inessential by Brent Simmons

January 2003

NetNewsWire 1.0b14

NetNewsWire 1.0b14 adds a new command to the Services menu: Subscribe in NetNewsWire.

When you select text—the URL in the address bar of Safari or Chimera, for instance—you can choose the Subscribe in NetNewsWire command to subscribe to the site associated with that URL.

NetNewsWire of course uses RSS auto-discovery to find the RSS feed, if the selected URL doesn’t point to the RSS feed.

Other changes in this release include support for Blosxom sub-sub-folders, sub-sub-sub-folders, and so on.

More details are on the change notes page.

Rise of the Uber-Browser

Dave Hyatt on browsers and RSS: “Now that I’ve started using NetNewsWire to read blogs, I find it frustrating to be constantly switching back and forth between NetNewsWire and Safari. This led me to wonder: should RSS capabilities and browsing capabilities be merged into a single ‘uber-browser’ application?”

My opinion is, of course, no. NetNewsWire should use Safari’s renderer so you don’t have to switch to a browser (unless you want to).


I’m not a fan of George Bush. But if he proposes a mission to Mars in his state of the Union speech—as the Guardian reports he may do—then I still won’t be a fan of George Bush, but I’ll be hugely excited about the mission to Mars.

It’s time to do it. We’re way behind on space travel.

Jay Allen on RSS

Jay Allen on RSS: Spreading the Word(s).

Jay’s theory: “Traditional BigCo. news sites (and even some bloggers!) don’t want to publish RSS feeds because they feel like they’re giving away the golden goose. They think that if they give people content through RSS that they’ll never visit their site.”

NetNewsWire review

I love this review of NetNewsWire.

“I get really annoying when I find a new toy. I tell every person I know about it, I construct my day around it, and every answer to every question passes threw the new toy neuron in my head. This means if you ask me, ‘Hey Rands, what’s 7 + 3?’ I first think, ‘How can the new toy help me answer this?’ before I say, ‘10’.”

Where Next for RSS?

Tim Bray: Where Next for RSS?

Good article. I have a few NetNewsWire-specific responses, of course.

1. The first issue Tim writes about is what to do when you’re away from your home machine. What about your RSS subscription list when you’re on a kiosk machine somewhere? There are lots of ways to solve this problem, and it’s definitely on my mind.

But first things first—shipping NetNewsWire Pro comes first.

2. Tim asks, “Why do I have to use a non-Web-browser to chase Web content?”

Web browsers aren’t always the most efficient means of viewing data. Check out Watson (or Sherlock) to see what I mean.

I think what we’ll see is more applications using HTML rather than Web browsers including more applications.

3. A few notes about the traffic problem...

NetNewsWire supports ETag and last-modified headers to cut way down on the amount of bandwidth it uses. You can even look at your bandwidth use by choosing Show Bandwidth Stats from the View menu.

The Pro version of NetNewsWire caches feeds on disk, so it uses even less bandwidth.

Tim also writes: “There is going to be an ungodly traffic bulge every morning, and then at half-hour intervals all day.”

About the half-hour intervals—NetNewsWire does not update at :00 and :30 but at intervals since launch time. This staggers the traffic.

Stop it

Dave Hyatt (Safari guy): “If you’re trying to embed the Safari layout engine right now, stop it! :)”


Actually, I stopped a few days ago. A real HTML renderer for NetNewsWire will have to wait until embedding the Safari renderer is actually do-able.

I strongly considered using Gecko, but it adds just a ton of size to the app—nearly 20MB. (Even stripped and optimized and all that.)

Anyone figure out how to use WebCore?

Has anyone figured out how to use WebCore yet?

I’m finding the same things already reported at the Oops Cocoa Blog—that what we need is WebKit or similar. (WebKit is part of Safari: it uses WebCore.)

Otherwise I’ve made better progress with Gecko. I’d rather use the faster and smaller Safari renderer in NetNewsWire. But I can actually get Gecko to work, and I haven’t been able to get WebCore to work. (At least not yet.)

