Stephen Hackett, who was a Genius in training, working the sales floor on iPhone launch day:

The demo iPhone I unboxed was the first iPhone I’d ever seen. I just turned it over in my hand, over and over several times before turning it on. When I did, I was blown away.

I remember having that exact same reaction. Everyone did.

When the original iPhone launched, I still had a few months left on my Verizon contract. I wish I had stood in line for an original, but instead I waited until later that fall to avoid paying a $350 cancellation fee.

I did, however, go down to the Plaza Apple Store with a friend later on launch night. The store was open until Midnight, and I think we went down around 11. There were no lines at that point so we had plenty if time to fiddle with the demo units. I still remember just how cool they were. Also: remember those fancy paper bags they came in?

On the Original iPhone’s Launch

This Weekend’s To-Do Item: Download Your Google Feeds List

Come Monday, Google Reader will be gone and you’ll have no access to your old data. Even if you’re not planning on moving to a Google Reader alternative, if you’ve ever had a Google Reader account and a list of feeds, I’d suggest downloading your list just so you’ve got it. And it only takes about a minute.

There is more than one way get your RSS feeds list from Google Reader. Here’s a few — feel free to pick whichever sounds the most exciting to you:

I don’t really care about any of that extra info, except my starred items. But they’ve been auto-imported into Pinboard using IFTTT anyway.

  • Which is why I went a different rout: I just opened up NetNewsWire 3.3.2 and clicked on File → Export Subscriptions. From there I selected to export all of my subscriptions as an OPML file with groups, and now I’ve got a nice backup of all the feeds I was subscribed to in Google Reader.
This Weekend’s To-Do Item: Download Your Google Feeds List

A big update to the Droplr iOS app shipped yesterday that brings iPad support, a polished UI, and more.

Droplr has been my link-, file-, text-, and screenshot-sharing service of choice ever since its beta days back in 2010. And since I do a fair amount of work from my iPad I’m very glad that I can finally access all my Droplr resources, as well as create new links and upload files to Droplr from my iPad.

Droplr 3 for iOS [iTunes Link]

Feed Wrangler’s Smart Streams

As the dust settles, my feed-reading service of choice continues to be Feed Wrangler.

Feed Wrangler has been out for a few months now, and I’ve been an advocate of the service on this site, on Twitter, ADN, and to just to anyone who asks.

There are two main reservations I’ve heard from people regarding Feed Wrangler, and they are: (1) that the iOS apps and website are ugly; and (2) that Feed Wrangler doesn’t support folders.

Well, I can’t argue with the first point. And I don’t think David Smith (the developer behind Feed Wrangler) would argue with you either. His goal with the apps was simply to have something that worked with the service. His primary goal with Feed Wrangler is to build a killer syncing service with a full-featured API and get the best-in-class 3rd-party apps to support it.

And so far, that’s exactly what’s happening. Just yesterday Mr. Reader for iPad was updated with support for Feed Wrangler. This morning, ReadKit for Mac was updated with Feed Wrangler support. And we know that an update for Reeder is in the works which will also bring support for Feed Wrangler.

So the concern about how Feed Wrangler looks has been, and is being, addressed.

As for the reservation about Feed Wrangler’s use of Smart Streams instead of folders, let me explain how I use these streams and how they can be set up to work like folders.

The Smart Stream

What sets Feed Wrangler apart from so many of the other RSS solutions is its Smart Streams.

As I’ve given accolades to Feed Wrangler over the past weeks since its launch a while back, I’ve received quite a few emails that people don’t fully grasp what all you can do with a Smart Stream.

I, too, had the same hurdle when I was initially beta testing Feed Wrangler, and it took some chatting with the developer behind it, David Smith, before I grasped just how awesome the Smart Streams can be.

