Monday, June 24, 2013

NetNewsWire 4 Open Beta

Daniel Pasco:

The basic game plan will be as follows:
1. Kick off the open beta
2. Continue our work on sync
3. Start rolling out sync to select beta testers
4. Continue to add cool features to NetNewsWire 4
5. Ship the completed version of NetNewsWire 4, including sync

Here’s what I noticed first:

  1. At first launch, it logged some assertion failures and reported “Your sites failed to import successfully. Enjoy NetNewsWire 4”. A few of my articles showed up under “All Unread,” but the list of sites was completely empty.
  2. The user interface feels foreign, as it only supports a widescreen view, Tab-keying between views doesn’t work properly, and there’s no way to open new (browser) tabs in the background.
  3. A huge number of features have been removed, from smart lists to (nearly all) AppleScript support. Some pruning was due, but this is way too much, and there’s no indication of which features (aside from sync) will be returning.

I’m glad to see that NetNewsWire is still being developed, but this looks for all intents and purposes like a whole new app, at an early stage of development. NetNewsWire 3 is one of my favorite apps ever. This beta is too rough to be part of my daily workflow. Worse, I am less sure after trying it that the app they plan to build will please me. If I didn’t have other apps to work on, this would motivate me to start developing my own RSS reader.

Update (2013-07-08): Public Beta 2 seems to address none of these issues.

Update (2013-07-15): Neither does Public Beta 3.

Update (2013-09-10): Public Beta 7 restores the “Classic” (non-widescreen) layout.

Update (2013-12-03): Public Beta 12 restores the NetNewsWire 3 keyboard shortcuts.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

So far, it's *just* competent enough for me to keep using it.

It's as if someone had decided to make a NetNewsWire clone from scratch and shipped v1.0. I've heard what they've been through with Sync (few people have the pleasure of dealing both with iCloud Core Data sync and Google Reader evaporating) and I don't blame them.

I may perhaps blame them when they discarded the beta mailing list and then shipped something that falls down on importing data from the old version (yeah, me too) - that's not even about me getting shafted personally, just about a lack of care. And I don't expect production stability in a beta build, but I expect better implementation of import from the previous version of the same damn application.

I understand their dilemma in that they probably can't keep everything. But now they're basically setting the bar at a level where you could switch to any other feed reader.

This will be down to what they'll be able to turn the current version into during the next ten weeks.

I was surprised by this. I expected it to be much further along for a public beta. Right now since it doesn't offer sync it's a huge step back from the existing NNW. Also if Applescript is dropped it's hard to see what it offers over Reeder which is already way, way ahead of this new NNW in terms of features.

@Clark From the blog posts and long delay, I guess I had assumed that it was mostly done except for sync.

Actually, this looks like a revamped version of NetNewsWire Lite 4.0.

Fair enough, and it is better than NNW Lite, but if they want to keep me they have their work cut out for them. I live in this app and they just changed everything.

Not only can't you set a schedule for when to refresh a certain feed, you can't even individually refresh a feed. You can't see network activity beyond a spinner. My list was sorted by attention. Things moved around over time, but I always knew which things went where. I placed feeds that I suspected were dead (that had been "Dinosaurs" for too long) in a folder which limited refreshes to once a day and which I kept closed. When I saw some activity there I could replace the feed in its rightful place without cluttering up a bunch of stuff.

There are more tweaks I've made like this than I can even recall. NNW 3.2 was a great tool, and like great tools allow, I had fitted it to me over the course of a decade. I don't at all mind that it looks a bit different. I mind that it works differently, insofar that different actually means "less". We'll see if Black Pixel will be comfortable with leaving people like me and you behind. I'm not dumb enough to think that they won't sell quite a lot of it regardless, but all the pavlovian stereotypes about acquisitions and starting over are currently ringing in my head and all I wonder is why they didn't say that this was what they were going to do all along.

Opening the AppleScript dictionary and I see one command remaining: "add url." WTF? 3.x had a very rich AS dictionary.

Is this another example of the trend toward dumbing down powerful apps in the iOS-ification of OS X? What's the need to strip out AppleScript support? How hard would it be to simply support what's there? I have no issue with simplifying UI design, but it seems dumb to remove some of these other features.

I've long resisted the urge to write my own RSS reader, but OTOH, NNW is much less appealing than before. If some third party comes up with a viable replacement for Google Reader with a public API for syncing, that might tempt me.

[...] have yet to find a mobile RSS reader that feels fast enough, so I’d be happy with just an updated version of NetNewsWire 3 that doesn’t sync, but which fixes a few longstanding [...]

[…] 4.0 is finally available (via @iconmaster). The main change since the beta is that it now has its own cloud syncing service, instead of iCloud Core Data. There is also a […]

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