FeedDemon Tagging Update

Thanks to the great feedback on my previous post, I’ve made a couple of updates to FeedDemon’s upcoming tagging support.

First off, I’ve added tags to FeedDemon’s subscription tree, as shown in this screenshot (click to enlarge):

Selecting a tag in the tree displays a newspaper containing all posts with that tag.

I’ve also added “suggested tags” to the tag editor, which attempts to recommend tags for the selected post:


I’ll be fine-tuning the tagging features even more before this version is released, of course, but I plan to keep it simple.  I know there’s a lot of tagging-related stuff I could add, but complexity is something I hope to avoid :)

Tagging in FeedDemon: What Would You Like to See?

I’ve been adding support for tagging to FeedDemon, and I wanted to pass the new features by FeedDemon customers to see if I’m missing anything.

The way it works so far is that FeedDemon’s “Subscriptions Home” report now includes a list of tags you’ve used, as shown in the screenshot below (click to enlarge):

Clicking one of these tags displays a newspaper showing all posts you’ve added that tag to (click to enlarge):

As you can see from the above screenshot, the newspaper now shows each post’s tags, and clicking one of these tags shows all posts which have that tag.  Tagging a post is as simple as clicking the new “Edit Tags” icon and then entering a list of tags, or selecting from tags you’ve already used:

You can also manage your tags in bulk, renaming or deleting them across all posts:

Tags added to posts in synchronized feeds are passed to NewsGator in the background, so any tags you add in FeedDemon will be available in NewsGator Online or any other application which syncs with NewsGator and supports tagging.

So, that covers the basics of where FeedDemon’s tagging support currently stands.  Beyond these features, is there anything important I’m missing?  What tagging features would you like to see?

How to Use FeedDemon’s Newspaper Instead of the News Item List

I received a ton of great feedback on yesterday’s post about possibly killing FeedDemon’s news item list – my thanks to those who took the time to comment!

It’s clear that a lot of customers rely on the news item list, many of whom have been using FeedDemon for a long time.  But it’s also clear that many of these customers don’t realize that FeedDemon’s newspaper view has evolved to the point that it does pretty much everything the news item list does (plus a lot more).  So I’d like to take a moment to describe how to use the newspaper view as a replacement for the news item list.  I admit that it takes a little getting used to, but I know several people who dropped the news item list in favor of the newspaper view and now can’t imagine using FeedDemon any other way.

Based on the comments, there are three main reasons why people like the news item list:

  1. It enables quickly scanning headlines
  2. It enables locating previously read items
  3. It enables navigating via the keyboard

As luck would have it, FeedDemon’s newspaper view offers these same benefits :)

Although the newspaper defaults to showing summaries, you can use the icons at the top right to toggle between full posts, summaries and headlines. 

Personally, I like showing summaries because that enables me to quickly scan the first sentence or two of each item, but you can make the newspaper look more like the news item list by switching to headlines.  Here’s the same feed showing only headlines:


Tip: If you choose to show only headlines, try increasing the number of items to display per page (Tools > Options > Reading).

And while the newspaper view defaults to showing only unread/flagged items, you can change the newspaper filter to display previously read items:

Last but not least, the newspaper view offers even better keyboard handling than the news item list. When the newspaper has the focus (Ctrl+B), the following shortcuts are enabled:

Previous item Ctrl+ArrowUp or K
Next Item Ctrl+ArrowDown or J
Next page Ctrl+ArrowRight
Previous page Ctrl+ArrowLeft
Flag item F
Send item (email, blog, del.icio.us) S
Clip item C
Mark item read/unread R
Open/expand item Enter
Open item link V
Open item link in new tab T
Open item link in external browser E
Reload newspaper Ctrl+F5

Tip: You can change these shortcuts by selecting Tools > Keyboard Shortcuts > Newspaper.

Now, I realize this post won’t win everyone over – some people will still prefer keeping the news item list visible.  But do me a favor and try keeping it hidden for a couple days and see what you think.  And if you feel bold, try using the "Next Page” button to mark everything on the current page as read and move to the next page.  That way you can stop marking individual items as read and speed read your way through your unread items.

If it turns out you still prefer using the news item list, I’d be interested in hearing how I could change the newspaper view so that you no longer need it.  It would really simplify FeedDemon if I could drop the news item list, but I won’t drop it until I’m confident that the newspaper view is a suitable replacement.

How to Kill a Beloved Feature?

Yesterday I wrote about killing unused features.  But what about killing a feature that people do use?

This is the dilemma I’m facing with the news item list, which is the middle panel in FeedDemon (the one that displays a list of articles in the current feed – it’s hidden by default in recent releases, so you may not even know it exists if you’ve only recently started using FeedDemon).  I’ve wanted to kill the news item list for a very long time because it dramatically complicates FeedDemon (both from a developer and end user perspective) and it really slows things down.

I also want to kill it because I think it was a bad idea to start with.  See, the main reason the news item list exists was to mimic Microsoft Outlook’s one-item-at-a-time reading UI.  I figured if I made FeedDemon look and work like Outlook, then more people would find it familiar, and therefore more people would find it easy to use.  Since then, though, it has become clear that RSS is not email.  Trying to read your feeds the same way you read your email – that is, treating every item as though it has to be read – leads to information overload.

Anyway, I’ve downplayed the news item list ever since v2.0, and it’s no longer documented in the online help.  I could really simplify things if I killed it, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure I’d lose customers by doing so.  Most people don’t use it – but every time I’ve hinted at its demise, I hear from people who say they couldn’t use FeedDemon without it.

