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Getting started with Times, an RSS reader for everyone


Most RSS readers on the desktop look like lists. Times, a reader Mat covered last year, looks like a newspaper. In a "normal" RSS reader, the river of information can become a blur and users may be put off by the incessant noise. Times, on the other hand, aims to make feeds more pleasant to peruse. Check out the gallery to see the curled edges, slight texturing on the sides of the "paper" and page effects. It's the app I'd get my grandmother to use to read RSS feeds, and I think it's a great introduction to feed reading for "the rest of us." Here's how to get started.

When you click on a story's headline or body text, the page folds down, and you read. When you're done, you click the folded page and it pops back up to reveal the feeds again. Added to this basic "graze and read" functionality seen on all RSS readers is the shelf (something many readers have as well, like the clippings in NetNewsWire), a place to temporarily hold stories you are interested in. You can read these later and then throw them out. Times isn't intended to be a storage locker or book reader -- it is designed for quick scanning and reading. Likewise, the shelf is only so large and can be set to automatically clear itself at certain intervals.

The first thing you'll want to do with Times is customize the feeds. Especially if you are setting this up for someone else (like grandma), you can easily remove the pre-configured feeds and add your own. I recommend not adding dozens of feeds to Times. While power users may scan hundreds of sites, the average person may only make time for a few. NetNewsWire and other readers are better equipped to serve the sort of information overload of a "power reader" and I've included a shot of Feeds and NetNewsWire for comparison in the gallery. Times is designed for some "light" feed reading and aims to make the process more pleasant, not powerful. I recommend no more than 6-8 per category page.

Next I'll show you exactly how to set up your own category pages and fill those in with feeds. Then I'll show how to use the shelf and sharing tools.

Gallery: Times RSS reader | 17 Photos

From the File menu, click "New Page" and your new page will appear. Give it a title and note the blank page. The default layout is a 3-box grid, but you can drag the lines around and even drag them into the borders of the window (where they will disappear). Those boxes are where your feeds will go, of course. You can drag pages by their favicon into the boxes on the page. Times is smart enough to recognize when a page has multiple feeds -- usually Atom or XML, but usually you'll just need to select the top feed.

You can also add feeds by clicking the little pencil in the top right corner. A drawer full of feeds in use appears. Times comes with a variety of feeds built-in, but you can simply drag and drop your own just as you did on the page. That's about it! If you stick with the default arrangement I find you can fit two or three feeds per box, depending on how much news you can absorb. You can fit more, technically, but since feeds tend to render bigger in Times, it's just easier not to scroll that much. Each feed offers a "show more" button so you can see earlier content beyond where you scroll.

The shelf is just that: a little wooden shelf where you store articles. Just click the little trapezoid next to the pencil and the shelf appears. Drag articles onto the shelf for later reading. You can stack articles as you go, but it isn't intended for really managing bookmarks. It's more of a way to skim the feeds and collect what you really want to read.

Once you set up Times, you might consider the sharing tools built into the app. There is a way to add accounts for Delicious, Facebook, Twitter and Digg. Once those are set, right-clicking on an article gives you instant access to sharing features. Nifty!

Check out the gallery to see Times in action. It's a beautiful app, and works like a charm. It's $30 from Acrylic and requires 10.5 or later.

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