Despite the popularity of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, RSS readers are still arguably the best way to monitor and manage daily news items and subscriptions on both our computers and mobile devices. With the pending death of the Google Reader, we have shared a number of alternative RSS feed reader clients that go beyond Reader’s capabilities.
One of the newest RSS feed readers on the block is NewsBar for Mac (offering a free lite version, and $3.99 full version) and iPhone ($3.99). Though I’ve been a longtime user of NewsRack, I was immediately impressed with the features in NewsBar and how they could be useful to my workflow as someone who monitors news and blog feeds throughout the day.
How NewsBar Stands Out
NewsBar is similar to traditional newsreaders in that it enables you to add RSS feed subscriptions and manage them in folders/categories. NewsBar also supports Google Reader integration, but since that service will be shut down by July 1 of this year, it’s probably better to manually add subscriptions instead of importing Google Reader subscriptions.
NewsBar’s user interface is quite different
from most readers in that feeds are continually displayed in a window bar on a designated side of your Mac desktop. Clicking on a news feed item will display a reader window that includes the original source article, and from there you can select to open the item in your default web browser. You can also double-click on an item to open it your web browser.
This window bar interface works great for large screen Macs or for those of us who use more than one desktop monitor. I have NewsBar parked on the far left side of my second monitor. Placing it on your main monitor desktop might make it a little obtrusive.
Unfortunately, NewsBar doesn’t have an automatic hide feature for when it’s not being viewed. You can however set feed items to auto hide after you have marked them read. I have mapped NewsBar to BetterTouchTool which enables me to quickly perform a three finger tap on my trackpad to mark all items as read.
NewsBar includes additional preferences that make it easy to adjust its appearance to your liking. You can select to have the window bar Always on top or always in the background. You can set the background opacity of the bar, as well as adjust the text size of feeds and the box height of the bar.
If you want NewsBar to compliment your existing desktop wallpaper, you can change the window background color of the sidebar and even add a background gradient that might make it less distracting.
If you subscribe to a dozen or more feeds like I do, you might find folders useful for managing feeds. But more importantly, I really like that you can set a different text and background color for each of your subscriptions. So for example, if you have a feed that you want to stand-out above the rest, you might change the text or background of the feed’s news items or posts to red.
It is also possible to set the refresh rate individually for each feed, how many feed items to show and the number of news items that should remain in the feed window. Custom icons for each feed source can also be added or changed by simply dropping the icon in the subscribed feed window.
Another one of the NewsBar’s powerful features is keyword notifications. If you monitor dozens of feed subscriptions a day, you might want to identify particular keywords in news or blog items that you want NewsBar to highlight visually with a designated text or background color.
For example, you might add keywords like “releases,” “updates,” “now available,” and “arrives” to highlight feed items that announce new updates to or releases of software or online services. You can also have NewsBar issue a sound alert for keyword related items, as well as put those keyword notices in the OS X Notification Center.
NewsBar also includes buttons and functions for performing a quick text search, adding new feeds, starring feed items, and showing only keyword filtered news. In its most recent update, keyboard shortcuts were added for toggling read items, marking items read and unread, and for starring them.
Another useful feature allows you to quickly share feed items to a new email or via Twitter, Facebook, Messages, or Safari’s Reading List. By right (or control) clicking on a feed item, you can also select to mark individual feed items or all feed items as read or unread, and even delete a selected item from the list.
In the first few days I have used NewsBar, it has already shown itself to be a time saver. It reduces the need to constantly launch a newsreader in order to check new feeds. I can simply glance over to the left side of my second monitor and view and interact with new items. And by using special colored highlights, I can scan items for what I’m actually looking for.
The “lite” version of NewsBar will give you a glimpse of how it works, but this version doesn’t include many of NewsBar’s more advanced features (no folders or menu bar buttons, and limited to two feed subscriptions). That said, if you’re an avid newsreader user I think NewsBar is worth checking out.
Download: NewsBar for Mac OS X or iOS
Let us know what you think of NewsBar, and any of your other favourite clients in the comments below.