Several months ago I started writing a review of FeedDemon and NewsGator, together with an explanation of why I switched (twice). Now that FeedDemon has been bought out by NewsGator, it’s probably time to finish that review…

Like Alex Barnett, I actually bought both products (Alex, which one have you used the most, and why?) In my case, I ended up with both due to wishful thinking. After trying the demo versions, I decided on NewsGator, because it would result in one less client app to learn. But after trying really hard to like it, I came back to FeedDemon. Here’s why:

  • FeedDemon does a great job of streamlining the process of reading blogs – I can get in, read the things I’m interested in, and get out. For old timers, FeedDemon is to RSS feeds as trn was to Usenet news: fast, slick, and with enough power features to keep you happy while you teeter on the edge of information overload. By comparison, I believe that NewsGator will always be at a disadvantage because Outlook is fundamentally designed for one thing: reading email. Dare Obasanjo does a far better job of explaining this than I could. Here’s his summary:
    The major problem is that the Outlook mail reading paradigm has a fundamental assumption which turns out to be flawed. It assumes you want to read every item you get in your inbox.
    Omar Shahine switched away from NewsGator for similar reasons, and ended up using FeedDemon.
  • NewsGator should win big from its use of Outlook as a platform, but seems to use Outlook features as a crutch instead of a stepping-stone to better things. For example, I want subjects highlighted instead of authors, I want to filter out read items, and I don't want an icon in every damn message saying "hey, I'm a message!" In NewsGator this means creating an Outlook view, applying it to every one of my feeds, and then trying to ignore how it all still looks like email. FeedDemon started with nothing, added “newspaper styles” (which use CSS to format feeds any way you want), and now they’re so successful that Dare put support for them into RSS Bandit. This is an example of where a rich client like FeedDemon really shines – with no preconceived notions of how things “should” be, it evolves a much more powerful set of features in response to user demand.
  • Tabs tabs tabs! With FeedDemon I can skim a feed, opening up interesting links in tabs in the background, and then return to read those tabs in depth after I’ve finished skimming. Far faster (and less of a cognitive break) than skim-till-interesting-link, wait-for-it-to-load, read-in-depth, repeat. Nick’s latest version of the “Expando” newspaper style even puts single-click links next to article headings, ready to open in background tabs.

So why are they joining forces? So that NewsGator gets a downloadable desktop aggregator, and FeedDemon gets NewsGator Online sychronization support, according to the Lockergnome interview. But I’m wondering if the bigger picture isn’t, as Marc Orchant points out, a fear of Yahoo and Microsoft moving into the space. I’m not quite as down on the whole deal as James Avery is – after all, I can always jump ship to RSS Bandit, which will still synchronize with something – but I’m definitely in the anti-Outlook camp. Or, as Steve Makofsky puts it, “RSS is NOT email”.