Choosing an RSS newsreader for Mac OS X

With so many stylish, easy-to-use and fully featured newsreaders available for Mac OS X it’s hard to choose one and stick with it. It’s almost the same situation as the Mac OS X Web browser market which is packed with excellent options.

Let’s see, there’s NetNewsWire, NetNewsWire Lite, Vienna, Shrook, NewsFire, and plenty of others.

Some are free (NetNewsWire Lite, Vienna, Shrook) while others cost a little bit of money. If you’ve been test driving NewsFire and haven’t decided whether you should pay for it yet, you can now Buy NewsFire, get Inquisitor Free. Inquisitor is a handy plugin that extends the search functionality of Safari and Camino. The offer is only valid this weekend, 19-20/8 2006, so don’t spend too much time thinking about it. (Yes, getting a free Inquisitor license is one of my reasons for posting this).

The newsreader I currently use is NetNewsWire Lite. I think that may be just out of habit though. The other day I had to test a bunch of other newsreaders to find one that handles the character encoding Basecamp feeds use. I tried the ones mentioned in this post, and only Vienna displays accented characters in Basecamp-generated feeds properly.

Any other good Mac OS X newsreaders that I didn’t mention? Which one is your favourite, and why? What are the options for people who don’t use Mac OS X?

Posted on August 20, 2006 in Mac, Quicklinks


  1. I’m using NetNewsWire and I’m very happy with it. It just works and is easy to use – the only thing I’m missing: More Automator actions. I’d like to read my feeds in full-text on my iPod…

  2. I use NetNewsWire as well. For a while I used NewsFire (I actually bought a license for it as well), but after a couple of months I found out that it wasn’t refreshing some feeds.. Stuff would pop on NNW Lite and not on NewsFire - that’s when I decided to buy NetNewsWire. Could have been some issue with my network, or my computer’s configuration, but the truth is I never had this kind of problem again with NNW.

    In my experience, allthough NewsFire looks great, but it doesn’t work so well. NNW works perfectly, and the NewsGator synchronization is great as well.

  3. I used NetNewsWire Lite for a year or so before finally buying the full program. Among other things, it shows me which feeds are dead or dormant, lets me save more headlines than a feed normally preserves, and lets me use NewsGrowl.

  4. NNW Lite here - mainly because it’s both free and it syncs with NewsGator, which is what I use to read feeds when at work.

    I’m fairly new to the platform though, so I might yet play with some others - assuming they integrate with a decent online feed-reader.

  5. I’m currently using NetNewsWire Lite (again). It was my feed reader of choice for almost several years, then I chose to switch to Vienna. That was some months ago…

    This relationship wasn’t made forever, since Vienna has some annoyances, I couldn’t cope with, for the purpose of illustration some examples:

    • The ((yet) unmodifyable) keyboard shortcut “View next unread message (Command+u)”, which isn’t intuitive to me.
    • No shortcut to open the feed website in the browser, which is simply hitting RETURN while having the feed in the feed list in NNW (Lite) selected.
    • The inability to automatically empty the trash when the program exits.
    • Various other little things, that start to tear on you over time…

    I mean, it’s a slick and robust application, but to me it just seems like beta (which it actually is for quite some time now).

    So, it was just three days ago, I switched back to NNW Lite (in version 2.1, which was new to me, since 2.0.something was the last version I used before switching to Vienna), that works even better than “my old” version… ah, nice! And NNW seems to me like a really mature application, in contrast to others…

    Anyhow, a last word to Shrook (2): I gave it try by the end of last year, just so see if it might work for me. Well, that try lasted for, hm, five minutes? The answer: I don’t like it! The interface, the presentation of information on screen and the behaviour of the UI just isn’t mine. Sorry for that, but I plainly just don’t like it. Oh, did I say that before? ;)

    So, I recommend NetNewsWire (Lite). It really is the best Mac OS X RSS reader (in the moment).

  6. If I was on one machine to do all my development, I’d use NetNewsWire. I’ve paid for it and it’s excellent. However, I have machines at home and other machines at the office. The best solution for me is platform independent Bloglines.

  7. I’ve been using NetNewsWire for years (bought it years ago) and between familiarity with it and a certain loyalty to Mr. and Mrs. Ranchero it was hard to get me to look at anything else.

