New FireFox RSS reader

by Suw on June 17, 2004

I've just updated FireFox to version 0.9 and downloaded an RSS reader extension. I love FireFox – so much sexier than IE, so much less bloated than Netscape, it really is a good browser and if you haven't converted yet, I strongly recommend that you do so. (Please see update below.)
I wish I could say something similar about an RSS reader. I initially tried Syndirella – a desktop app that acted both as RSS checker and browser. I liked Syndirella because it told me when sites had updated but also allowed me to actually view the blog, not just the results of the feed. There's something more satisfying about reading blogs as their author intended them to be read, with all the design and pictures and fandangles (and sometimes, actual content) that are on the blog itself but which get stripped out of the RSS feed. Sadly, Syndirella was highly unstable and crashed more often than it worked, so that got ditched.
I looked at a few other readers before setting on Bloglines. Bloglines is good. I liked Bloglines. But it never really satisfied my blog reading needs – it restricts me to whatever is in the RSS feed, and accessing the actual blog page from the RSS feed is a clumsy, involving opening links in new tabs and not always getting the site but sometimes getting the feed instead. Plus it would delete from the history any feeds I'd already read, which is ok, I guess, but sometimes I'd want to go back and check something and I'd have to dig for it. Not far, admittedly, but enough so that it irritated me. I'm a one click kinda gal – I like instantaneousness in my browsing.
What I had been wanting is for Blogrolling to add a little bit more functionality to their service. I have a Blogrolling sidebar in FireFox, which is just great, but it only ever tells me when a site has 'new' content according to the time limit I have set. I wish instead that they would implement basic aggregator functionality, indicating when something is new to me (not in terms of time), how many new items there are, and then de-highlight when I've read them. That way I could bypass RSS feeds altogether and just go straight from my Blogroll sidebar to the site itself.
But having installed this RSS feed reader into FireFox, I now have something which is equal to, or possibly even better than that. I add my feeds to a folder in my bookmarks which gets displayed in the sidebar. When I click on the feed, I get the feed content displayed in the main window, and the post titles displayed in a small window at the bottom of the sidebar. When I click on a post title, that post in its original blog format is displayed in the main window. So I get both the RSS feed – which is very nicely displayed, btw – to skim through, and the option of reading the post in its natural habitat if I wish. And it's all very easy, simple, clean and effective.
The advantage of using FireFox's bookmarks is that it means I can add folders, sort and generally manage my feeds much more easily than in Bloglines. The drawback of this particular extension is that I have to actually tell it to check for new posts – it doesn't automatically check every hour or whatever. UPDATE: Thanks to Mark in the comments who gives me this nugget: “To have the feeds checked automatically you can right click the feed in the sidebar and you get a menu with schedules etc.”. Cool! Basically, this is even better than automatic checking because it allows me to specify how often I want each feed checked. Feeds I am addicted to can be checked more often than those I only read occasionally. Sounds perfect to me! (And my bad for not exploring all my contextual menus thoroughly before posting!)
Another small hiccup is that the OPML import function doesn't seem to work, which means I have to bookmark sites by hand. Maybe that's not such a bad thing – it'll force me to sort out what is, at the moment, a horrible morass of feeds.
Other than that, though, the functionality is great. I have a feeling I'm going to be moving over from Bloglines, even if it does take me a while to migrate all the feeds.
UPDATE (18 June): I haven't had any major problems with FireFox 0.9, i.e. it hasn't crashed on me, but quite a few people on IRC have had big hassles. The one thing that did annoy me about it was the way that it forceda new window when I opened links from other applications, but that was fixed by the installation of Tabbrowser Extensions. Unfortunately, that solution appears to have b0rked Bloglines.
Verdict: I still love FireFox, just not ver 0.9. May even look into going back a version.
Lesson learnt: Don't get too enthusiastic about an update to your favourite toy until you have first broken it.
UPDATE (23 December): This article's probably out of date now, but you might also be interested in a more recent piece on my Strange Attractor blog aboud my switch from Bloglines to NetNewsWire, and the fact that those two are going to be working together so that you can read blogs both on- and offline from the same list of feeds.

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 10:34 am

Forefox does funny things to a couple of the pages on my website: It spaces out some of the images on the side nav-bar when they should be immediately adjacent to each other to create one seamless image. I've gone over the HTML to see if the code needs fixing but I can't find anything wrong, and it displays properly in IE.
Hmm. Then again, I am no coding genius so…

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 1:17 pm

In RSS Reader for FireFox :
To have the feeds checked automaticaly u can right click the feed in the sidebar and u get a menu with schedules etc.
Also the OPML import function works for me, have u tried several OPML files ? Maybe it was the OPML file at fault.
By the way there is a patch to RSS Reader if you can't open ATOM feeds correctly. Ping me if you want it 😉

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 1:30 pm

Ta for the heads-up on the checking. My bad on that one.
The OPML file I have might well be misformed, but I only have one that I want to import, and I know bugger all about OPML so no idea how to check it. Any ideas of how to validate it?

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 4:39 pm

Suw, Laila Lalami recommended your blog to me in Maryanne Stahl's office on Zoetrope. I came to take a look and I'm delighted to find your comments on Foxfire, which I downloaded and am now using to view your blog. Serendipitous day. (I used Mozilla years ago on my Mac laptop with 4 MB Ram and the external 9600 baud modem. Why did I ever stop?–using Mozilla, that is, not trying to hit the internet with a toaster.)
At any rate, thank you for pointing me in the right tech direction. I suspect I'll be around a lot, reading over your shoulder and taking notes–I have just started my own blog and you are a great example to learn from.
My father's family, 7 or 8 generations back, is Welsh. (We presume they left involuntarily for stealing sheep or some such.) One of the Mt. Everests on my agenda is to learn Welsh, although I don't know that it will be soon…
Be Seeing You, as Patrick McGoohan would say. (Wasn't that filmed off the coast of Wales?)

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 5:00 pm

Rather the referral was from Steve Kane.

Anonymous June 17, 2004 at 9:52 pm

Hi Rats32! Welcome to the blogosphere! Please fasten your seatbelt for take off, and do not unfasten it until the champagne has been served. Emergency exits are here, here and here. Please remember to keep your blog updated at all times, and bear in mind that we are flying through a rarified atmosphere at a height of several feet, so the flight may be bumpy. Finally, learn this mantra by heart: The Power Law Is My Friend. The Power Law Is My Friend. The Power Law Is My Friend.
Hope you hang around, and glad that you like my blog.

Anonymous June 18, 2004 at 12:32 am

You really want to try BlogMatrix J?ger ( It's doing almost exactly what you want, as a seperate app that sits to the side of your browser.
It works quite well with Firefox — my preferred browser — though there's two little tweaks you have to make: (1) tell J?ger to use the default browser rather than IE; (2) make sure that FF .9 is not opening everything in a new window when called from an external window (details here:
Regards, etc…
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or whatnot:
Migrate your OPML by dragging the link onto J?ger.

Anonymous June 18, 2004 at 7:01 am

David, I was aware of Jager, but the last time I looked at it, you didn't support win98 which, as you'll see from a recent post, I'm running. (For the moment, anyway.) However, I've popped over to your site and yay! You do now! Bargain.
Will explore forthwith! Thanks! 😀

Anonymous June 18, 2004 at 8:08 am

Y'see? I'd better get some compensation for harvesting new readers for you.

Anonymous June 18, 2004 at 1:06 pm

I needed someone to test it before I made the claim! 🙂
– dpj

Anonymous August 17, 2004 at 11:20 pm

regarding bloglines. It looks as if the problem can easily be fixed.
See 2nd paragraph.

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