Review: NewsRoom | webOS Nation
 
 

Review: NewsRoom 45

by Robert Werlinger Wed, 03 Feb 2010 4:10 pm EST

In-app feed management? Check. Excellent user interface? Check. Per-feed configurable dashboard notifications? Check. NewsRoom ($4.99 in the App Catalog) is a serious contender in the ever crowded RSS reader space. Serious enough, in fact, that you may soon find yourself replacing your current RSS reader with this one.

Features and Use

The UI is decidedly iPhone-esque. Inpidual feeds are displayed as icons in a grid, and notifications of unread articles are displayed in a small circle to the top right of each icon. This isn’t gimmicky: it’s actually a nice departure from the standard list view that’s prevalent in many of the RSS readers currently available on webOS. Tapping an icon causes it to perform a little dance before putting you into the desired feed, and holding the orange (or “alt” key as it’s now called) and tapping on a feed will bring up a prompt asking if you want to delete or refresh the feed. Tapping and holding on a feed allows you to rearrange its position on the main screen and even create new pages, similar to how moving icons around on the webOS launcher works.

 

One big thing setting News Room apart from its contemporaries in the Catalog is the ability to configure RSS feeds from the app itself. Most of the readers available are ultimately extensions of Google Reader, which means that if you want to manage your feeds, you have to log into your reader account via the browser on your phone or on the desktop. While this isn’t a huge headache since the mobile reader site is actually quite pleasant to use, it’s really nice to be able to do everything from the phone.

Once in a feed, articles are first displayed as thumbnails which can be navigated between using familiar side swipe gesture. From this screen, you can also easily star articles for viewing in the “Starred” section, and tapping or performing the up swipe gesture on an article moves the full article into view. You can also easily change between feeds by utilizing a UI element at the bottom of the screen.

Feed management is done though the “site manager” menu. From this screen, you can delete feeds and choose which feeds will send notifications to the dashboard when updated, a feature that I’d like to see in every RSS reader. Additional configuration options allow you to set tap behavior (tapping opens only unread articles, double tap opens all articles), read behavior (articles are marked read only as you view them), and toggle background updates.

NewsRoom excels in the ease of use department. The eye candy is a real treat, and the way that the feeds are displayed as icons is a nice touch. There are also some great UI flourishes here: from the main screen, the up swipe gesture brings you right into your unread articles, and the down swipe gesture allows you to clear all unread articles. Adding feeds is also quite easy, and the lack of Google Reader integration really isn’t an issue here. You can add feeds right from the main screen by hitting the “+” button, bringing to you a menu that shows featured feeds (including PreCentral, CNN and the BBC), a search option, and a place to enter a specific URL.

Overall performance is excellent; I found that the speed of updating, adding and managing feeds, and navigating the program was easily on par with with the RSS reader I use on a daily basis, Scoop ($0.99 in the App Catalog), which says a lot.

Summary

Color me impressed. Sure, News Room is on the steeper side of the price spectrum, but it's easily one of the most polished apps in the App Catalog. The excellent user interface, superior configurability, ability to manage feeds right from the app without having to fuss with my Google Reader account all go towards making this one of top RSS readers available to webOS.

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