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NewsGator: Deja Vu All Over Again
Technorati Tags: orcmid, NewsGator Inbox, Outlook, RssBandit, Windows Desktop Search, RSS, Feeds as Archives, toolcraft
I'm having a strange experience.
NewsGator just announced that their Outlook client (and all of their other personal clients) are free from now on. In addition, the Outlook client, now dubbed NewsGator Inbox, is at 3.0 and in beta.
My NewsGator Romance
I loved NewsGator from the first time Scoble showed it to me. I had some bumpy spots, especially when I needed to rebuild my subscription lists and folder organizations after hitting a bump or two. The feed association model changed out from under me a few times and I had to do some heavy manual repairs to convince the feeds to end up in the folders and subfolders where I wanted them, for organizational reasons. But I got it to work.
What I really, really like about NewsGator is that it runs in Outlook (and is very speedy), I end up with copies of the post texts as if they are formatted e-mails, and the material is searchable by Windows Desktop Search. I can also organize the feeds into folders and subfolders, with some apprehension, and I can move the clippings and feeds around without too much difficulty.
This is perfect for research and preservation of material. There is also backup and archiving as part of my Outlook usage procedures. Someday I might even put all of the collected feed clippings in their own Outlook PST so I can move it around, archive it differently, etc.
A long time ago (hmm, December 2006 to be exact), NewsGator and I had a shotgun divorce. There was a crash of the Outlook plug-in, as would happen on occasion. It appeared to be some sort of .NET hiccup. But the final time, Outlook decided that NewsGator did not practice safe integration, and it locked-down NewsGator so the plug-in could not run. I think the divorce decree said how to restore the plug in, but I failed to write down the message and I didn't take a screen shot either.
I even downloaded the latest updates of the NewsGator client and paid to extend my NewsGator subscription. No help. Outlook was adamant and refused to allow the plug-in even after installing newer versions of NewsGator.
A Fling with RssBandit
In desperation, I checked out a couple of aggregators that run on the desktop, and the best one that I found was RssBandit. I was nervous about RssBandit because I wasn't sure how much material was actually cached on my own computer, and I didn't know how to recover if (1) I ever needed to migrate away from RssBandit or (2) a blog site or its feed content disappeared.
Nice things about RssBandit are how easily I can add a new feed, how easily I can organize feeds and, if I keep up with things, how easily I can update and, in one folder, review all of the new unread items. I developed a set of practices that allowed me to quickly work through unread items, marking some for later follow-up (use in my own posts, etc.).
I have remained nervous about the RssBandit format being opaque and also not searchable with Windows Desktop Search, a provision that is very important to me.
Now, Outlook formats are semi-opaque. But the Outlook PST is a well-known format and there is programmatic access to it. It is not part of the OOXML coverage, but I am more confident that I can access the material and also manipulate it over a long period of time. I can find a programmatic extraction or export mechanism too, if necessary.
The latest problem with RssBandit is my own doing. My "unread items" folder has filled up with ones that I have flagged for followed-up and reset to be unread. There are 2830 of those at this moment. The problem now, is, that there is a performance glitch in RssBandit that has me not dare switch to an individual feed folder, because switching back to the gigantic (for me) Unread Items folder causes terrible things to happen, and RssBandit will hemorrhage and maybe even crash until it manages to refresh all sorts of things for those unread posts (elements that, as far as I can tell, it already has).
So, I was stuck. RssBandit usability is in the dumper, I fear that I will never be able to leave, yet I can't use the product very well because I can't navigate among my feed collections at ease, even for the purpose of cleaning out flagged-unreads on particular topics from particular feed groups.
Honey, Take Me Back, Take Me Back Please!
With the availability of the NewsGator Inbox 3.0 beta and a free NewsGator subscription, I figured it was time to see if I could get back in its, and Outlook's, good graces.
I uninstalled the NewsGator Inbox 2.6 that had been sitting useless on my machine. I looked at my C:\Program Files directory and made sure that the NewsGator Inbox directories and their content were really deleted. I went into regedit and searched on NewsGator, deleted all entries that should not matter now that NewsGator is really gone.
I also extracted the OPML feed-list from RssBandit. I also instructed my latest version of RssBandit to synchronize itself with NewsGator on-line. (I discovered that on-line account had vanished but I was able to create a new one with the old User ID.)
After all of those things I downloaded the new NewsGator Inbox 3.0 and installed it.
Oh Happy Day, the next time I opened Outlook, NewsGator took me through the first-time setup operations for delivering its feeds. The first "Update All Subscriptions" was scary. There are 400 subscriptions (I'd lost track) and the first update down into Outlook took a long time. But it finished successfully. Outlook and NewsGator Inbox 3.0 beta are playing nice.
There are some differences, and some feeds didn't like going back into the same folders as before, but I think I have cured all of that by letting the folder name that matches the feed name win. The feed list doesn't seem to know about all of the destination folders (but the on-line feed reader does), yet feed updates find the correct homes for new item.
Not all feeds have updated into Outlook sor far. I am hopeful that they will all catch up after a few more refreshes and with new posts to some of my own feeds that don't seem to have fetched yet.
There are some things I miss about RssBandit. The reading pane in that client provides more of the formatting along with images and enclosures. The Outlook pages for each post are not so spiffy. I'll get over that.
I also wondered what I would do to preserve the habit of pruning everything in a single unread-items stream even though the posts have actually been segregated into separate folders based on my organization of the individual feeds. So, Outlook 2003 already handles that. There's already a search folder that will list Unread Mail, and I just conditioned it to show them in reverse chronological sequence, the way I process my in box too. There is no noticeable delay when I open the list to begin reviewing all of the items that are newly-fetched to Outlook.
I have performed a couple of feed refreshes and have confirmed that the blazing speed of the NewsGator feed update is not a false memory. The ordinary updating for a day's 100-200 new posts is quite zippy.
And Making Up Is Hard To Do
I am heartened that I did not have to do very much work to restore the organization of my feed folders used in RssBandit to Outlook, which had a very out-of-date folder set for the RSS feeds. Although the NewsGator Inbox 3.0 uses a separate PST for its material, it was easy to direct those feeds to my preferred locations in my main e-mail PST. (And, as I said, I might want to go the other direction at some point. It looks like that will be easy.)
The serious difficulty is that my 2830-item unread-and-marked list on RssBandit has grown to a 7660-item Unread Mail list on Outlook. Because I don't have much e-mail backlog (my GTD practices are working reasonably well there), these are mostly RSS feed items, and some of them went as far back as 2003. I'm working my way from oldest to front right now. I will also make sure that each new days unread items are processed and handled or filed while I continue pruning the old ones that NewsGator on-line found for me and sees as unread.
We don't entirely trust each other, but I think we'll do just fine. I'm giving it time.
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