If you have ever tried to browse the web with your BlackBerry you will have no doubt experienced the frustration and boredom of navigating through complex formatted web pages at the speed of cold molasses. That is why the next piece of software you put on your BlackBerry should be an RSS reader.
Though the PC platform is graced with a wide variety of RSS aggregators, those that run on the BlackBerry can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so the release of FreeNews from FreeRange Communications is a welcome addition to this small family.
Two of the important details you want to know about a feed are when it was last updated and how many unread articles there are. That information can take up a lot of valuable screen real estate on a mobile device like a BlackBerry, so instead of displaying that data alongside each feed, FreeNews displays that information for the currently selected feed only right at the top of the screen â€“ nice touch.
The feeds themselves are displayed in outline format, indented under their Categories and Sub-Categories. This makes viewing easy, but the outline metaphor does not extend to being able to collapse and expand categories â€“ hence each category heading is more or less wasted space on the screen as you canâ€™t do anything with it. Fortunately FreeNews has a configurable display which you can reach by clicking the wheel and choosing Settings then Display. There I was able to decide between displaying the top level Categories, Categories and Sub-Categories, the Feeds, or all the individual articles in one long list. I chose the Feeds view as that is what I am used to on my PC RSS reader.
You view the articles in a feed by pressing the Enter key on your BlackBerry or by clicking the scroll wheel and choosing Open. Each new article is preceded by a small red square, signifying that it is unread, which turns to grey after reading the article. You can change this unread behavior in the Settings, choosing unread articles to be displayed in red text, or in bold, instead of being represented by the red square. Settings also allows you to choose between various themes that affect the color of text and background as well as choose between a full display or split screen.