    I finally tried NewsFire and loved the way it looked although found Mr. Watanabe a bit crabby to correspond with (like he was mad that he wasn’t winning the race or something) but I registered it anyway (Inquisitor is fantastic) and then, after a month started to find holes in it (lost feeds and other small issues. I reported them to Dave but got either no or a defensive reply.

    Brent and Sheila have always been a pleasure to deal with, in the old days and even now that they’re bigger and more popular. That means a lot to me although again, NewsFire has an attention to visual detail that’s stunning and that pulls on me.

    I’m now back using NetNewsWire and although it’s not as pretty as NewsFire it does seem to work consistently (every now and then command “/” gives me a beep instead of a new feed).

    I’d love it if one of you CSS mavens would make a complete NewsFire style for NetNewsWire. Oh, I’d like that very much. Until then I use BD Graphic Floating in traditional view although NNW won’t hold the NewsFire view completely, dropping into three panes and forcing me to manually drag the lateral window divider up to mimic NewsFire completely.

    I’m not exactly sure what the current “lite” version of NNW is like but I’d say its more than worth it to buy the full app.

  8. Dale Cruse:

    NewNewsWire can sync with NewsGator Online, which you can then use via a web-based client similar to Bloglines, or with any of the NewsGator clients (they have several, on multiple platforms).

  9. August 20, 2006 by Jan Korbel

    I am more and more intrigued by the online reader Newshutch

    Not exactly OSX but I guess it is not a bug here ;)

  10. I use Vienna and like it very much. It does what it’s supposed to, it collects and displays my feeds. I get a little red dot on the icon in the task bar when a feed has been updated and I can sort them into categories.

    I don’t have much experience with any other feed readers in OS X…

  11. August 20, 2006 by Kristian Nilsson

    I use NewsFire, which I registered after using it a few weeks or so. I like its two-paned appearance which only displays what you really need and the space-to-scroll-or-display-next-post navigation. And it looks good.

  12. August 20, 2006 by Alex

    Like Richard I had some problems corresponding with Mr. Watanabe. A bit of a personal case-in-point: I instant messaged him a while back to tell him a few suggestions I had for the software (while it was still in beta) and I have to say it was not a pleasant experience. He was a little rude, and seemed to shoot down my ideas before I was finished.

    Since then I’ve started using NetNewsWire and I love it, although the interface is nowhere near as beautiful as NewsFire. I could not use it without Jon Hicks’ Tiger Style though. @Richard, you may find that this is kinda like the NewsFire look.

    Recently I contacted Mr. Watanabe wondering if NewsFire had any plans for syncing capabilities (one of the main reasons I love NetNewsWire). His response was quick and succinct saying that “There are no immediate plans, but it’s obviously a long-term goal.”

    For me the quality of interaction with a developer is as important if not more than that of the application he/she creates. I believe that Brent and Sheila have already mastered this and Mr. Watanabe is still working on it. Therefore I’m sticking with NetNewsWire, however I’m keeping close tabs on NewsFire :-)

    I hope my little review helps,


  13. I use Google Reader in Windows and like it very much though for some reasons I don’t know, it retrieves feeds repeatedly at times. :-)

  14. August 20, 2006 by Fred

    I’m from The Netherlands and using Bommie for a long time. It’s an online reader with very fast service and easy design.

    Offline readers are always too slow in my opinion.

  15. My closest choice was between Shrook and NetNewsWire. I finally settled with NetNewsWire; well, more because I was using Newsgator FeedDemon and Outlook Inbox Plugin. And I have my account subscription with them.

    Btw, NetNewsWire (not the lite) is not free but honestly I feel it beats all other else.

    I did my share of my own take on the readers at

  16. I used the full NNW for a couple of years before they started requiring users sign up for a NewsGator account in order to get any new versions. I’d never even heard of NewsGator before, and certainly had no intention of signing up for a service I didn’t want or need. I did, however, need NNW updates as the version I had had a bug with the tabs implementation that kept locking my Mac up.

    Feeling I wasn’t left with much choice, I gave up on NNW and switched to Vienna (which is open source - no accounts with random web services required) and it’s great. It has a few rough edges, but I’m more than happy to put up with those in a newsreader. It’s not exactly workflow software.

  17. Drew: you can dump the newsgator connection if you like; they’re now the parent company so a default connection comes with the territory.

