Earlier this year, we listed several services and apps that'll potentially replace Google Reader. Now that the Reader shut down is imminent, we are taking a second look at some of these services (and a few new ones) to see which companies have scaled up enough to become a true Google Reader replacement. In this latest post in our series, we will look at NetNewsWire, a service that has seen its share of ups and downs since its debut in 2002.
Initial Setup and Impressions
NetNewsWire was acquired by Black Pixel in 2011 and development of the reader stalled as its new owner revamped the software. After two years, the beta version of NetNewsWire 4 for the Mac was released on June 24, just in time for the shut down of Google Reader. Version 4 of NetNewsWire represents a new start for the well-known RSS reader.
NetNewsWire was one of the first news reading apps and consequently has along history with RSS. Its transition to Google Reader back in the day and now away from Google Reader is expectedly seamless. When you fire up NetNewsWire 4 for the first time, you can easily import your Google Reader content by logging into your Google account. The app does not import tags or starred items. If you have an OPML file kicking around, you can also use that file to add your RSS feeds to the app. New feeds can be added by typing in the URL of the website or browsing through NetNewsWire's predefined list of sites. You can export your feeds from NetNewsWire 4 using an OPML file.
NetNewsWire 4 has a traditional three column layout. All your feeds are in the leftmost column, previews are in the center column and the right column displays the article's content. The columns are adjustable, so you can tweak their size to fit your screen and reading preference. There is one view so you will always have these three columns until you read a full article with the app's built-in browser. A full article will change the view so you have a large center column with images and text. As shown above, a new column appears on the right that lets you switch from reading an article to browsing through the feeds. In this view, you can have multiple articles (tabs) open and easily move between them.
You can customize the look of NetNewsWire 4 by switching between a day view with a white background and a night view with a dark background. You can also change the font type and the font size. The menu bar is customizable, too, allowing you to add and remove items to suit your RSS reading habits. NetNewsWire 4 supports folders, bookmarks for individual articles and favorites for feeds. You can further organize feeds by dragging them and dropping them into a folder. Folders then can be nested inside other folders for convenience, as shown above. When you delete a folder, you delete the folder itself and all the subscriptions within it.
Here's a rundown of the major features of your average RSS reader and information on which ones are supported by NetNewsWire 4.
Google Reader Import: Yes, automatic import via your Google account or manually via OPML import. The app does not import tags or starred items from Google. NetNewsWire 4 allows you to export your feeds via OPML.
Folder Support: Yes, imported from Google and create your own.
Authenticated RSS feeds: No.
Keyboard shortcuts: Yes. Also has right-click contextual menus.
Resizable elements like fonts, columns: Yes, has a night or day view and different font sizes and types. Supports full screen mode on OS X.
Mark all read/unread: You can mark all items in an RSS feed and all items in a folder as read. You can also mark as unread.
Search/Sort: You can search for a word in an article, in the title of an article or by author. You can also sort articles so the newest or the oldest is at top.
Star/Favorite: Yes, you can save articles as bookmarks and add feeds to a Favorites section.
Read Later: Supports Instapaper.
Social networks: You can share articles on Facebook, via email and down to Instapaper.
API/Third-Party Apps: None announced.
Other features: NetNewsWire 4 has a Today section that shows only RSS feed content from today. There are also tabs that let you switch between articles which are open in the built-in browser.
Pricing: This beta version is available for free and costs $10 to purchase in advance. The price will jump up to $20 when the final version with mobile sync is released.
Mobile apps for version 4 are not yet available, and there is no target date for their launch. Black Pixel won't divulge its plan for syncing NetNewsWire between devices, but the company did say in March 2013 that iCloud was not suitable for syncing.
NetNewsWire 4 has all the basics you need for reading RSS feeds, but some key features from earlier versions, like smart lists and authenticated feeds, have been removed. There's also no support for tagging. Mobile apps are MIA in this beta trial, and Black Pixel has not said when these companion apps will launch.
If you want a great desktop experience, then go with NetNewsWire 4 and be patient while Black Pixel finishes off their iOS Apps. Black Pixel makes some great apps like Versions and Kaleidoscope 2. I expect their mobile NetNewsWire 4 app will be as good as their other offerings. If you want mobile syncing right away though, you will have to look elsewhere for your RSS reading needs.