Washington Post on RSS

Looks like RSS is getting more mainstream press lately. After the Slate article earlier this month, today the Washington Post published an article about RSS and Aggregators. The article states

(The Post's washingtonpost.com was scheduled to begin offering a set of RSS feeds this weekend.)
"was" scheduled? what went wrong? was it postponed? shot down? unfortunately there's no further mention of it in the article...

UPDATE: duh - I should've just clicked that link - their feeds are up at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-adv/rss/. cool!

A quote Microsoft is probably not very happy about is the following in the post's coverage of RSS Reader:

It was easily the slowest newsreader we tried -- partially because it runs on Microsoft's .Net Framework, an inefficient bundle of code that lets developers add Web functions to their software.
I've never used this aggregator, but I'm sure that if their performance is lagging, the fault lies in the design and implementation of the reader itself and is not due to the .Net framework. Similarly, I've seen blog entries on the net before blaming SharpReader's memory requirements on .Net, which again is just not true. Blaming Microsoft may be the popular thing to do these days, but that doesn't mean it's always true.

The post has this to say about SharpReader:

SharpReader (Win 98 or newer, free at www.sharpreader.net) also relies on the .Net Framework, although it wasn't as slow as RSSReader. It feels unfinished in some ways: Instead of an installation routine, you have to unzip a downloaded file, then move that folder into your Program Files directory. On the other hand, it supports Atom as well as RSS and offers the most attractive, simplest interface of any Windows newsreader.
I have to say I'm quite proud of SharpReader's interface being called "the most attractive and simplest of any Windows newsreader". This is exactly what I've been trying to create: a simple, easy to use interface that doesn't make you jump through hoops to get at the desired functionality. With any ideas I have about new features, I always try to think about how to best fit it into the current UI with a minimum of added complexity. If I cannot figure out how to do this, I typically rather leave out the feature than add it at the cost of a more complicated UI.

Regarding the post's comment about SharpReader's lack of an installer: I've been meaning to get to this and have been told it's a snap to do using VS.NET; I just haven't gotten around to it yet. After the Slate article earlier this month, I noticed from some of the emails I received that "xcopy deployment", while great in theory, is really not for the average (non-techie) user. So as RSS ventures more into the mainstream this year, I'll definitely have to spend a bit of time to add that installer.

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While I prefer the "unzip and run" model of installation hands down, the non-technical user doesn't want to have to think, they just want to install and have the icon on the start menu and/or desktop. If you only offer one version in the future, I think an msi version would probably be the right way to go. You don't need to do any crazy installation tasks so I think you'll find that setting up the installer will be a breeze.

Posted by Shannon J Hager at March 14, 2004 3:10 AM

Being new at using both RSS and SharpReader, i've found the experience quite good. With regard to ur installation probs: it was unclear to me at first that i could just copy the unzipped files: a simple howtoinstall.txt would fix it for the moment.
About the use of systemresources by sharpreader: yes it takes quite a lot of it (e.g. more then Opera: memory 25K vs 39K) and it is a bit slow at startup. This is probably all due to its use of the .net stuff. I dont mind it though: if it allows u to create a good program without coding it all yourself: it's just good practise.
The GUI is great: i like it's simplicity very much.
One problem i encounter regularly is that SharpReader errors on certain feeds while the feed validates just fine. I don't like to compose an email to report it. Maybe a simple 'form submit' with the feed address would be a better choice?

Some small additional suggestions:
- I'd like to see the use of the favicon.ico so the feed is more discernable form other feeds.
- how about feeds that are password protected (i run a website that is for registered users only)
- some feed entries activate a complete webpage. But my fav browser is opera. Would it be possible to use my fav browser for such pages. Also, i normally have IE as the default for http addresses. I changed it now to Opera but i'd like to be able to just configure opera as my default browser in Sharpreader only.
- maybe i overlooked it: but could i sort the feed entries on 'unread at top'?

Keep up the good work

A satified user

Posted by Jetze at March 14, 2004 3:40 AM

First of all, I love SharpReader and use it daily.
One thing I'm missing is the ability to save the data to an external DB so I can have multiple clients (office, home etc.) access the same storage. Currently I have to ship the cache files back and forth and they are getting bigger. RSSConnect (http://www.perfectxml.com/RSSConnect/) does a nice job in this area.
Another thing I'm looking for as a documentation for writing plug-ins. Am I missing something on the web site?
Thanks in advance.

Posted by Alex at March 14, 2004 4:22 AM

If you're thinking about adding an installer, then Inno Setup and NSIS are both worth a try. They both offer good performance on a low footprint, and don't require any pre-existing libraries like Windows Installer does. NSIS has fewer features but also has the smallest footprint, whereas Inno Setup allows for all manner of scripting and extensions. They're both free and open source.

I would encourage you to still offer a zipped version though.

Posted by Neil T. at March 14, 2004 5:47 AM

If you want to create msi, I would recommand is a free tool, MAKEMSI. I used it to create the installer for WB Editor, the SharpReader Plugin.

In terms of Plugin, could SharpReader publish a registry key saying where is the plugin folder, so that plugin installers can copy the DLLs into it?