    Alex: I did have John Hicks’ tiger style (and there are a number of others including some spotlight styles) but prefer all of my info on top rather than putting some in a footer so prefer BD Graphit as it’s more like NewsFire (all info at top in a logical hierarchy).

    I’m both glad to know that Mr. Watanabe was not singling me out but less than glad to know that his curmudgeonly “tude” may be part of what’s preventing his great application from taking off. Being defensive about bugs and unappreciative when people take the time to make suggestions is a recipe for disaster.

    ” It’s not exactly workflow software.”

    Drew: actually, as a photographer, I use NNW to track dozens of photoblogs, more than dozens of flickr discussion groups, and all the other stuff we track with tools like these. I use it more than any other app. Sure, it’s not part of my photographic workflow but it’s part of my photographic learning/tracking workflow.

    However, that brings up an important point: outside of people who track weblogs, how much has RSS caught on? For some it’s a difficult concept to get, even if you show them safari RSS which some have although don’t use. For these folks choices between NNW or NF or Safari RSS are irrelevant; they don’t use the technology proactively yet.

  18. I use RSS Menu

    It’s probably not as fully featured as other systems, but it’s very very easy to use and means I don’t have to have a special program open just to see RSS feeds.

    I’ve set it up to auto load on startup and it’s now just a small RSS icon in the top right hand corner of my screen, on the menu bar near spotlight and my clock.

    It changes from greyed out to orange whenever there are new posts - and it just means I can check on what’s new and look at it when I want.

    I can’t recommend it enough. It’s really awesome.

    Oh, and it’s donationware.

  19. I’ve tried a few different solutions on OS X and continually return to NewsFire. Despite the small registration fee, the application ui is well worth the “entrance” fee. I’m curious to find out what Canary offers to the RSS table.

  20. After trying a lot of newsreaders, I decided for an online newsreader,, its like for my rss feeds, its just beatifull,and I can access my feeds everewhere.

  21. I’ve been using Vienna for a while now and for free software it is great.

  22. i’ve tried everything, safari + growl with a folders in the shortcut toolbar have fit my workflow best.

  23. August 20, 2006 by Jussi

    Christian: Keyboard shortcuts of Vienna and other OS X software are configurable via System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> keyboard shortcuts.

    Vienna seems to go to the subscription home page when enter is pressed, I’m using the latest beta (2.1) so that might be the reason we are seeing a difference.

    The issue with trash, some slowness with updating the window and a few other things are real ssues but I still prefer Vienna for my use.

  24. Another Vienna fan here - I recently discovered it, and it’s great because it’s simple and doesn’t have another 100 additional features that I don’t need in a newsreader.

  25. I’m another NetNewsWire user. My reason is the ability to store the feeds on Newsgator, I can then read on the work PC, home Mac or with pda.

  26. August 21, 2006 by Wulf

    I’m using Windows and I read your feed in the Wizz RSS News Reader extension for Firefox. It’s great, because it’s cross-platform so can use it on any OS I want without having to learn multiple interfaces.

    It’s also very light, weighing in at only 170 KB compressed. And, due to being a Firefox extension, it uses Gecko, IMHO the best rendering engine around.

    It has its quirks, like not being able to simply middle-click a post (to open it in a new tab) if it has an enclosure (instead you have to use the context menu). But, all-in-all it’s a great feed reader.

    Then again, the only other readers I’ve tried are Sage and Google Reader

  27. I have yet to find a feed reader that compares to Thunderbird, as much as I hate the non-native feel, it’s the only one I’ve used that gives me the option to just load the linked page instead of viewing the summary.

    For a few dollars, endo is gorgeous. It would be perfect with the above option and more sites using its #aggregator CSS structure.

  28. August 21, 2006 by Julik

    If you are getting into trouble with accents in Basecamp feeds you have to complain either to Brent Simmons for bad character handling (unlikely) or to David Hansson and friends from 37s (highly more likely). There were some changes made to the XML generation in Ruby on Rails which make some situations with charsets somewhat spooged.

    You have to verify in which form Basecamp sends it’s server headers and feeds, and just file a bug with the right person.

  29. I’ve been using newsNetWire lite for a couple of years now, but have recently started using flock’s rss reader. It has the advantage of one app for reading and browsing, I really like the saving ability, and the ease of organizing and adding new feeds. I’ve been test driving driving Flock for over a month now and I’m very happy with it. If it handled bookmarks better it would be the perfect browser for me.

