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August 20, 2008 / Marco

The RSS Saga Goes on with the S60 News Reader

So far I’ve covered Nokia RSS Reader and Resco News in my continued hunt for the most feature-rich and user-friendly RSS reader. In fact, I think the S60 platform truly deserves a mature aggregator. At any rate, if Nokia RSS Reader lacks some important features and if Resco News might manage to perplex some users with its rather knotty interface, S60NewsReader covers the middle ground. It has keyboard shortcuts for virtually every task you can imagine, and, as a good news for visually impaired screen reader users, its “headline” window is accessible.

Recently developed by “stoeger it GmbH” as a plug-in for S60Ticker, S60NewsReader also shines as a standalone feed aggregator. In brief, S60Ticker is an application which helps users see various pieces of information (such as incoming SMS and sender info, incoming mail and system wide alarm events) wherever they want, and the application knows no limits of any type. With S60NewsReader, S60Ticker can display RSS feeds and updated news articles on whatever screen you want; as a result, S60Ticker is a requirement for this feed aggregator. If, however, you want a full-fledged environment to create, read and manage your feeds, S60NewsReader offers an enhanced one.

Close look at features

S60NewsReader offers the following key features”

  • Scheduled feed updates.
  • Selection of the preferred internet access point.
  • Individual connection timeout handling – I can’t tell how this one functions.
  • Support for roaming networks.
  • Preview window for full news descriptions.
  • Support for opening news articles in the S60 web browser.
  • Support for RSS 0.91 up to 2.01.
  • Scheduler online or offline mode.

Using S60NewsReader is a breeze

When you run the application for the first time, you’ll see a list of English and German RSS feeds already placed in the main application window for your convenience. You can easily add, modify and delete RSS feeds. S60NewsReader has two views: the main view displays RSS feeds and the second displays news articles. When located on a news feed, “Joystick Right” or “Select” displays its articles. Alternatively, “Joystick Left” switches the focus to the list of RSS feeds. Pressing “Key 1” on a feed displays the following menu items:

  • Show news (->),
  • Update latest news (8|5),
  • Mark feed as un/read (9),
  • Edit feed,
  • Add feed,
  • Delete feed ( c ),
  • Mark, submenu:
    • Mark,
    • Unmark,
    • Mark all,
    • Unmark all.
  • Sort by, submenu:
    • Alias name,
    • Caption,
    • Read,
    • Update.
  • Settings, submenu:
    • Work offline (0),
    • Common,
    • S60Ticker.
  • About,
  • Exit.

To add a feed, select “Add feed” and provide the following bits of information:

  • Feed URL — (mandatory),
  • Alias name – to identify the feed in the feed list (optional),
  • Scheduler on/off,
  • Update interval (minutes).

Upon moving to the list of articles for each feed “Key 1” displays these menu items:

  • Show (->),
  • Open news web site,
  • Mark as deleted ( c ),
  • Mark as unread (6|9),
  • Mark, submenu:
    • Mark,
    • Unmark,
    • Mark all,
    • Unmark all.
  • Sort by, submenu:
    • Age,
    • Read,
    • Deleted.

    If you want to close S60NewsReader without keeping it in the background – which is useful for S60Ticker, use the “Exit” item from the menu.

Keyboard shortcuts do the magic

The beauty of S60NewsReader is that through its easy-to-memorize shortcuts you can perform many tasks. Note that some of these tasks cannot be executed via the menu system. These shortcuts are:

Feed list
  • 1 – Activate current or selected feed(s) for scheduled updates.
  • 4 – Deactivate current or selected feed(s) for scheduled updates.
  • 7 – Reverse status “active for scheduled updates”.
  • 5 – Update all feeds with status “active for scheduled updates”.
  • 8 – Update current selected feed.
  • 0 – Set application online/offline.
  • 9 – Mark all news articles of the focused feed as read/unread.
  • C – Delete current or selected feed(s) – along with their articles.
Article list
  • 3 – Mark current or selected articles as read.
  • 6 – Mark current or selected articles as unread.
  • 9 – Mark current or selected article as read/unread and step to next entry.
  • C – Mark current or selected news as deleted/undeleted.
  • Select – Show highlighted article preview.

It’s worth mentioning that both feeds and articles can be marked using the Number/Hash key + Up/Down, similar to marking adjacent list items in the S60 platform. Moreover, the Number/Hash key can be used to mark/unmark individual feeds or articles.

