I guess DiveIntoSharpReader is out...

Mark prefers Syndirella over SharpReader:

FWIW, I’ve tried both and like Syndirella better. Its interface seemed better designed, and it was simple to add new feeds. SharpReader apparently can only import a feed list from an OPML file; if there’s a "subscribe to new feed" option, I sure can’t find it. (Update: Paul found it by reading the manual. Rule #1 of user interface design: if the user can’t find it, the function’s not there. Rule #2: nobody reads the manual.) Syndirella is also Free Software; SharpReader is not.
First of all, "the manual" is a big word for a small HTML-file... ;-)

I agree that a "add feed" menu-option is what all the other aggregators do and might therefore be more intuitive and easier to find for most users right now.

One of my design-decisions in creating SharpReader was to keep it as simple as possible though, and with as little dialogs as possible. I therefore opted for a browser-model instead. If you want to add a bookmark to your browser-favorites, you don't have to open a popup-dialog to enter a new url, you just enter it at the top of the browser, hit ENTER to load it, and then decide whether or not you wish to add it as a bookmark. SharpReader follows exactly this same pattern.

Even easier than that though is to simply drag a rss-feed url (or web-page url if you want to use auto-discovery) from your browser into the treeview. This subscribes you to the feed without having to manually enter a url at all.

Ok so this may violate Mark's rule #1 of user interface design, but isn't it a lot easier than

  • copy url to clipboard

  • right-click on subscribed feeds

  • open new-feed dialog

  • paste url

  • hit enter

Which in some aggregators is followed by another step to give the feed a name...

One last strike against SharpReader Mark mentions is that, unlike Syndirella, it is not free. This is not true. SharpReader may not be open-source (yet?), but it is free. I started SharpReader as a learning experience, not as a way to make money. Quite frankly I think there are way too many good free RSS aggregators out there to make much of a living off creating one anyway.

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Your browser analogy is flawed; every browser contains a menu item to open a web page.

The first thing I do with a new program is peruse its menus. Here is a partial list of things I do *not* do:

- right-click everywhere to find context menus
- type random things in unlabeled text boxes
- drag "objects" (or a developer's conception thereof) from other applications into random GUI widgets
- read the documentation

Posted by Mark at April 8, 2003 12:03 AM

The term "Free Software" with capital letters is a specific term pioneered by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation. It pertains to licensing; it has nothing to do with price.

Posted by Mark at April 8, 2003 12:08 AM

On the plus side, you support RSS auto-discovery, and my server logs show you support conditional GET, both of which are excellent.

On the down side, however, it does not appear to support gzipped content (meaning that it does not ask for it even from servers that support it). Also, it chokes on ill-formed RSS feeds -- the "validate this feed" link is a nice touch, but ultimately end users just want to read news, not work around lazy developers who assume the world is full of well-formed XML and that anyone cares if it isn't.

Posted by Mark at April 8, 2003 12:26 AM

I guess I scored by getting in on it early: I actually read two-thirds of the way through the feature list, rather than just diving into it based on someone else's recommendation. And I see the lack of menus and dialogs as a huge feature. "File-Open long annoying dialog chain" might be easier the first time, but once you put a tiny bit of effort into looking at the app, address bar, drag, or (by a huge margin) bookmarklet to port 5335 is easier and cleaner: if I want a ton of crap in view, and a dozen menus with a thousand items, I'll open Mozilla.

As to ill-formed XML: I care, and want to know. Maybe that means that I should write my own aggregator, and never let anyone else see it, so they won't be faced with the horror of knowing that sometimes feed authors need to be alerted to the fact that they and their tools suck, but I do want to know. And in that onerously long feature list in the announcement, right after the list of ways to subscribe, is a list of the fixup on bad XML he's already doing: "error-correction of some common rss-feed errors (unescaped ampersands, illegal characters, unknown entities)".

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at April 8, 2003 2:32 AM

It's not simple, it's minimal. If it were simple, it would be intuitive, easy to use and learnable. It's not intuitive. It's easy to use *once* you learn how to use it, but it's not easily learnable because it's not intuitive. It's not a browser, so why would you expect users to use it the same way?

Posted by Joshua Kaufman at April 8, 2003 8:27 AM

Releasing good freeware sometimes feels like opening a Pandora's Box, but remember: feature requests are the sincerest form of compliment.

I encourage you to look into at least opening a GotDotNet space so you can track bugs and features more easily. The server speed sucks, but it's easier than SourceForge.

Posted by Richard Tallent at April 8, 2003 9:00 AM

Ok, I'm prolly way outta my league here because I'm NOT a developer and have just recently begun using a news aggregator.