Streams as Folders

To set up a smart stream as a “folder” do this:

  • Under the Smart Streams box on Feed Wrangler’s sidebar, click “Create”.
  • Enter a name for your new stream.
  • Leave the search filter blank.
  • Check: “Only include unread”.
  • Uncheck: “Stream should include all feeds?”.
  • After unchecking that last option, you’ll get a list of every RSS feed that’s in Feed Wrangler. From there you can select exactly which feeds you want to be in this stream (a.k.a. folder).
  • Once you’ve selected all the feeds you want in this stream, click the “Create Stream” button and now you’ve got a Smart Stream that acts like a folder. Showing you all the unread items from all those feeds.

Smart Stream Setup in Feed Wrangler

I currently have three “folder” smart streams: One for my favorite sites which I read just about daily, one for photography related sites, and one for Apple news.

Though, in truth, these are not so much traditional folders as much as they are smart collections. Because the same feed can exist in multiple Smart Streams, and read status of items will persist across multiple streams if you have crossover.

Streams as Streams

You can also build a stream based around a topic or keyword. Create a new stream just like outlined above, but this time enter in one or more search terms and your stream will be populated with only articles that match your search criteria. You can set the scope of this stream to cover all your feeds, or, like above, you can pick only certain ones.

I create Smart Streams unreservedly. They are a great way to stay on top of certain hot topics (like iOS 7) as well as more narrow topics I’m interested in (like Mirrorless Cameras).

Leading up to, and then during WWDC, I had a “WWDC” Smart Stream. I used it to see all the sites I follow that were talking about the event. Then, when WWDC was winding down, I deleted the stream. I’ll likely do the same with my iOS 7 stream later this fall.


The brother to the Smart Stream is the filter. Filters will search your feeds for a keyword you specify, and if that term shows up then the item will be marked as read so you don’t ever have to see it.

In the Feed Wrangler sidebar there is an option to “Manage Filters”. From there you can create your filters. Note that Filters are global — you cannot select which feeds they apply to or don’t.

Some people, I suspect, would use a Filter for the same topics I used a Smart Stream for. Supposed you’d heard enough about WWDC or iOS 7. Just create a filter for it and those topics will, more or less, be muted from you RSS feeds for as long as you leave the filters active.

* * *

So far, most of the Google Reader alternatives I’ve seen and tried seem to be, more or less, a copy of how Google Reader worked.

As I wrote in my link to Feed Wrangler back in April, its Smart Stream versatility is exactly the sort of forward-thinking innovation I hope we’re going to see more of in a post-Google Reader world.

Anyone who has been subscribing to RSS feeds for longer than a few months will know your subscription list regularly needs pruning and adjusting. Well, I want my RSS reader to help me with that task.1 Smart Streams can help by making it easier to wrangle my feeds based on more than just which website they came from. I expect in the long run that they will prove very accommodating and useful as my interests change and as my attention ebbs and flows.

  1. One of the things I loved about NNW 3.x was the Dinosaur list and the ability to sort by attention. These lists would show you, respectively, which feeds hadn’t updated in a long time and which feeds you opened the most and clicked through the most. It was great for unsubscribing from sites that were “retired”, and for re-sorting your folders and subscriptions based on the actual usage data of which feeds you were interacting with.
Feed Wrangler’s Smart Streams

This one’s from the archives. It’s my review of NetNewsWire 3.1 from almost 6 years ago:

For the basic user who checks a few feeds once a day, NNW provides a familiar and friendly environment. For an average user who has several dozen feeds to keep up on, NNW is quick and effective. And even the power user, who lives and breaths inside their feed reader, will discover that NNW has the horsepower to feed their need for feeds.

This was the very first in-depth review I ever wrote for this site. And even now NNW 3.x has remained one of my most-used apps all this time.

In fact, the latest version of NNW (beta of 4 not withstanding) is almost identical to version 3.1 that I reviewed, except that 3.2 added support for Google Reader as a sync engine. That speaks a lot to the quality and longevity of NNW. How many apps are you using today that could stand the test of time so well with so little change?

Amidst all the kerfuffle of Google Reader alternatives, I thought long and hard about continuing my use of NNW 3 on the Mac and just turning off the Google sync. But I check feeds from my iPhone and iPad far too often and the overlap of unread items would drive me nuts.

