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Building a better newsreader

Brent Simmons has always been diligent in considering user–requested features and enhancements to his wildly popular NetNewsWire newsreader and recently asked his readers what they thought of integrated browsing.

The gist of the idea is this: when you want to read a full post (given that many, if not most, news feeds only post excerpts) you could view it right there: within NetNewsWire. There’d be no need to fire up an external browser, and the net result would (conceivably) be time saved. I’d like to consider Rick Gregory’s point when I say ‘include integrated browsing, but not this way.’ Rick says he’d rather see NNW made into “a better newsreader than an OK browser”, and I wholeheartedly agree.

NetNewsWire is not a web browser, that much is obvious. Things like tabs, printing, save–as–PDF, and popup blocking are not part of its feature set, and likely won’t be any time soon. And however much I may prefer opening news items in a tabbed browser running in the background, I think there’s a solution to this dilemma that satisfies the ‘wants’ and the ‘don’t wants’ while also (also!) borrowing a little something from Jonathan Rentzsch’s excellent Widescreen NetNewsWire hack.

Column View.

Yes, column view. Consider the Finder’s handling of column view: starting at the top level, you successively drill down through your folders until you hit the level you want. Likewise, NetNewsWire could start with your subscriptions at the very left, drilling down into individual subscriptions’ latest entries, down into the entry text (or excerpt, as the case may be), and finally down to the entry’s web page. It makes beautiful sense hierarchically, it successfully translates the Finder’s column view paradigm, and it’s extremely keyboard friendly — just hit the right–arrow to drill down one level. If you’d rather view the web page in your default browser, just don’t hit the right arrow! Hit Enter or Return.

I’ve mocked it up, if you need further convincing. But frankly, I think it rocks.