So…what would you do?  Would you kill a feature that most people don’t use in order to simplify your application, or would you keep it around forever to accommodate loyal customers who rely on it?

Update: Please note that I’m not saying the news item list is being dropped – just that I’d like to drop it!

Create Twitter Search Feeds in FeedDemon

TechCrunch brings us the news that Twitter has acquired Summize, which means that Twitter finally has its own search engine.  You can get your Twitter search results as an RSS feed, which provides a great way to find out when someone tweets about something you’re interested in.

FeedDemon customers can simplify the process of subscribing to Twitter search feeds by following these steps:

  1. View this page in FeedDemon, then click here to install the Twitter search definition
  2. Click the Subscribe button, then type the keyword you wish to search for and click Next
  3. Select Twitter 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

You’re now subscribed to a feed which will bring you the latest Twitter posts which contain your keyword.

Share Your NewsGator/FeedDemon Clippings with ReadBurner

About a year ago, I wrote about how link blogs are attention streams.  The premise behind that post was that while attention algorithms can uncover what people are paying attention to, the articles people are sharing provide an even better way of determining their attention.

As I mentioned in that post, seeing what other people are paying attention to has brought me a ton of relevant articles that I would otherwise have missed.  The folks at ReadBurner had a similar idea, and they built a great service which displays the most frequently shared content across the web.

In the past, ReadBurner has relied solely on Google Reader and Netvibes for its shared content.  That just changed.

NewsGator has partnered with ReadBurner, and as a result, it’s now dead simple to share your NewsGator clippings with ReadBurner.  This means that FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, NewsGator Inbox and NewsGator Online customers can easily share their clipped articles with ReadBurner.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. If you haven’t done so already, share one of your clippings folders as an RSS feed (this screencast explains how this is done in FeedDemon).
  2. Copy the URL of the shared clippings feed to the clipboard (in FeedDemon, you can do this by clicking the “Copy” link from the clippings properties).
  3. Browse to http://www.readburner.com/
  4. Go to the "Add Feed" option on the right hand side of the ReadBurner menu bar, then select “NewsGator Clippings” and enter the URL of your clipping feed.

Once you’ve done that, your clippings feed will be shared with ReadBurner.

Side note: Keep in mind that you can share any web page with FeedDemon – you’re not limited to sharing items from RSS feeds, but can instead share any article you find on the web.

Techmeme Search Update

Techmeme now supports returning search results as RSS, so I’ve updated FeedDemon’s Techmeme search definition to enable quickly subscribing to Techmeme search feeds in FeedDemon.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. View this page in FeedDemon, then click here to install the updated Techmeme search definition
  2. Click the Subscribe button, then type the keyword you wish to search for and click Next
  3. Select "Techmeme" 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

Search Techmeme from FeedDemon

Now that Techmeme (finally!) has a search feature, I figured I’d create a search definition which enables searching Techmeme from within FeedDemon.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. View this page in FeedDemon, then click here to install the Techmeme search definition
  2. Click the down arrow on FeedDemon’s search toolbutton (it’s on the far right of the address bar, as shown in the screenshot above)
  3. Select Techmeme from the "Choose Search Provider" list
  4. Try it out by typing a keyword in FeedDemon’s address bar and hitting ENTER

Update 07-Jun-08: Techmeme now supports the ability to return search results as an RSS feed, so I’ve updated the search definition to include this feature.

ANN: FeedDemon 2.7 Final Release

The final release of FeedDemon 2.7 (which was called FeedDemon 2.6.1 during the beta period) is now available

As you can see from the release notes, there aren’t many big new features in this version – unless, of course, you count speed as a feature :)  The most significant change in version 2.7 is that it’s much faster in many areas, including critical ones like synchronization and navigation.

 Download FeedDemon 2.7 (3.93MB)

Note: If you have a previous 2.x version of FeedDemon installed, just install version 2.7 directly on top of it.

Software Should Go the Extra Mile

Rick Segal believes that the "panic button" makes FeedDemon sticky:

"By putting this feature into the service, it can potentially prevent me from getting frustrated via the overwhelming inbound amount of reading to do which might cause me to throw up my hands, uninstall it and try something else."

Although I wouldn’t say that my primary goal when adding this feature was to keep people from trying another feed reader, Rick is correct that easing frustration will keep customers loyal to your application.  Software developers tend to focus on features when talking about their apps, but keeping customers happy requires more than just features – you also have to prove that you’ll go the extra mile to tackle the things that frustrate them.

In the case of an RSS reader, one of the most frustrating things for customers (at least, those who have subscribed to more than a handful of feeds) is the feeling of overwhelm they experience when faced with hundreds of unread items.  FeedDemon’s "panic button" was designed to replace that frustration with a feeling of relief.  I often see people Twitter about the panic button and express relief that it offered to help ease their overwhelm.

There are a number of other features like that it in FeedDemon, most of which you’ll never run into – but you’ll be glad when you do.  For example, when you start FeedDemon, it checks whether another instance is already running, and if so, it switches to that instance so you’re not confused by multiple copies.  That’s a common feature these days, but FeedDemon goes the extra mile to detect whether the other instance is frozen, and if it is, it offers to shut it down.  Few people will see that feature, but frozen applications aren’t uncommon on Windows (I see it with Outlook and Firefox all the time), and non-technical customers often have no idea how to deal with that situation.  So FeedDemon deals with it for them.

When I’m using an application that surprises me by going the extra mile to help me, my loyalty to that application increases.  I may be tempted by the shiny new features in a competing product, but I’m unlikely to switch because the application I’m already using has earned my trust by proving that it has my best interests in mind.  And trust is far more important than mere features.