I think the guru's of interface design that reside here need to take a step back and realize that what your complaining about lack of intuitiveness is actually a difference in your expectation.

You EXPECTED a method for cutting and pasting links, and because you didn't find one you assumed this was non-intuitive.

Personally, when I first used Syndirella I was surprised that in order to enter a new feed I had to open a seperate window, then copy & paste the shortcut when it seemed it could be done in one step. But I assumed that was on the list of future developments.

Don't get me wrong. I think the HTML import feature of Syndirella is just NEAT, but I don't find the interface to be that amazing. As a matter of fact, the frame bars would disappear inconsistently, and not always reappear which meant I had to "get" them fairly often. Having them consistently stay in place would have been more convenient, at least for me.

Considering that this is a project undertaken so that the author can learn the language, I think it's a pretty good first pass. All of the "down sides" above qualify as good feature suggestions, although in a mature product their lack would be significant.

Thanks for the work, I appreciate the use of the software.

Posted by datarat at April 8, 2003 9:12 AM

You have a great little product here but you have fallen into the Coder's UI trap.

Check out Joel's site:(http://www.joelonsoftware.com)

Read Joel's site, get Joel's book. It will take you to another level.

Posted by Marc LaFleur at April 8, 2003 9:54 AM

In addition to Mark's description of how the browser analogy is flawed (which I agree with 100%), the address bar of SharpReader doesn't always reflect the actual URL of the browser pane - if navigating through related posts or viewing post comments, the address bar maintains the URL of the original RSS feed, and not the current page, so I don't know where I am, and can't save the location URL for viewing later or sending to someone else.

Modifying this, and providing a button or menu option to add a new feed will increase usability no end.

Posted by Phil Wilson at April 8, 2003 10:31 AM

I immediately tried to add a feed in the same way I did it with the last aggregator I used, rightclick, paste url, etc. That didn't work, so I read the instructions. That is pretty much the same way I've learned to use every other tool I've ever used. Some tools work just like other tools and you don't have to learn them. Some don't. NOTHING on a computer is "intuitive". Some people seem to say "intuitive" when they mean "function identically to the most similar tool I've previously used".

Posted by sirshannon at April 8, 2003 5:57 PM

If Alt-D selected the text in the address bar, like it does in MSIE, I'd be a lot happier. I'm not sure why; I guess it's just what I'm used to.

Posted by Garth T Kidd at April 8, 2003 7:57 PM

Actually, not every browser contains a menu item to open a web page: Phoenix doesn't, having been developed by people who had seen too much of the sort of "you must add every menu item, toolbar button, keyboard shortcut, and dialog that anyone has ever seen in any other app" development that we are urging on Luke.

Not right-clicking everywhere to find context menus: very true. I just discovered that Syndirella supports comments a couple of minutes ago. Never thought to right-click the post title to comment.

It's not a browser? It's an app that GETs a resource from a URL, and renders the HTML and some metadata from the the resource. Sounds a lot like a browser to me.

What make SharpReader different from the other 3PDNAs I've got installed are the feed categories and the threading of related posts. I say we harrass Luke about fixing them (infinite threading is disquieting, and dragging the first feed onto an empty folder, but the second onto the first, is just plain weird).

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at April 9, 2003 2:33 AM

I think SharpReader is great, it does exactly what I need.

Just a small bug report, the filter function (the Last Day/12 hours etc...) doesn't work for all blogs (even if they have the date there...)

some do and some don't: two examples
Doesn't Work

Even though both have dc:date in the same format

Posted by Moshe Eshel at April 9, 2003 7:12 AM

i started using sharpreader yesterday, prior to this i used syndirella. while the interface still is lacking in some areas the over all performance is so much better.

im not sure how many people out there have feed subscriptions w/ 2000 items, but syndirella was not written to handle this very well. however sharpreader handles these feeds very well.

i like the fact that you are using xml instead of a binary persisted format like syndirella used.

overall im very pleased with your product.
moving to a free product would probably bring more people and help with your development as you would have multiple eyes looking for issues.

i think you should look into integrating the dotnetmagic ui components, it would help with some of the features requested.

but overall thank you for the great product.

Posted by jbreiding at April 9, 2003 8:56 AM

I am interested in discussing with you the open sourcing of SharpReader.

In Unix we use a different toolkit than Windows.Forms, and I would like to port the UI elements of SharpReader to Gtk#, so we can have a nice RSS reader on Linux as well (There is straw, but I have failed to get the right python setup to run it).


Posted by Miguel de Icaza at April 11, 2003 11:21 AM
This discussion has been closed. If you wish to contact me about this post, you can do so by email.