I suppose I could always use Gecko at first, then switch to WebCore at some later date.

What to do?

A couple people have sent me notes on how to change my CSS so my sites display in Safari. (Thanks!)

But now I’m in a weird position. Do I fix my sites so they render in Safari, or do I leave my sites as-is so the Safari folks can see them and fix the Safari bug?

I have a particular interest in being Safari-viewable, given that people reading this site are (mostly) Mac early-adopter types and they’re the ones most likely to use Safari.

On the other hand, you’re probably reading this in an RSS news reader. So I think I’ll leave my sites as-is for now. I think.

Two NetNewsWire tips

There are two things people sometimes don’t notice about NetNewsWire.

1. The space bar works to go to the next unread headline. If the current headline needs to scroll (in the HTML view), it will scroll instead of going to the next unread headline. This way you can just motor through all the unread news by using the space bar.

2. You can organize subscriptions into groups. Choose New Group from the Subscriptions menu. Groups are like folders. You can drag subscriptions into a group.

Safari notes

Count me among those who:

1. Wish Safari wasn’t metallic.

2. Wish Safari had tabbed browsing.

3. Wish I could turn off animated GIFs.

4. Wish I could disable plug-ins individually (especially Flash).

5. Wish Safari could render and

But also count me among those who like it. It’s fast.

Nevertheless I remain a Chimera user, at least for now.

Speaking of Chimera—I noticed that in recent builds they fixed the bug where, if you have NetNewsWire tell your browser to open pages in the background, Chimera would always open pages in new windows instead of new tabs. Now it works properly, it uses new tabs. (If that’s how you’ve set up Chimera.)

This means that you can read news in NetNewsWire, opening stories as you go without Chimera coming to the front. Then you can switch to Chimera and read the pages you’ve opened. It’s slick.

NetNewsWire and HTML rendering

A number of emails have asked me if NetNewsWire will use the new HTML rendering engine that Safari uses.

Great question.

I’d like to include a better HTML renderer in NetNewsWire, and perhaps even include a mini-browser as an option for viewing stories so you don’t have to jump to your web browser.

Coincidentally, the weekend before MacWorld I downloaded the Mozilla source to see how Gecko integration might work. As a test case I did a version of BlogBrowser that uses Gecko instead of Apple’s built-in HTML renderer. (The pre-Safari renderer.)

It worked wonderfully. Totally cool.

Except that BlogBrowser was suddenly 258.8 MB in size.

Holy frijoles!

Obviously there’s a way to strip that down, or else Chimera and Mozilla would be much huger than they are. (On my machine Chimera is 21.4 MB.)

Still, though, a rough guess tells me that adding the Gecko renderer would add ~15 MB to NetNewsWire’s size.

Safari, on the other hand, is 7.1 MB. Adding Safari’s renderer would add about 4 MB to NetNewsWire. A better choice in terms of size—and it appears that Safari’s renderer is faster, too.

On the other hand, Safari appears to do a less good job of rendering sites. My sites and are totally broken in Safari. I don’t know why (yet)—maybe it’s a bug in my HTML or CSS, maybe not.

So... what does all this mean for NetNewsWire? No decisions yet. More investigation is needed.

I like very much that there’s a choice. Neither option is perfect. There are trade-offs.

But I prefer having a choice, with all its trade-offs, to having no choice.




Sheila and I will be at MacWorld Tuesday and Wednesday. We don’t have a booth, we’ll just be walking around.

So if you see us, please do come up and say hello. We’re nice folks.

Sheila is now, by the way, the second half of Ranchero Software—we’re a mom-and-pop software company.

(Here’s what we look like.)

Image uploading

An extension to the various weblog APIs that I’d love to see would be easy image uploading.

Not just images, but movies, Flash files, etc.

I get lots of requests for that as a feature to add to NetNewsWire. Unfortunately there isn’t a common API similar to the MetaWeblog API for uploading media files to weblogs.

But hey, listen—webloggers (at least some of them) really want this.