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Keywords: RSS aggregator, news reader, RDF, Atom

Title: RSSOwl 1.1.3


Licence: Open source - Common Public Licence

Platform: Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X

Verdict: Recommended


RSSOwl is an excellent open source RSS/RDF/Atom aggregator and reader. It's feature rich, easy to use, has an intuitive user interface and is available on a wide variety of platforms, including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris. It is also coded in Java, but more of that later. This review is based on the Windows version of release 1.1.3.

Installation is straightforward, download the appropriate files for your platform from and off you go. For Linux RPM binaries are available, for Windows there's an executable installer, source code is available for all platforms. Running the latter launches the install process which takes just a couple of clicks to complete. On Windows a short cut is added to the QuickLaunch bar, but this can be deselected during the install process. Once installed the package takes just under 6MB of disk space.

In use RSSOwl is remarkably easy to set up and use. The main application window consists of three panes - a navigation panel on the left and two horizontal panes on the right. The navigation panel is a basic tree control that is used to navigate between feeds, which can be nested hierarchically to make it easy to organise feeds. On installation RSSOwl includes a wide range of sample feeds covering news, technology, weblogs and so on.

Clicking on any of the feeds in the navigation panel causes the list of RSS headlines to be displayed in the upper window on the right, clicking on a headline there opens a preview in the lower window. As an interface it's familiar to most modern mail clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Outlook etc. Double-clicking on a headline causes opens the RSS link, either in an internal or external browser. Like many features this is configurable, so if you don't like the internal browser than RSSOwl can easily be configured to open whatever external browser you have installed on your system.

A tabbed display is used, making it easy to switch between multiple feeds, and of course the internal browser uses the functionality to display multiple web pages.

Aside from being simple to use, RSSOwl also makes it easy to add or import new feeds using a variety of methods. Possibly the simplest option is to key in the URL of an RSS feed, alternatively there is a search option which can be pointed at a web site which is searched for available feeds. OPML files can also be used to import and export feeds. There is also a fine level of control for each feed, and the rate at which feeds are updated can be set differently for each feed.

There are lots of additional features, such as the ability to generate PDF, HTML or RTF files from feeds, or the ability to validate feeds, but it's the core functions that make or break an application. In this case there's no faulting RSSOwl: it's highly capable, is easy to use, looks good and has excellent performance. Mention was made previously that this is a Java application. It is, but most users don't know or don't care what language a program is written in, they just want something that works. Well, RSSOwl certainly does that. However, for those people who remain to be convinced that desktop Java can ever work, this is another one of those applications that really should make them think again.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2005. Published October 4 2005