Fireday Special - RSS Reader Extension Shootout/Review for August 11, 2006

This week is a shootout between RSS Reader extensions: Sage, Wizz, and NewsFox.

August 11th, 2006 at 4:00am — Comments: (0) — By: Jonathan Danylko — Tags: Fireday

Everyone is burning RSS feeds lately, right? What? What's that you say? What's an RSS Feed? Well, first read this post, "What's an RSS?" and then read this post, "Beginner's Guide to RSS" that was written about six months ago and then return to this post.

Back? Good! As most of you know, I've been reviewing Firefox extensions every Friday (Hence, the name). But this week is different.

Firefox has the LiveBookmarks integrated into the browser, but sometimes you need more than that. This week, I will review three RSS Reader extensions so you can judge which RSS reader extension will suit your needs.

First up, Sage!

Sage

I'm surprised after all of the reviews I've done that I haven't reviewed Sage yet. I've recommended this reader to a lot of individuals and all of the users have said what a great Feed Reader it is.

The Sage extension supports the standard feed formats: 2.0, 1.0, 0.9x and Atom Feeds. Sage has included a Feed Discovery, meaning if there is an RSS feed on a web page, it'll detect it and add it for you to Sage.

One of the things I always look for in a reader is the ability to export or import OPML files. Sage handles this task easily and utilizes the Firefox's storage through their LiveBookmarks and bookmarking system.

One downside to Sage is that there isn't a way to work with enclosures. If you podcast, you understand what I'm saying. If you receive an RSS feed and an MP3 is attached to it, you want to listen or download it. Sage does not give you that ability.

If you don't like the way your styles look in the reader, the community has developed a lot of styles to use in Sage. Copy the styles into the Sage directory and you have your own newspaper-style reader. Adding an RSS feed is easy. Just pick a RSS feed, enter it into Sage, and read. Feed and Read!

Documentation is provided in the form of a wiki. So if you have any problems with Sage, help is only a click away.

Rating: 4/5

Wizz RSS Reader

Wizz is definitely in competition with Sage. In some ways, it even has more features than Sage.

With all of the standard feed formats supported and two Atom formats (0.3 & 1.0), Wizz provides drag and drop functionality, HTTP Authentication, integrated weather information, integrated search functionality, and the ability to share news and email items with others. I haven't seen RSS feeds zipped up yet in my travels on the Internet, so I don't know how an integrated GZip feature would benefit me.

Some of the more interesting features of Wizz is the ability to show or hide read items. This was one of the extensions selling point. After done with each news item, you don't want the news item in your list anymore. Wizz does a great job of managing these feeds.

One thing that Sage has over the Wizz reader is the feed discovery, but the drag and drop is definitely a plus. Another feature is publishing or emailing your feeds. If you have an entire list of feeds, you have the ability to publish your feeds to your web site for the whole world to see.

Anybody podcast? Wizz handles podcasts (enclosures) included with RSS feeds with ease. This is definitely a nice feature to have, since I would expect this feature to be in a fat client RSS application instead of an extension.

The Wizz RSS Reader edges out Sage by a little margin and NewsFox by a lot. There are a lot of features included with this extension. After installing it and testing each RSS Reader, The Wizz RSS Reader definitely comes out ahead.

Rating: 5/5

NewsFox

NewsFox works like Mozilla's Thunderbird, using an email-like interface to view RSS feeds. The left is your entire list of RSS Feeds, where the top right section is the list of posts of that feed selected on the left and the bottom pane is used for details of the feed item selected in the list pane.

Most RSS Readers have an OPML import/export feature, which NewsFox does and handles even the largest OPML files (I tested this with my 200+ feeds). :-)

NewsFox uses the Sage parser engine to read and display the RSS files. NewsFox doesn't allow you to save enclosures as they are received through your feed. Since podcasting is a big deal nowadays, most RSS readers should include this as a fundamental feature.

The web site doesn't have enough documentation to talk about features or a getting started section.

If the feed has categories, NewsFox takes your feeds and organizes them automatically into those categories. For example, if you add Ajaxian (RSS: http://ajaxian.com/index.xml) to NewsFox, you'll notice that it will create one folder called Ajaxian and set up the categories underneath that folder. Nice feature. No fuss, no muss.

There are some features lacking in NewsFox, but if you are just beginning to work with RSS feeds, the familiar email interface is a great way look at RSS. If you are looking for something with a little more meat, look to either Wizz or Sage to satisfy your needs.

Rating: 2/5

Conclusion

Based on the reviews of each RSS Reader extension, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, but one stood out from the rest. The Wizz RSS Reader has shown a lot of potential and rivals other RSS Readers. Even though this is just an extension, it is comparable to other Windows/Linux applications...and its just an extension. Its an application in itself (If you are interested in other "application-like" extensions, check the Top 10 Firefox Super Extensions).

Let me know if you have any comments about the reviews, jot them down in the Chatterbox below, or contact me directly.

Until next week.
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Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes doing in his spare time, he answers..."programming."

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