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5 Mac OS X RSS Readers Worth Giving a Shot

5 Mac OS X RSS Readers Worth Giving a Shot

News

    There was once a time when my favorite RSS reader cost a fair but not insignificant price and the open source alternative wasn’t up-to-snuff. I won’t name any names, though you can probably deduce their identities by ruffling through some articles I wrote before I switched to a decent web-based solution (not all of us are able to resist the tides of trends and time, y’know).

    There are probably a whole lot of RSS readers for the Mac; I haven’t tried them all and I won’t claim too. In fact, I’ve only tried a few of the most popular. I’m not the kind of person to spend countless days and weeks trying out new applications. I like to find something that works well, lets me get my job done the quickest, and get on with life. In my opinion if you want to be a productive person, that’s a habit you should also develop — too many so-called “personal productivity enthusiasts” spend half their time looking for new software. Unless reviewing the stuff is your job, there’s no sense in spending more than a small amount of your time doing this. That is what articles like this are for.

    NewsFire

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    newsfire

      NewsFire has been around for quite some time. It’s a free download from the NewsFire website. NewsFire sports a very simple two-pane view, with feeds on the left and feed items on the right. That said, it’s attractive and easy to read from. It doesn’t make use of tiny fonts by default like one or two readers I’ve used in the past. Search is fast and will run your query through every feed you’re subscribed to pretty much instantly.

      If you’re a chronic sorter, then you might find NewsFire falls a little short. You can create smart folders, but you can’t use labels or tags to organize certain items or feeds. Its organization features are good enough for most users. Where it falls down for me the most is the lack of synchronization.

      Shrook

      shrook

        Shrook is an interesting application. It’s free, but the look and feel of the application is — to my eyes — very dated. I found the website to be much the same. Evidently Shrook’s founders are function over form types (like all programmers, right?). Looks aside, it has some really interesting features. Instead of setting up smart folders based on keywords, Shrook will use Bayesian statistical filtering to pick out items of interest, and you teach it by picking out examples. It’s a learning RSS reader. It also uses a Distributed Checking mechanism to keep you as up-to-date as possible with new feed items; when one copy of Shrook checks a feed and find new items, it broadcasts the presence of a new unread item to other copies of the application around the world.

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        Shrook features synchronization by way of Shrook.com, a web-based version of the reader that will sync with copies of the app on various computers.

        NetNewsWire

        netnewswire

          Maybe you don’t need to go checking my ancient articles after all. Before I moved to Google Reader, I was a NetNewsWire user. I was happy to pay for the software because it’s great. I can still get through all my feeds in NetNewsWire faster than any other reader, including Google Reader. NetNewsWire is now completely free, so there’s no obstacle to trying it out — just go here. NetNewsWire features a variety of views, a bunch of keyboard controls that don’t require contortionist acts and let you fly right through your feeds, detects microformats allowing you to quickly add data to iCal or Address Book, and has a tabbed browser right inside. All very cool.

          Additionally, NetNewsWire’s owners Newsgator own a web-based reader, a Windows reader and there’s a version of NNW for the iPhone. The web-based reader acts as a synchronization server. If you want synchronization between just about every device you’ve got, try this app.

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          Vienna

          vienna

            Vienna is the only open source reader on this list, and as far as I know the only open source RSS reader for the Mac that’s currently worth looking at.

            These days, Vienna looks a fair bit nicer than when I used it for a good six months a few years back. I haven’t been able to stress-test it though, but in times past it really suffered under a heavy load and got quite slow. Vienna’s got a nice quick filtering bar on launch that enables speedy research and trend monitoring, blogging app integration, and a bunch of helpful but pretty standard features. It has certainly come a long way over time.

            Google Reader

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            greader

              Google Reader is a good web-based feed reader, though not without its quirks (sometimes I’ve seen duplicate items I’ve already read in the All items view, and sometimes things just get stuck and items won’t get marked as read). You can separate your feeds into folders, though creating and maintaining them is tedious. When Google Reader isn’t being a pain, it’s great being able to fly through your feeds with just your scroll wheel — items are marked as read as you scroll past them — but more often than not this doesn’t work out. Sounds like an awfully negative review for the reader I’m actively using right now, eh? I suppose it’s all about convenience.

              But it is good. It does work well and the bugs aren’t serious enough to be worried about. It’s the only reader I’ve used that has a social aspect — you can share items, and if you’ve conversed with someone via Gmail you’ll see their shared items too. It features a Trends screen that lets you peruse your readership statistics, but no smart foldering or statistical sorting as yet. The Trends screen lets me know that my most frequently checked feeds are those pertaining to the forums or blog at the sites I manage and edit, which I’m sure will be happy news for my employers if they’re reading this.

              I’ve been a bit unfair by throwing Google Reader into the mix; it’s not fair on the desktop applications to be compared to a web service and it’s not fair on a web service to be compared to desktop apps. I use Google Reader myself these days, so it gets my vote, but it was a long and hard struggle to give up the comfort of a good desktop app. For that reason I’d have to call a tie between Google Reader and NetNewsWire, which is the best of the list in my opinion — especially now that it’s free.

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              Joel Falconer

              Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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              Last Updated on July 17, 2019

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              What happens in our heads when we set goals?

              Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

              Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

              According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

              Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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              Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

              Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

              The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

              Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

              So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

              Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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              One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

              Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

              Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

              The Neurology of Ownership

              Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

              In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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              But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

              This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

              Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

              The Upshot for Goal-Setters

              So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

              On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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              It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

              On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

              But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

              More About Goals Setting

              Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

              Reference

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