And I know I’m not the only one. This weekend a lot of us will say goodbye to an old friend. You’ll forgive me if I’m a little sentimental, but if you’ve been reading this site for longer than a day you know I’ve got an affinity for fine software.

So… Cheers to what was arguably the most popular desktop feed reader ever, and what is certainly one of the greatest of the greats among Mac apps.

NetNewsWire: Just What You Wanted

Lex Friedman tried out oodles of RSS services and apps so that you wouldn’t have to. He’s using Feedbin as the backend, syncing to Reeder on the iPhone, Mr. Reader on the iPad, and then using the browser on the Mac (this was obviously written before today’s ReadKit update).

Me? I’m using Feed Wrangler as the backend, syncing to Mr. Reader on the iPad and ReadKit on the Mac (while waiting for Reeder’s update that will support Feed Wrangler).

Alternative RSS Solutions for Mac and iOS Users

Jeremy Olson, while in the midst of an iOS 7-friendly redesign of his app, Hours, has written down some great points about redesigning an app for iOS 7:

Winning apps won’t merely take Apple’s default look and mimic it. Think about how boring it would be if all of our apps looked like iOS 7 Calendar or Settings. It would get old really fast. But that’s nothing new. Think about if all the apps on iOS 6 looked like iOS 6 Calendar and settings… Yep, it would be really boring.

Responding to iOS 7

Feed Wrangler is my Google Reader alternative of choice — its Smart Streams, filters, and Instapaper integration are very clever. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the native apps.

Fortunately Reeder has announced its plan to support Feed Wrangler. And today Mr. Reader was updated to support Feed Wrangler, Fever, Feedbin, Feedly, and more.

I downloaded the Mr. Reader update and logged into my Feed Wrangler account without any trouble. It took a few sync attempts before everything downloaded, but then it all worked just fine. After marking an item as read or starred in Mr. Reader, that same item’s state would be synced to the Feed Wrangler iPhone app and on the website. Just as it should be.

Most of all, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mr. Reader treats Smart Streams and filters like first-class citizens. Tapping and holding on one of them in the side bar brings up the option to edit. From there I can add or remove search terms, and select which feeds I want included in the stream, etc. The only thing missing is the ability to create new streams or filters from within Mr. Reader.

Update: You can add a smart stream or filter: just tap and hold the “plus” icon in the top-left corner. (Thanks for the tip, Ed.)

Mr. Reader Now Supports Feed Wrangler, Fever, and More

Mat Honan has a fun profile of Betaworks and their Digg team’s race to ship a Google Reader replacement:

McLaughlin saw a blog post in the Fall of 2012 speculating that Google Reader, choked of resources, was shutting down. He sent a teasing note to a friend at Google offering to “take it off their hands.” To his surprise, he got a serious reply. Google, his friend replied, had concluded that it couldn’t sell the name, user data, or code base (which would only run on their servers) and so there was nothing to actually buy.

The following February, McLaughlin, now full-time at Digg, bumped into this same pal at a TED conference. The friend warned him to act fast if he really did want to develop a Reader. “He said ‘I’m not telling you anything, but we’re not going to keep this thing around forever and maybe you want to have something ready by the end of the year.”

But instead of year’s end Google announced plans to shutter Google Reader on July 1. That same night, Digg put up a blog post announcing that it was going to build a replacement. The Internet went crazy.

Inside Digg’s Race to Build the New Google Reader

Stephen Hackett:

iOS 7 is defined by thin text and lots of white space, and the OS X Mavericks artwork closely matches that aesthetic.

However, Mavericks doesn’t bring a sweeping UI overhaul to OS X. While iBooks, Maps and a handful of other new features are being added with this release, the big changes coming to OS X this fall are under the hood.

To get an idea of what OS X (10.10? 11?) might look like with an iOS 7-inspired redesign, look no further than Rdio’s Mac app. The Rdio app on iOS is one of the most iOS 7-like app out there right now.

On OS X’s ‘Missing’ Redesign