...and an RSS to go

RSS - pretty much anybody who reads more than 1 or 2 blogs regularly uses RSS religiously along with their favorite aggregator. Up until last week, I was one of the few left who were hopelessly drawn to my web browser, clicking through bookmarks to see if there were any new posts, and I'll tell you why: I'm a freelance film/video editor, and I'm rarely at one employer for long, let alone one computer, so I don't like installing my favorite programs on every system and I especially don't like leaving logins all over the place. As a result of this situation, I've become especially reliant on my Treo 600 because it's rarely practical to whip out my laptop to do such things as email, contacts, calendar and todos.

All fine and dandy right? The Treo comes with programs to do all those things, and even a browser to look at blogs - but remember, I'm wasting a lot of time needlessly looking for updates.

Enter QuickNews an RSS aggregator for the PalmOS. I don't know why it took me so long to think to look for this kind of thing, but it did. Some quick features from their site:

RSS newsfeeds are the newest way to download and read news stories on a variety of subjects, from all over the internet. Quick News for Palm OS allows you to download these news feeds either via a HotSync, or using a direct internet connection on your Palm Powered Handheld and read them later! Use it to keep updated with the latest news, sports and financial updates as well as read your favorite websites!

Quick News is the latest iteration of our Handheld Headlines/RSS software, and includes the following new features:

Support for embedded images Flexible UI Attachment support Large feed (> 64k) support Podcast support Auto-updates Customizable shortcuts Proxy support Advanced search capabilities Ability to find new feeds by keyword Improved OPML import support

Quick News v.1.1 is now available! v.1.1 features:

Support for external storage cards Automatic podcast downloading Improved XML parsing OPML exporting Better attachment handling Enhanced navigation options Additional mail clients supported Additional short-cuts New article count icons More menu options Ability to bulk mail flagged articles Better and faster flagged article handling

"Looks perfect" I said to myself as I started the trial download. A week later, I can safely say 'almost perfect'. Here's what I like about QuickNews:

  • No-Nonsense Interface - Just what you need, right there in front of you.
  • Automatic Updates - You can set each feed to have a different refresh period, from 1 hour, to 1 week. This is nice as it prevents you from pinging sites that are updated less frequently, it saves your bandwidth, and theirs.
  • Automatic Read/Unread - it apparently counts how long you look at an article, and based on the article's length it will automatically set it as 'read' once it has been on the screen long enough.
  • 'Quick Menu' - (my name for it, I don't know it's official name) it only shows feeds that have unread articles, it also shows a little read dot with the number of 'new' feeds recieved in the last update. This makes it very easy to quickly go through feeds that are new - there isn't any clutter and it's nice.

Now for what frustrates me:

  • Treo 5-way support - Wow, it is seriously half-baked. Some screens work, others are un-usable, especially the 'feeds' screen. It is also laid out in a way that makes navigation difficult. It's almost as if each screen was created by a separate team and there wasn't anyone keeping things in line.
  • The shortcut keys change - I'm not sure why they did this, but depending on what screen you're on commands like 'A' for update all change to 'U' if you're on a certain screen. This is really stupid, it's a pain to learn ONE shortcut key, now I have to learn TWO! Come one guys, be serious - see the above point, and streamline the user-experience. It feels kind of disjointed right now.
  • Some links work, others don't - I haven't figured out the overriding factor, but links embedded in some feeds link fine, others don't at all.
  • Picture Viewer weirdness - I don't know why, but nearly every picture I've tried to look at in the internal viewer is either skewed, or cropped with no apparent way of changing it.
  • External links won't launch Blazer or 'email' - Maybe this is a treo thing, but even after selecting the correct applications, QuickNews can't seem to launch my other apps. I click a link, and nothing - no error message, no changing apps.

I haven't tried the pod-cast support because even though I'm on Sprint's 'high-speed' data network, I don't want my Treo busy for half an hour downloading a podcast, I wouldn't be able to receive calls. Maybe when I get an EV-DO treo I'll turn it on, but for now I'll rely on good old-fashioned web browsers to pull those down. Same goes for the desktop hotsync feeds - I don't have a need to even install the thing on my laptop. By the time I sync, they're out of date. I suppose it makes sense to develop such a client because most palms don't have an 'always-on' data connection, but for me that doesn't apply.

So there's some room for improvement huh? Even with all those things, I'm still going to purchase it at the end of my trial. There's a lot to like, and concerning it's core features it definitely works 'as advertised' - I get my feeds in a nice hand-held form factor. Give it a try, heaven forbid you become a little more productive at work. ;)