I tried, I tried really hard. I kept hearing from RSS Bandit users who loved it, and although I'm a fairly happy newsgator user and can't imagine switching for my core technical feeds, I thought it might be nice to at least try something else for my more casual feed reading, friends' blogs and things that I don't want to feed into my corporate mailbox. Plus, I am now suffering under the evil weight of a mail quota (gasp), and so I am looking for ways to trim the size of my store.
So a few weeks ago I downloaded it and installed it. Within a couple of minutes of using it, I hit a couple of minor but annoying behaviors that I consider to be usability problems, others may consider them to be features. I've been using it for my non-work feeds since then and compiling a list of my complaints, and here's what I have so far:
- When adding a new feed, I have to click the “Get title from feed“ button, or type in a title myself. I would prefer that it would get the title from the feed by default, and then give me an option to override it (perhaps there could be a checkbox, checked by default - “Get title from feed“. When you uncheck the box, the “title“ input box is un-grayed out.
- Double-clicking on an item in an individual feed just expands the thread, and if it's a singleton it's a no-op. I am going nuts with this behavior. There is no way I will ever untrain myself that double-clicking on an item of any sort (whether that be a file, mail message, appointment item, whatever) should open it in a new window. It's making me twitch. In one release of Office (maybe 2000? I can't remember), Word had an SDI interface. It was horrible. I think it was done for some reason related to using Word for email, but I don't remember the details. Thank goodness they went back to MDI.
- At the bottom of every post is a link to get to the original item, as there should be. But the default behavior is to open up that new item in a new tab. While I know that many are in favor of tabbed browsing, I haven't drank (drunk?) that kool-aid just yet. And again, this differs from my expectations based on every other application I've ever used... clicking on a link in a non-browser application should open a new window in the registered default browser for that system. I went looking in Tools | Options and was pleased to find an option that seemed to be what I wanted... only to discover that that controls the behavior for right click | open in new window rather than just a single left click.
- I also want that link at the bottom of every post to have the URL in the display name, rather than “Read on...“. Just a personal thing, really.
- Minimizing the app goes to the taskbar notification area. I turned it off, I just wish this wasn't the default.
- Delete is a no-op. I'm twitching again. I don't want the items to persist when I manually press the delete key. At the very least, use some sort of IMAP or Pine model - mark an item for deletion, hide it from the view, have an option to expunge the hidden/marked items permanently.
- No accelerator keys on the sub-menus. There's Tools, but no Options. F1 doesn't open the help. I'm a keyboard junkie, I hate clicking.
- Minor text inconsistencies. There's a typo in Tools | Options | Web Browser: “modfied“. You go to Tools | Options, but the title of the dialog is Preferences. The “S“ in Background Sounds is capitalized, which isn't consistent with the rest of the text in that dialog.
- It doesn't think http://www.rebeldad.com/atom.xml is a valid feed (“Request of URL http://www.rebeldad.com/atom.xml failed: This XML document does not look like an RSS feed“), but it validates OK.
- I thought perhaps I was running an outdated build without Atom support, so I went to download a new one. I ran the installer and it didn't seem to recognize I had a build on my machine already, it brought me to the “Install to this directory“ option immediately. I opened it directly from IE and chose to install it fresh into the same directory, and it failed with an error (man I hate it when people say “I got an error“ and don't write it down... but now I'm one of them). So I tried it again and chose to install it into Program Files\RssBandit2 instead... and got another error (really hating it when people do that, although I do remember that this error was something about not being able to find a file in the IE temp files). Then I decided to try three different things at once and I A) saved it locally and then ran it to remove the possibility of any problems with IE's download B) chose to install it for Everyone instead of just me and C) install to Program Files\RssBandit3 and it installed just fine. In a fit of guilt for not being a good tester and software citizen, I went back to the installer just now to try and reproduce the errors, and it brings me to a very smart “repair or remove“ dialog instead, so now it knows I've got it installed. I'm guessing it's because I had an older build that was registered differently and not recognized.
I understand the software development process and that it's often a judgement call - spend time on polish, or on the features that customers are demanding? I've been there myself, I remember one debate we had about Outlook Web Access' options page - some of the strings have periods at the end, others don't. I still notice it on “Automatically include my signature on outgoing messages.“ But for me as a software user (and a former tester), certain types of polish make it or break it. (The periods at the end of sentences, however, does not break it for me). I have given up on great software because I just couldn't stand the interface and wasn't able to get accustomed to it. And I also realize that I may not be the target audience, I have no interest in viewing the source, I don't need all the dials and levers in the world, I mostly just want some basic and streamlined feed-downloading-and-reading functionality out of my aggregator.
What I find absolutely amazing about RSS Bandit is that it supports displaying comments. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. It makes the Channel9 feeds usable. It makes it easier to keep track of threads on my own blog, and blogs that I watch. Configuring a notification toaster on a per-feed basis is also really nifty. And OPML sharing is killer - although I haven't set it up yet, I'm hugely in favor of the idea.
I'm going to keep working with it for a while longer and see if I can fit it into my workflow.