Posted by Yiyi Sun at March 14, 2004 8:16 AM

Save yourself some time and get SetupBuilder http://www.lindersoft.com/
(No affiliation with Lindersoft)

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Mike Pickus at March 14, 2004 9:20 AM

Having used briefly RSS Reader in the past, it didn't really appeal to me and I stopped using it. SharpReader was recently recommended to me, and it's brilliant! The XCopy installation a problem for me personally, though I can understand why it would confuse some people. Would definitely recommend creating a 'proper' installation routine - VS.NET makes it very easy! :-)

Thanks for building such a cool product - keep it up mate! :-)


Posted by Mun at March 14, 2004 9:43 AM

I'm a relatively recent convert to SharpReader having tried a number of others over the last several months.

At the moment the only, very minor beefs I have about it is:

I'd like SR to remember the sort order and currently displayed item (both the spot in the tree that's current and the individual item) when I close and start me back in the same "spot".

I use SR on a laptop and have to completely shut down and reboot windows to go from my WiFi net at home to the wired net at work. So I can't just leave SR running over long periods.

Secondly, I think that the "overall" defaults for feed properties should be "accessible" from the Options panel. I figure that if I have to look at the doc for anything it isn't obvious enough. And I had to look at the doc to figure that out. Then it was obvious. :)

Posted by haldevore at March 14, 2004 9:58 AM


I am new to RSS and your program was the third I tried (and they say third times the charm)
and I like it the best of what I tried.

I especaily like the fact that it does not install via an installer. I can copy the whole folder and move it from computer to computer if I want, and it doesnt hook into the registry.

If you are going to incorporate an installer in the future, might I request you offer two versions, one with and one without. Thanks and keep up the good work, excellent program.

(and this from a person who is just getting into the whole RSS thing)

Posted by rstambo at March 14, 2004 11:29 AM

As far as an installer version, please continue to offer the zipped version. Some system admins apply network policies, such that MSI and other installers are disallowed from running. The zip method works just fine for these overly restrictive policies.

Posted by Andrew Houghton at March 14, 2004 4:19 PM

A second vote for NSIS, lean and mean and no MSI

Posted by Tommy at March 14, 2004 5:46 PM

I can't seem to find a way to have the URL's in the title of a blog produced in Blogger to show up in SharpReader. Do you plan an addition of this feature or is there some way I can code in Blogger properly so the reader picks up on it?

Thanks for a great product.

Posted by Dan at March 14, 2004 10:04 PM

I want to second the recommendation of Inno Setup made above. I've been using it for a couple of years and there's nothing simpler than making a distribution archive with this software, especially for something like SharpReader.

I too was put off by the .NET basis of SharpReader (but I'll extend those feelings to Java, so don't feel picked upon, MS), but unlike other .NET and Java implementations I've used, this software makes up for it in two crucial ways. (1) Everything works. (2) Everything works the way it's supposed to. (3) Free free free (OK, that's three. Sue me)

I realize that's setting the bar kinda low in a way, but if you've sampled the 'competition' you might understand what I mean. Besides, I agree totally with the design of the software - simple is good. If I want dancing gerbils, I know where to get them. SharpReader is good. Luke is your friend.


Posted by grimmtooth at March 15, 2004 8:31 AM

I don't mind having a zip file. I wish you could save also the folder information with the zip file (c:\program files\sharpreader) so I don't have to browse for it :)

Posted by ABO at March 15, 2004 1:40 PM

Since we're on a roll with bugs and feature requests, I'd like to put in a request to fix a long outstanding bug FOR ME.

The width of the Title column in the article list isn't remembered and shrinks to 1 or 2 characters wide sometimes. It makes it painful to widen it each and every time I go to a new feed.

I'm using WinXP with the latest .NET updates (version 1.1) and all of the WinXP updates. I looked at the settings.xml file in the directory that SharpReader stores its config and cache in and don't see any TitleColWidth being saved there. I manually added an entry and it was not used.

If it matters, I also checked to see if Windows Explorer saves column widths properly and that works. I thought that somehow the two *might* be related.

Help.... This bug is just plain annoying.

Posted by Paul Leclerc at March 16, 2004 12:52 AM

I'm not sure if this is a bug fix or feature request, but as far as I can tell, the category feature doesn't let you put more than a single feed in a category. I'm running, and I can create a category under subscribed feeds, and successfully drag one feed into it, but no amount of dragging gets the second feed into it.

Am I missing something simple here, or is categories supposed to used another way?

Otherwise, SharpReader is working great for me. Keep it up!

Posted by Richard L at March 17, 2004 9:58 AM

Richard: Drag and drop of feeds and categories is implemented so that dropping a node onto another one will place it right before the node it was dropped onto. This means that, in order to drop a feed into a category, you will need to drop it onto a feed already in that category.

The only exception to this rule is that a drop onto an empty category will place the feed inside that category. This was done because empty categories do not yet contain any feeds to drop onto.

The reason drag and drop was implemented this way is that it allows you to drop a feed or category in between two existing categories. If a drop on a category would always place it in that category, this would not be possible.

Posted by Luke Hutteman at March 17, 2004 11:44 AM

I must say that SharpReader is great and I use it because you do not have to install it(and also as I said earlier, it is greeat).


Posted by CDTrips at April 1, 2004 7:00 PM
This discussion has been closed. If you wish to contact me about this post, you can do so by email.