Monday, May 5, 2003

NewzCrawler as Aggregator

In making the switch from Radio to Movable Type, I needed to find a replacement for my News Aggregator. I tried several – including Amphetadesk and NewsGator – before deciding on NewzCrawler.

Some of the key features that make NewzCrawler a superior aggregator over the others:

  • RSS Autodiscovery. It serves as an agent that monitors websites I’m visiting through my browser. If it sees a site with RSS autodiscovery turned on, a pop-up window appears asking if I want to subscribe to the feed. This is exactly how it should be.
  • Organization of feeds by category. Rather than have a list of feeds I’m subscribed to, I want to segregate the feeds into categories. I set up folders in NewzCrawler for Politics, Technology (KM & General), Friends, Law, and others. Feeds are now sorted into those folders – allowing me the ability to easily focus on just the topics I’m interested in.
  • Search news items. NewzCrawler allows me to search across all feeds for words I’m interested in. (Kind of like a Feedster for my hard drive.)
  • Manual update and scheduled update. Radio only let me check once/hour for new items, and if I wanted to update in between the scheduled interval, I had to shut down Radio and restart. NewzCrawler not only gives you complete control over how often you want to update, you can also do a manual update (right click on the feed or folder and select “update”).
  • Newspaper. This really extends the functionality of the feeds grouped by folder. If I just want to see what items are new in the politics folder, I right-click on “Politics” and select “Make Newspaper”. It then rolls up all new items and presents them in a separate window so I can quickly scan all new items. If I prefer to scan new items by individual feed, I can do that too.
  • Drag and drop. If I’m visiting a website that doesn’t have auto-discovery turned on but does have an RSS link, I can just drag that link to NewzCrawler, which will then start the new feed subscription wizard. Takes a lot less time than manually adding in new URLs for RSS feeds.
  • Blog This. Whenever looking at an item, I can click a button and it will automatically pull up a new post window. This uses Movable Type’s API so that posts are made directly to the server; MT handles the formatting and uploading to the weblog site.

There’s a few rough edges. NewzCrawler has crashed on me a couple times. It doesn’t always seem to remember that it’s already seen an item in the aggregator (although, in its defense, this could also be a result of poorly-formatted or maintained RSS feeds – I don’t know). On the balance, this is a quantum leap up from my prior aggregator, and is certain to improve my ability to monitor multiple feeds for various weblogs.


  1. Thanks for the tip. It's always helpful to have useful new tools reviewed in context. I may be looking for a new aggregator soon myself.

    -- twf

  2. Thanks for the tip. It's always helpful to have useful new tools reviewed in context. I may be looking for a new aggregator soon myself.

    -- twf

  3. Will NewzCrawler import my OPML file for subscriptions?

  4. Terry - yes, I started out by importing my Radio mySubscriptions.opml file. From there, I then sorted them by category.

  5. I agree, Rick - NewzCrawler is an excellent aggregator. I too tried several before deciding on NC. One additional point worth noting is that for news sources without RSS feed there is the Web pages folder - it's easy to add the url and then up pops the page.

    An excellent package - I may even pay for it soon :-)