Reconsidering FeedDemon

Those of you who understand how cool RSS aggregation is might find this interesting. You may know that for the last several months, I’ve been using Wildgrape NewsDesk as my aggregator of choice. However, I recently recommended NewsDesk to a friend who’s new to the whole RSS thing, and to my surprise she tried it and immediately spat it back out. “Too hard to use,” she said. It never seemed that way to me, but then I’m kind of an alpha geek so I’m probably not the best person to ask about such things.

When she asked for other alternatives, I read her off a list and she went to check them out. She came back a little later rabidly enthusiastic for the last one on my list — FeedDemon from BradSoft. Apparently that program really hit a home run for her, compared to NewsDesk’s anemic pop fly.

This spurred me to go download the latest beta of FeedDemon and check it out. After all, I’d tried it on its initial release and found it wanting in many respects, so much so that I didn’t really consider it serious competition for NewsDesk. Had something changed?

The short answer is yes — FeedDemon is on its 5th beta release now, and BradSoft has seriously polished it up. Its biggest improvement is in the user interface — this thing is slick like no other Windows aggregator I know of. The interface is full of bright colors and striking icons; it’s very pleasant to look at. Setup is also a breeze — in fact, for people new to RSS, it may be a revelation, since it takes time to step you through the interface before letting you get started, which no other aggregator I’ve seen has done. They’ve also addressed one of my biggest complaints from the original beta, which was the dependence on the new, Outlook 2003-style three-pane layout, where the three panes are tiled next to each other horizontally (I prefer the standard three-pane layout, with one tall vertical pane on the left and then two vertically stacked panes on the right). Now FeedDemon asks you right in the setup process if you’d prefer the older layout, and if you do it switches over to it with no complaints. That’s a nice touch for those of us who are sticks in the mud on this question.

In fact, FeedDemon does everything NewsDesk does, with one important exception: if you right-click on the little NewsDesk icon that sits in the system tray when the program is minimized, you get a little pop-up menu that shows all the sites and stories that have been updated since the last time you opened NewsDesk. This is an insanely great way to be able to see at-a-glance what’s going on in the world. Other than that omission, though, I’d say FeedDemon has vaulted into the front ranks of RSS aggregators for Windows, and it’s going to be my first recommendation to RSS newbies who want to get their feet wet in a friendly environment. The scary thing is, FeedDemon’s come this far and it’s not even out of beta yet! Congratulations to BradSoft for what is clearly a real dedication to getting this product right.