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Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps

RSS Software

RSS feeds allow content Web sites to stream up-to-date headlines to subscribers.

Subscribing to an RSS feed is usually a pretty simple process, and typically free. You just need to pull up one of your favorite sites, right-click the little RSS logo and Copy Link Location (or left-click on the logo and then copy the URL), then paste it into an RSS feed reader or aggregator.

Although RSS readers are definitely becoming less relevant due to Web apps/services and browser plug-ins performing their core function, news junkies probably need a fully-featured app. Also, there is no doubt already a lot of extra stress on the browser from all your other Web apps and plug-ins. Why let your RSS feeds become just another victim of a browser crash? I used the RSS feeds from Tom's Hardware, MaximumPC, Digg, and Slashdot to test the RSS feed-reading abilities of our readers. I also used the TWiT RSS to test podcatching abilities (audio-only).

Akregator (v. 1.4.2)

Akregator is the most robust app listed here. The interface is separated by three panes. The long pane on the left side is a listing of your feeds in the file tree-style. The upper-right pane lists the headlines of the feed selected in the left pane. The lower-right pane is where the story is displayed when the corresponding headline is selected from the list in the pane above. If you want to see a full story in it's original form, simply click Complete Story. A new tab will open in the right panes displaying the article from it's original source.

Akgregator also saves your open tabs when it's closed down, so you can pick up right where you left off the next time that you open the app. Akregator only needs the domain URL for each feed; it automatically finds the feed's proper URL and populates the proper name. For example, type '' and Akregator will automatically set up the Tom's news feed. This app is pretty fast, despite having the most features out of the apps listed here, as well as being a KDE app run in GNOME. Even is you're not using KDE, Akregator is still the best standalone RSS reader for Linux.

yarssr (Yet Another RSS Reader) (v. 0.2.2)

yarssr is fantastic, for what it's able to do. This app is an aggregator, not a reader. It does not open the full articles so you can read them; it opens a browser for that. Rather, it simply updates the headlines for each feed.

Though not technically an applet, yarssr resides entirely in the system tray and uses almost no system resources. Its icon is normally a white newspaper, which turns red when refreshing feeds and green when new unread headlines are available. You can set the interval to refresh the feeds, how many headings to display, and what browser should open the links. That's it. If you don't want a bulky app for updating your RSS, yarssr is the answer.

Liferea (v. 1.4.26)

Liferea is similar to Akregator's interface. Feeds are listed on the left pane, the upper right pane lists headlines for the feed selected in the left pane. The lower-right pane displays articles for the selected headline in the upper-right pane.

Also similar to Akregator is Liferea's ability to automatically find RSS feeds for a Web site. You simply input the address to the domain in order to get its RSS feeds. The app does not, however, open the source article within Liferea. For that, it opens your browser.

It can also aggregate podcasts, again opening the browser for playback. Liferea is a slow-loading application. In fact, it exhibited the signs of a crashed app.

It also acted this way when adding a new feed. If you are patient, Liferea will eventually come alive. Note that this app was much speedier on the virtualized 32-bit versions of Fedora and Ubuntu than on the 64-bit Ubuntu test system, making Liferea much more attractive for those running 32-bit operating systems.

Blam Feed Reader (v. 1.8.6)

Blam has a simple interface, and the application itself is easy to use. It is set up like Akregator and Liferea, with the left pane displaying feeds, the upper-right pane recanting headlines, and the lower-left pane dedicated to stories.

However, properly reading RSS feeds is hit-or-miss with this app. Blam could not open the RSS feeds from Tom's Hardware at all, and the stories from MaximumPC were scrambled. The TWiT feed came in properly, but there was no way to listen to or download the podcasts (not even a link that would open your browser). Feeds from Digg and Slashdot came in properly, but you have to use the exact URL for the RSS. This app cannot find feeds automatically from domains.

Blam also exhibits one of my pet peeves: it resides in the system tray, yet you cannot quit the application from the system tray icon. Instead, you must restore the app in order to use its menu bar and select Quit. In fact, the system tray icon holds no function, other than being the destination for the app when it is closed/minimized.