Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nerd Alert

NetNewsWire and Camino, probably the most used apps on my laptop, both had huge upgrades this week - Camino gets a raft of new features, and NNW a whole new look. Both have been available as previews for several months, but now they're official it's time to take a closer look.

Over the years, I had gotten used to Camino as the browser that offered much and delivered little. The prospect of a browser that truly integrated with the OS was like the offer of a branch to a drowning man in the early days of OSX, when we all had IE5 ties to our ankles. But due to members of its tiny development team continually being snatched away to work on rival products, Camino (nee Chimera) took time to grow. Early releases were fast, but lacking in features, and for a long time it was more a proof of concept than a useful application.

Fits and starts would better describe its progress than leaps and bounds. It was only last year, in the nightly preview builds, that it's abilities began to catch up with its ambitions, and I've been happily using pre-release versions since October.

Today it stands as the best browser on the platform -- if you've been using Safari or Firefox on a Mac, then for your computer's sake, take a look at Camino. Like Safari, it makes use of many of OSX's system wide features, such as the built-in dictionary, Keychain, Address Book and Bonjour, but also includes some of the big ticket items from Firefox, such as session saving and type ahead find. It has the best bookmark management of all the browsers I've tried, and its ad-blocking is second to none. Camino has grown up to be more useful than Safari, and prettier than Firefox, and you should definitely try it out.

Like Safari and Firefox, Camino can also detect RSS feeds, but unlike its rivals, has no way of displaying them. Instead it hands off the detected feed to a nominated desktop reader, such as Vienna, NewsFire or NetNewsWire. That's fine by me, as I find Firefox's live bookmarks and Safari's RSS to be severely limited.

I don't know about you, but I - like, I suspect, most bloggers - have a heck of a lot of feeds that I read most days, and need some way of keeping them tidy. NetNewsWire has been my reader of choice for years. I've tried the shiny others, but every time I've come slinking back to Brent Simmons’ masterpiece, begging forgiveness and wondering what I was thinking.

When version three was released this week, with a huge interface overhaul, I grabbed it. On starting it up, I was immediately worried that something had gone horribly wrong, because contra to reports of it being much faster than the previous version, it slowed my system to a crawl. What I should have realised was that indexing 50,000 news items is hardly a walk in the park for Spotlight. Yep, Spotlight can now search for news items and open them in NNW.

Once finished with the indexing, the bloody thing ran like a greased hare. NetNewsWire 3 is fast. Among it's new features are:

        •        Growl notifications when feeds update
        •        support for Microformats, allowing you to add events to iCal
        •        iPhoto integration that lets you send images from feeds straight to your library
        •        a small one, but new subscriptions can be placed directly into a group
        •        eye candy like "Cover Art," vertical tabs with thumbnails, and a nice full-screen mode.

All in all, an excellent update of an already essential app.

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