Talk about a one-two punch. NewsGator launched new versions of both their Outlook add-in, now called NewsGator Inbox, and FeedDemon, a desktop RSS client. The company has also completely redesigned their pricing to address customer concerns about the subscription model they adopted in the previous release. NewsGator founder Greg Reinacker, announcing the new releases on his blog yesterday wrote:
"And finally, as of these releases we've made good on our promise to abolish the subscription model as you used to know it. Now, you can buy FeedDemon or NewsGator Inbox (and soon NetNewsWire) for $29.95, and you'll get a free year subscription which includes value-added services such as synchronization (and lots more to come). At the end of that year, you can choose to renew your subscription if you wish for $19.95. But if you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work forever - just without the online-specific features."
I use both applications but tend to favor the Outlook add-in and I have spent most of my time working with that beta release. There are two schools of thought about aggregating RSS into Outlook. Some (including me) think that Outlook is a natural repository for RSS feeds. Using any desktop search tool makes your RSS store easily searchable and it's a simple matter to forward an interesting post to a friend or co-worker, just as you would with an e-mail message. Others prefer a standalone application like FeedDemon or a web-based aggregator.
NewsGator offers all three options and keeps the environments in sync. I never have to look at the same post twice -- if I mark something read in one environment, it's marked in all. I use the NewsGator Online web piece from my Treo 650 and FeedDemon when I know I'll be offline (like on a plane).
All three environments have been improved significantly in these latest releases. NewsGator Inbox is much faster than previous versions, both in initial load time and in regular use. The new version includes a search tool that allows you to locate RSS content on an topic right from the add-in's Outlook toolbar. You can set how many results you wish to review and immediately add as many of the found results as you'd like to your NewsGator subscription list -- an OPML file you can easily export for use in other RSS environments. The search is fast and produces solid results. Pictured here are search results for "Office 12".
FeedDemon has been updated as well, offering a number of enhancements that users have been requesting for some time in the very active discussion and support forums the company maintains. FeedDemon uses a well-designed three pane layout to present RSS content and has powerful search and categorization features to help you filter content. The watch feature is one of my favorites. I have a watches set up for specific keywords or phrases I'm particularly interested in. As posts are received from the 380+ feeds I'm currently subscribed to, any posts that contain a particular watch term are organized into watch folders for me. This allows me to read on a topical basis as well as by source or in a "river of news" style. The flexibility to consume information in so many ways is simply brilliant.
FeedDemon also includes FeedStation, a podcatcher that allows you to subscribe to podcast feeds, automatically download podcasts, and add them to your MP3 player. Note I said MP3 player and not iPod as FeedStation is more agnostic than most podcatchers and works with a variety of devices.
NewsGator Online is available as a free service or in a Premium Edition which adds mobile and Media Center Edition access, the FeedStation podcatcher, and the ability to have RSS feeds delivered to any POP3 e-mail account.
If I sound like a big fan of what this company does, it's only because I am. On the rare occasion that I've needed to access their technical support I have found the company's support staff to be prompt and accurate and they always follow up to make sure my issue has been resolved. As the pricing model for these offerings has changed over time, I have seen the company listen and respond to feedback from their customers in an effort to build a model that works for everyone. I put a big premium on this -- I am happy to pay for quality software and services when they are backed by a company that is quite clearly committed to customer satisfaction.
UPDATE: A commenter feels I should have provided information on alternatives to Newsgator's offerings. Thankfully, Frank Gruber of TechCrunch did all the heavy lifting for me and just posted a comparison of a number of online aggregators you can use for free. Via Scoble.