I’ve been a news junkie for a few years. Sports, politics, computers, entertainment news… I have a list of probably 40 or so websites I like to keep track of. Some of them are blogs, while other are simple news or sports sites. Of course, keeping up-to-date on all of them would be a chore to have to go through every day. Because of this, I long ago started using a news reader to make my information-gathering a bit tidier. RSS and Atom feeds are at the heart of a good news reader. These feeds allow news websites and blogs to create little feeds that are automatically updated whenever a new post or story goes live. With a news reader, you simply point it at those feeds. The news reader checks them periodically throughout the day and whenever something new is available, that feed is marked as such.
I’ve been using Google Reader for a quite a while. I like that it’s in a web browser, so no matter if I’m at home, my folks’ house or somewhere else, I can always log in, read what’s new, and shut down. Then, the next time I want to see my news feeds, I can pick up exactly where I left off. The biggest drawback to using a web-based news reader such as Google Reader is that it’s on the Web. If you are suddenly without the Internet, you can’t check Google Reader. Because of this, I’ve always kept an eye on desktop news reader, such as NetNewsWire on Mac, and Liferea on Linux. I just started using KDE Linux again, and because of that tried out Akregator, a program I’d used a few years ago. While my dream of being able to put in my Google Reader username and password into a desktop client and having it synchronize my web-based feeds on the Desktop is still a dream with Akregator, there is one huge advantage it has: it’s on the Desktop, so as long as I have it download all new articles, it doesn’t matter if the Internet is down… I can still go back and get caught up on old news.
Akregator is easy to use. Simply find a feed you want to subscribe to and enter it into Akregator. If you have a lot of feeds, you can place them into folder, to help keep different topics separate from each other. In my blog list, for instance, I have one folder for web comics, another for entertainment, one for sports, and a fourth for politics. This is helpful because in heavy sports times (March is a good example, with the NCAA basketball tournament going on, the Masters gearing up, and more), or heavy political times like right now, I can keep an eye on one topic, which might be getting far more posts than at a different time of year.
If you’ve been using a different news reader, you can generally export your feed list. This is easy to do in Google Reader, and you end up with a file (Google Readers exports to OPML), which can then be imported into another reader. When I made the transition from Google Reader to Akregator, it was as simple as exporting form Google Reader, importing into Akregator and then arranging the feeds the way I wanted. The whole process took no more than 2-3 minutes.
Akregator also has a notification icon, which gets a number badge representing new posts. It also is able to create notification bubbles for a bit more detail; these bubbles can be set to only pop up for certain feeds, or for every new item. When you close Akregator for the first time by clicking the close button in the title bar, you’ll receive a pop-up window telling you that Akregator is gone, but not closed completely. This way, you can keep Akregator out of sight, but still receive notifications when new posts arrive.
Using Akregator is simple. Just click on a folder or feed you want to view, then use the mouse to click interesting articles, or the keyboard shortcuts to move quickly through the new feeds. Some RSS or Atom feeds include entire articles, while others are shorter, and are designed to inform you as to the article’s content, then have you click through to the actual website to read the full thing. Akregator allows you to click through to read the entire article, but you have the option of opening a new Akregator tab to view it, or simply using your default web browser.
Again, the biggest draw for me using a program like Akregator is the fact that all articles are stored on my hard drive, and not somewhere in the Web. If I want to go back and read an old article again, I can do so, even without an active Internet connection. I love the notifications I get, and the program interface is logical and easy to use. Adding or importing feeds is quick, and the program as a whole makes it easy to keep up-to-date with a large number of news feeds. If you don’t need or want the ability to access your news feeds no matter where you are, then give Akregator a try. Akregator is designed for KDE Linux, but works quite well with GNOME Linux as well. Akregator is available either as a standalone application, or as a component of the Kontact PIM, which includes email, news, notes and more.