RSS Readers for PocketPC

I really like surfing the web on my PDA while taking a bath. Every morning before leaving home for the office, I use my PDA to check my email and read some news-sites like Slashdot or the Heise Newsticker (which is available in a PDA-optimized version, which I have linked here)

Some days ago, I thought that actually reading all the RSS feeds I’m subscribed to could help me prolong my bathing-expirience, so I went looking for a decent RSS-Reader for the PocketPC. Here’s what I found (all products reviewed here understand all the RSS-variants and Atom 0.3 and work without a permanent connection to the net):

Egress

Egress is Shareware and costs $12. Like all the readers I’m reviewing here, I began using it by importing this OPML file. After importing, Egress insits on checking all the feeds for new entries, so don’t do that if you are connected via your cellphone. Of all the readers reviewed here, Egress has the best UI: The whole Channel-List is compacted to just a little menu bar at the top of the screen, leaving lots and lots of space for the entry itself. To the left is a drop-down menu showing all your feeds, to the right are two arrows to navigate within the feeds containing unread items.

While there is a “Manage Channels” function, it’s not possible to move imported channels into subfolders – at least I have not found out, how to do it

The content viewer somewhat supports HTML, though I’m missing support for the <pre>-Tag as I’m reading quite a bit of programming-blogs. Another thing that bothers me is the support for the four-way navigation button of my iPaq: Accitentally hitting left or right insted of down will switch to another unread blog. Paging back will not scroll to the point where you were interrupted reading. Additionally, in contrast to PocketIE, scrolling down using the nav buttons just scrolls a few lines instead a whole screen.

By clicking on an entry you can toggle it’s expanded/colapsed state. The former is used to read the whole entry, the latter just presents it’s title. Unread items are bold-faced

The reader has quite an extensive preferences screen and is the only application tested here where one can set the User-Agent-Header with which it should request the feeds.

A Today-Screen-Plugin provides an alternating view to new entries, but is not really useful.

Unless your are constantly connected, you should turn of Egresses feature to automatically refresh the feeds as it will trigger the Windows CE autodial routine for every feed in your subscription list, not stopping the process when you hit cancel, which is a major pain in the ass

PocketFeed

PocketFeed is the only free software I’m reviewing here. It’s interface is devided in two parts: At the top there is a tree view containing the feeds and the entries. Unfortunately, unread ones are not displayed in boldface or any other way.

The bottom half is the reader which does not support scrolling with the navigation buttons.

There is no today-plugin or a way to automatically check for updated entries.

All in all, PocketFeed is a nice start, but many features are still missing.

PocketRSS

PocketRSS, like Egress is Shareware. It costs $5, so it’s slightly cheaper than Egress. The user interface is similar to the one of PocketRSS (with a tree view taking a lot of precious screen estate), though this time, the viewer is at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, scrolling with the navigation buttons changes from entry to entry and does not scroll the current one.

Like Egress, PocketRSS has a Today-Screen Plugin – the most featureful of all the readers.

Settings-wise, there’s not much the user can change and the settings are devided into a “Preferences” and a “Configuration”-Menu. Not that useful.

Just by looking at the review-length alone, you should be able to see, which reader I prefer: It’s Egress. Egress is the only one that’s really parctical for me (many full-content feeds subscribed). The problem with taking screen estate and the non-working navigation buttons is reason enough for me not to use the other two programs

Granted: You can switch off the panel, but it involves always more tapping than with Egress

Additionally, Egress is the only program properly displaying the unread-state of the feeds – an absolute must for me.

While there are some somewhat annoying buglets, I probably will pay those 12 bucks, but not without directing it’s author to this review here, in the hope that those little problems get fixed eventually.

PS: I’m writing this entry on the just repaired IBM Thinkpad. I will write about the wonderful experience I had with the IBM support in another entry.