News on Demand
Stand-alone applications like Bradbury Software's $30 FeedDemon can give you more control over your news feeds. FeedDemon's strength is its flexible layout options. Want your news to appear in two columns, or with a retro "terminal" look? FeedDemon provides a number of ways to collect the items in a feed on one handy page called a newspaper. Just click one of the 13 style choices, or create your own. You can can configure the program in one, two, or three columns or select an Outlook-style three-pane layout.
The program's name doesn't rhyme with "speed demon" by accident. You'll save time with FeedDemon's one-window approach. The text-display pane is a full-featured Web browser. A feed's properties are configurable--you can specify, say, how often to check for new items. Fourteen groups of feeds come preinstalled. (The sports group, for example, includes feeds from Moreover.com, The New York Times, Yahoo News, and even PR Web.)
Further custom features: Watches are special channels that search incoming news items for keywords; News Bins are storage areas for items that you want to come back to; Auto-Discovery pops an icon into FeedDemon's status bar when a Web page in its browser has one or more RSS feeds, to permit easy subscribing.
Two-Way RSS for Bloggers
If your job--or passion--is to keep up with the news and comment on it, you'll appreciate an application like Userland Software's $40-per-year Radio Userland, which puts a full Weblog system on your desktop. Radio Userland (or Radio) descends from an aggregator that helped launch the RSS format in 1999, but it's much more than a feed reader. Its subscription price covers, among other things, hosting at Weblogs.com. All feed reading and blog editing are done in your browser.
Each element of the interface is a Web page that lets you control Radio through menus, buttons, check boxes, and text-entry fields. The aggregator page stacks the latest feeds in reverse-chronological order, each with a button that enables you to delete the item or post it to your Weblog. Preference pages let you set how often to poll sites and how many items to display on a page. New items on feeds you subscribe to appear chronologically on the same page: You can't reorder the items or sort them according to source.
A subscriptions page shows your feed list; a preinstalled collection includes New York Times and BBC pages and a sampling of blogs. You can subscribe to a blog from another Radio user with a single click, instead of performing the multistep process of copying and pasting into the subscription page required for outside feeds. With RSS 2.0, Radio supports feed attachments. For example, early adopter Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ, has been experimenting with many-megabyte video clips in his RSS feed. Radio sets the clips to download after midnight.