusions” list, try adding the file extension .FDB to it.  If you can’t do that, see if you can add FeedDemon’s cache folder (File | Manage Cache) to its list of excluded folders.  Several customers who have done this have reported dramatic speed increases.

Of course, I can’t expect every FeedDemon customer to do this, so I’m looking into ways to work around these issues.  But in the meantime, give it a shot, and reply here if it makes a difference.

ANN: FeedDemon 3.0 Beta 1a

FeedDemon 3.0 Beta 1a (build is now available.  This is an update which corrects some issues reported in the initial beta release (build, which was posted on March 30 but not announced here.

Download details and release notes can be found on the FeedDemon Beta Site.  As always, simply install this pre-release directly on top of your existing version – there's no need to uninstall first.  If you encounter any problems with this beta, I hope you’ll stop by the FeedDemon 3.0 Beta Forum and let us know what’s going wrong.

Since this is a beta release, it comes with the usual “use at your own risk” warning.  I try to make my beta releases very reliable, but there’s still a good chance you’ll encounter a hair-raising bug or two, so please don’t download this unless you’re comfortable using unfinished software.

Note: Google Reader integration is not in this beta, but we’re still hoping to get it in by the final release.

FeedDemon Beta Expiration?

If you’re using the latest FeedDemon beta release, it may be telling you that it expires later this week. 

Don’t worry – there will be an updated beta available tomorrow (March 30), so the annoying expiration message will be short-lived.  Sorry for not having a new build available before now, but I think you’ll be pleased once you see some of the new stuff:

As you can see from the screenshot, we’re moving straight to FeedDemon 3.0, which offers a shiny new UI and many highly-requested features.  Feedback from private testers has been very positive, and I hope you’ll like the changes, too.

Note: Google Reader integration will not be in tomorrow’s beta.  I’m still hoping to get it into this version, but we have some loose ends to tie up before that can happen (it’s a long story).

FeedDemon to Sync with Google Reader?

Amit Agarwal has the scoop: I’ve been experimenting with making FeedDemon sync with Google Reader.  It’s something we get a lot of requests for, so we decided to see what it would entail to add Google Reader synching to both FeedDemon and NetNewsWire.

I should make it clear that it’s not 100% definite that this feature will see the light of day – it’s still in the experimental stage.  I sort of have an unwritten policy of not promising a feature until I’ve already coded it, and there’s a lot of coding left to do here :)

But assuming that Google Reading synching is added, I’m curious to know what specifically you would like to see.  Beyond the basics of synching (i.e.: ensuring that changes you make in Google Reader are reflected in FeedDemon, and vice versa), what could I do to make the integration more useful?

One thing I’ve added already is sharing – just click FeedDemon’s  “Share” icon to add an article to your Google Reader “Shared Items” page.  But I’m guessing there are some other features in Google Reader that I’m not aware of which could be really nice to take advantage of.