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Giving RSS the Bird (er, Fox)

I’ve spent the past 24 hours playing with the new releases of Firefox (1.0PR) and Thunderbird (0.8), available from Overall, I’m very impressed. The respective teams are obviously hard at work improving the software, and these projects (indeed, in general, in my opinion) continue to serve as excellent examples of Open Source in action.

Both Firefox and Thunderbird now have some sort of RSS/Atom support built in. In Firefox, they’re calling it Live Bookmarks . In Thunderbird, it’s a new account type, RSS News & Blogs. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m going to have to break down and start using an aggregator to get my news and updates, so I was excited to hear about both features. One of the things that’s prevented me from really embracing a feed aggregator in the past has been the need to run an additional application: can’t it be integrated into my existing work pattern?

Unfortunately, neither Firefox or Thunderbird is going to become my full-time aggregator for a very simple reason: Galeon . Well, not Galeon, exactly, but rather features and ideas that Galeon has introduced that I think Firefox and Thunderbird could benefit from. Let’s take the apps one at a time.

First, Firefox. Firefox’s Live Bookmarks create a folder-like view of a particular feed, and add an option to “Open In Tabs,” like all bookmark folders. So I can easily see the headlines, but if I want to quickly browse the articles, I have to open a dozen web pages. Huh, not exactly what I had in mind. Galeon’s MyPortal, though, could be a good jumping off point. After all, it already acts as a display of bookmarks, and since Firefox treats feeds as “live” bookmarks, it seems like a simple extension of the idea.

Thunderbird is a little better; each feed is it’s own “folder,” with posts showing up as messages and the contents showing up in the preview pane. And since it’s coming at things from the e-mail perspective, you can even flag posts as read or unread. Great! That’s what I want! Except, uh, well, I can’t actually aggregate things. That is, if I want to read the morning news, I have to look at each folder with new items, individually. This only points out the great usefulness of Evolution’s vFolders. If Thunderbird supported vFolders, I could create a view of unread News items. Heck, I could create a view of unread items, including mail, news and feed items. Now that would be a killer feature.