I'm running Brent Simmons' NetNewsWire Lite on Jaguar. It was a pleasant surprise to fire it up and find my own channel among the 15 defaults. (The FAQ explains that these selections change with each release.) Thanks, Brent! I'm truly honored!
It's easy to see why this is such a popular application. Here are some reasons:
The time-honored three-pane newsreader interface.
Integrated HTML viewing.
That gorgeous Mac OS X display PDF, which makes everything look elegant.
Intelligent use of the drawer as a repository of RSS channels you might want to subscribe to.
A Next-Unread button. It's amazing how some apps (including MS Outlook) miss the importance of this. Parking your cursor in one spot and then just repeatedly clicking to advance through mail or news is the only way to go.
Grouping of subscriptions into folders, which roll up the unread counts from the items contained within them.
Import/export to/from Radio UserLand or Amphetadesk, by way of .OPML format.
I noticed something subtle about NetNewsWire Lite's use of my own feed, too. The URL it has for my channel is the standard rss.xml, not the alternate "long descriptions" version. Yet the complete texts of my items appear in the viewer. Evidently, it is making use of the content:encoded element that's in my standard feed, which carries the whole item as an adjunct to the truncated description. Excellent!
It all adds up to one more piece of evidence supporting my hypothesis that we are about to enter a golden age of desktop software. Things have been crashingly dull on that front for many years now. I contend that Web services will revitalize things. Desktop apps aren't just connecting the user to the local filesystem anymore, they're connecting the user to the cloud 1, where all the innovation is happening. How that connection is made is about to become a hugely important piece of the innovation.
Will I get to play a part in all this? If it means becoming an expert in WinForms or Cocoa, then no. I never was a hotshot low-level GUI programmer, and that's not going to change. The Web made me productive because I could understand HTML, because I'm a pretty good scripter, and because I could use script to crank out HTML apps easily and quickly. We'll need to find a way to recapitulate that model for the coming era of rich clients connected to the services Web. Bindings between scripting languages and GUI frameworks -- for example, wxPython, RubyCocoa -- are going to be part of the story. So are a number of XUL-like schemes: Mozilla, Groove, Altio, Digital Harbor, FourBit. None of these yet approaches the ubiquity and low activation threshold that made the first-generation Web take off like a rocket. But I see no reason why it can't happen.
1 The cloud, in my view, extends to the desktop. I could, for example, install Radio UserLand on my Jaguar machine. But why bother? From Jaguar, I'm running Radio UserLand on my WinXP box by way of Mozilla. (Tried IE first, but lacking the DHTML edit control on the Mac, there was no reason to prefer it.) When I'm sitting at my WinXP box, Radio UserLand seems like an application. From Jaguar over WiFi, it's a service.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/10/04.html#a434