A word about settings

As you might have noticed, feeds can be scheduled to download their articles automatically. If you want to update scheduled feeds upon starting S60NewsReader, go to “Settings/Common” and set “Initial update” to “On”. The Common dialog also allows you to modify other connection-related settings.

Limitations

As with many S60 RSS readers, the most obvious barrier which might discourage many users is difficulty typing the feed URL upon creating a feed. Some RSS readers work around this issue by providing an OPML import/export facility. However, S60NewsReader V1.01.02 doesn’t offer such a feature. The application web site mentions that such a facility will be added soon. Moreover, the “feed URL” edit box doesn’t allow users to paste an already-copied URL into it, so, for instance, if you copy a feed URL from Nokia’s built-in S60 RSS reader, it won’t be pasted into S60NewsReader’s Feed URL edit box. RSS readers like Resco News offer an “Edit options” submenu with items like “Copy” and “Paste”.

On a different topic, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to help users copy text from the “feed preview” window or save the displayed article as a bookmark either in the S60 web browser or in a would-be Bookmarks tab sheet inside the reader itself. Currently you can simply read text in the “feed preview” window and no text copying facilities have been designed. I also like to be allowed to save news articles as TXT or HTML files for later use. Last but not least, the application is a bit sluggish especially if one deletes several news articles.

Don’t think that I’ve mentioned these limitations to denigrate the product – it’s now my preferred S60 RSS reader albeit it costs about $13. Don’t forget to trial it before making a purchasing decision.

For visually impaired users

S60NewsReader is the most accessible aggregator I’ve seen so far, and its “feed preview” window can be read by Nuance TALKS. If you also want to navigate this window line by line, don’t set the TALKS “Cursor mode” to “Original”. Also, if you want my labeled icons for S60NewsReader, use the “comments” section of the post to notify me.

Related Info: Nokia Headlines Replaces Nokia Channels

S60NewsReader Update V1.02.03

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6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jonathan Mosen / Aug 21 2008 2:51 am

    Thanks for another excellent review Amir.

    This one is definitely the best of the RSS bunch by far. OPML support is absolutely critical though, especially given the number of feeds I access.

    The other thing that prevents me from buying this is that for those feeds that include the entire article, I would like that entire article displayed in the window rather than having to go to the web site. The truncated first part of the article that is included in the window is very accessible, but I really want the whole thing.

    I note the author of the application is reading and commenting, so if he has any views on whether this is doable, I’d be most interested.

  2. Mark / Aug 21 2008 10:07 pm

    thanks for another great review.
    Ive installed it and have a few comments and questions. It is not clear why the ticker is needed, I installed NR and ran it (expecting to be prompted to install the ticker) but NR ran well without needing the ticker. I dont want the reader stories on my standby screen, so why would I need the ticker?
    Also, strangely, I can refresh my feeds using my home wifi or a 3G connection, but not with a 2G GPRS connection. Very strange. Any comments from the developer? Thanks. Mark

  3. Amir / Aug 22 2008 2:03 am

    @Mark:
    Obviously the Ticker is needed for the purpose of globally displaying RSS feeds, so I think it would be safe to avoid installing it if you don’t want the Ticker functionality.
    As for the GPRS issue, here the only internet connection I can use on my handsets is a GPRS one. Although it’s slow, S60NewsReader does a good job of working with it. Let’s wait for the developer’s comment on this one.

  4. Amir / Aug 22 2008 2:09 am

    @Jonathan:
    Getting S60NewsReader to display the whole non-truncated articles would be cool. Copying the article into clipboard would be nice, too. I’d also like to see a better mechanism for deleting news articles. Currently when I delete one or more articles, the deleted articles remain in the article list for some time (even after refreshing the feed). Also, sometimes pressing the “Clear” key on some marked articles changes their status from “Unread” to “Read” rather than “Deleted”.

  5. Mark / Aug 22 2008 9:44 pm

    perhaps I didnt explain myself too well. I can update the feeds using my GPRS access point when it is using a 3G connection, but using the same access point with only a 2G connection means that I get no updates. And no, it is not just because I have just done an update with the other connection. That access point works perfectly with other web apps like the browser in both 2G and 3G modes. Very strange. BTW it is still the best reader!

  6. Mobile Guy / Aug 31 2008 9:43 am

    Guys,
    Let’s all go and buy the app; this way we can ensure the that a developer can continue working on this wonderful and accessible S60 reader. …And I am sure he will find a way to get some of our requested features in.

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