With all the news services out there clamoring for your readership, all the must-read blogs that your friends will chastise you for missing, and tons of vital information spread unevenly across the Internet, it's no wonder that we need a technology like RSS to help us catalog all this information in one manageable place.
Now our challenge is to wade through all of the readers out there that claim to be the best at this seemingly mundane task and identify the Right Tool for the Job. Today we'll look at Omea Reader, which can be downloaded directly from TechRepublic's Software Library.
Omea Reader's Startup Wizard asks you to complete a quick wizard to import your existing feeds and fill out some user information.
Click Next to continue.
Import Feed Subscription
You can import your feeds from Bloglines.com or from OPML files, which are simply XML export files from common RSS Readers.
I had neither of these to import so I left both unchecked.
You can also import your favorites from Internet Explorer.
I am writing this on a fresh windows install so I don’t have any of those to import either.
Finally, you need to input some user information. This information is used when you post information to newsgroup and similar sources.
If you plan to post, don't put anything here that you don't want to be publicly available.
Default News Reader
Now that you've imported and entered your information, you are presented with the Omea Reader interface.
More than likely, Omea will ask you to make it the default newsgroup client. If you don't have a newsgroup client already, this is not a bad idea. If you do currently use a newsreader, make sure you are ready to make the switch before you accept this.
Default Feed Aggregator
Omea is starting to seem a little needy for attention. Now you are asked to make it the default feed aggregator.
More than likely you do not have a tool on your machine to do this, so accepting this is probably a good idea.
Subscribe to Feed
Now that Omea Reader has been set up, you're probably eager to start reading, but there are still a few things you need to do first.
The current view looks a lot like Outlook with the feeds and categories on the left and the individual posts in the middle. After selecting a post, you can see the contents on the right.
What you probably don't see is any feeds that you are likely to read. Unless you imported them before now, you have to add your favorite feeds.
To do that, simply right click in the feeds area and click Subscribe to Feed.
Oh look, another wizard! For this one, we need the URL of our feed and, if necessary, the username and password associated with it.
If you do not know where to find the feed for your favorite Web site, just look for the RSS icon. It's an orange square with three white curving lines coming out of the lower left hand corner. If you look at previous screenshot, you can see it on the Feeds tab.
If you want, you can separate your feeds into folders. This is handy if you have multiple interests that aren't closely related. As a photography, video game, and software development buff, I can see the value of this.
Select the folder to which you want to add your feed and click Finish.
Our feed is added
Now our feed has been added and we can see it in the left-hand pane.
Omea immediately pulls in the RSS feed and displays it for us.
Another type of input Omea can read is newsgroup or usenet articles. Usenet is just about as old as the Internet but is still used by many to share information and ideas. There are thousands of newsgroups dedicated to just about anything you can think of.
I use them to collaborate with colleagues about software development. In order to use newsgroups you must be able to connect to a usenet server. More than likely, your Internet provider has one, but the article retention will likely not be very good. This makes using a free service not worth it. If you intend to use newsgroups, I recommend looking into a pay service.
To add a new server, click the News tab at the top and then right-click in the Newgroups pane. Select Manage Newsgroups to continue.
Add News Server
To connect to a news server, you will need to know the server name, and possibly a username and password.
Here you will need to supply the username and password to your news server. You may not need this in some ISP servers, as they often secure their servers by IP address rather than by accounts.
These settings effect how Omea downloads the headers. I recommend setting the article count to 0. This will cause it to download all the headers.
The rest of these settings can be left as is.
I don't know what this changes, to be honest. I left it as Western European and had no problems.
These settings affect how a message is posted. I left them as is. Some newsgroups have guidelines as to how you are supposed to post and you may need to adjust these settings accordingly.
Here you can specify a signature to be used only when posting to newsgroups subscribed to on this server profile.
This is handy if you set up a separate profile for each type of newsgroup in which you participate.
Look! News groups!
After setting up my newsgroup profile I chose a few newsgroups to which to subscribe.
Notice that this screen looks much like the feeds tab in that you have feeds or groups on the left, posts in the middle and content on the right.
I like this consistent UI design.
As a developer I tend to make lots of notes about code, techniques and ideas. It helps tremendously to be able to categorize and search these later.
Omea has a pretty good notes system built in.
This is the note screen. As you can see, there are formatting features similar to that any respectable word processor.
I'm not a fan of Times New Roman so I immediately changed this to Arial.
If you click the Categories button, you can specify multiple categories in which to catalog this note.
This will be very handy for articles and notes that span multiple subjects.
You can see my test note listed here along with its presentation on the right.
Again, the consistency is maintained.
This is a list of the contacts associated with every RSS or news post in the database.
This is where they lost me. I guess if you only used Omea for a few things with a select few contributors this might be of value, but if you use this thing for newsgroups you'll just have a huge list of contacts that you really have little or no use for.
I was looking for a way to add a contact without having seen an RSS post or news post from them.
I didn't find that, but I did find this conditional search, which is nice because finding someone in this contacts list would be next to impossible after a couple weeks of use.
Tools | Options
There were only a few options that I thought were worth covering.
The General tab doesn't have much that is exciting except the font control. I was glad to find and change that.
I like applications that use a modular design style to separate functionality. Omea does this well by implementing plugins.
I like to think this means that some nice person out there is diligently working on new functionality.
Something Omea is missing is a mail reader and I expect there is a plugin already written out there to incorporate that.
If you are a blogger, you will love the Weblog Posting Extensions area of the feeds screen. Using extensions that you can download from JetBrains, you can integrate blogging using many of the major blog packages.
This is very cool and makes writing your posts in Omea or writing about a post from another RSS or newsgroup post a piece of cake.
The last thing I wanted to point out is the workspaces feature. I can see this feature being very handy for some people, even though I probably wouldn't use it. It allows you to break your RSS, newsgroups, etc., into a separate workspace tailored perhaps to a specific need such as an Office workspace and a Home workspace. This way, you can put all of the work items in one tab and home items in another and easily filter out one or the other.
Omea seems to be a great tool for what it is intended to do. As an individual, I am very tempted to leave it installed and start using it to read all of my daily blogs and Web sites.
If you don't already have an RSS reader or a news reader I think Omea might be just the answer for you. Its clean interface and easy-to-use tabs and wizards make getting into RSS a cinch, and most people will be able to begin using it without any help at all.
Add in the fact that it's free, and you have what is probably the best product I've seen for this on the Web.
I would certainly recommend Omea Reader. It's the Right Tool for the Job.