  30. I use Opera’s built-in RSS reader, simply because I prefer to read my RSS feeds from inside my browser.

    The same goes with e-mail. No need for an external application when Opera handles it perfectly well itself!

  31. August 21, 2006 by Peter

    Try Sage the plugin in Firefox

  32. I use NewsGator on its own without syncing. I used to use a stand alone feeder but can’t see the point now as the web version of NewsGator does all I need and is available wherever I am. I do use Thunderbird for exclusively work feeds and emails, which I really don’t want to look at away from my work desk.

  33. I use Safari to manage all of my feeds. I categorize them into folders, and then view all folders each morning. The bookmarks bar will show me when there are updated items to check out, so I can easily glance throughout the day while Im working.

    I am a minimalist when it comes to software, for some reason I don’t like adding a bunch of different programs. With OS X, I use the built in tools. I used to use FIRE or Adium for IM, now iChat gets the job done without a problem. Mail, Address Book, iCal and subscribed calendars - and Safari for my main browser/RSS reader. I used to use Firefox for my RSS, where I could subscribe to my favorites bar and see all of the newest titles - but FF seems a little sluggish to me, so i made the switch to Safari. I haven’t even tried the other ones - simply because this works for me.

  34. On Windows, I’m using Newshutch. I switched from Google Reader because it would show repeated feeds sometimes. Then I tried out Bloglines, and didn’t really like it. I think Newshutch is a perfect fit for me… right now anyway.

  35. August 21, 2006 by Peter


  36. I’ve been using netnewswire (paid version) and find it perfect. it syncing up with newgator is great for when i check my feeds at work. I think some of the others are great and 1 of them probably better but the newgator syncing is essential for me.

  37. It’s NewsFire for me, despite buying NetNewsWire (and using FeedDemon at work). Just can’t ween myself of the super-clean UI. It’s a real pleasure to use.

  38. August 21, 2006 by Dave Gregory

    well, I use Shrook and have loved it for quite soime time. Vienna was alright, but not as easy for me.

    After reading the comments, I think it is time for me to try NNW lite.

  39. NetNewsWire Lite is great, free and easy to use!

  40. Newsfire all the way!

  41. It’s not a Mac RSS application but I use for all my RSS feeds and so far I love it. I can go to any computer in the world and get my RSS feeds and settings and it also allows you to use some nifty widgets too. I also like that it’s all in the browser so opening a link is seemless. It’s free, and it’s actually how I found your site. Your site was included in the “Web Gurus” tab. Nice site!

  42. August 24, 2006 by Luca

    Funny I have 456Berea tagged as WebGurus too, and I use a remote reader too!

    After trying out Newswire for a bit I switched to in-browser solutions; I started with Sage Firefox extension, then I discovered my current choice: GoogleReader, exported all my feeds in there as an OPML file. Aside from the obvious big advantage of accessing the feeds from any machine, I find the Ajax interface and the tagging/labeling of feeds very functional.

  43. I’ve been using Netvibes for a few months as well. I have 3 computers at home, and one and sometimes two at work. I like to be able to access my normal feeds when I’m traveling without my computers as well, so a web-based option is best for me.

    Netvibes is solid. I am going to demo Rojo to see how it works for my needs.

    Love this site - as a Netvibes feed, it’s under Design World, but in my resources bookmark folder, it’s under Design Gurus :)

  44. September 7, 2006 by sojourner

    Vienna. I love the way I can simply press the spacebar to scroll down to the end of article, and then press it to go to the next unread article.

    Pressing return loads the article in my browser.

    The simplistic, minimalist interface.

    The single-key shortcuts for often-used functions.

    The ability to put my feeds in any order I choose. NewsFire only offered alphabetical and something else. I couldn’t get rid of that program fast enough.

  45. I used to use Vienna until I came across FeedPopper. Since then I have been using it and really like the simplicity of the application.

  46. Hey there.

    Thanks for this post. Saved me a HUGE amount of time looking for a good reader for my shiny new mac! Have started using NetNewsWire. Very happy with it!

    Pads x

  47. Newsfire is the only way to go! It’s fast, lightweight and has a sleek interface.

Comments are disabled for this post (read why), but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact me.