You navigate between articles using the scroll wheel, the default behavior of which is to scroll by one full page as it reaches the bottom of the screen. I found that a little disorientating so I was glad to find that setting could be changed to the more traditional line by line scrolling. If you just want to browse through the article headings and flag those of interest, you can click the wheel on an article and choose Mark Later. This will add the article to the â€œMarked for laterâ€ category at the top of the main screen. You can access this category and just view those articles that piqued your interest as you reviewed them.
To access the body of the article, click the wheel and choose Open, or press Enter, the feed name and article title appear at the top of the screen along with the unread count of articles in that feed. There are keyboard shortcuts to move between the next and previous articles so you donâ€™t have to escape out to the list of articles to navigate between them.
One of the problems with other RSS aggregators on the BlackBerry is that if you want to view the full text of the article it will hand you off to the BlackBerry Browser to retrieve the full page â€“ back to frustration and boredom. FreeNews has its own built in text only browser so when you choose to read the full article it comes down in just a few seconds.
As for managing the feeds themselves, you can do this either on the device or via the website where you can add, edit and delete feed subscriptions. You also have the option to import an OPML file containing feed subscriptions from your computer. It makes more sense to manage your feeds on the website from your computer, as well as having the luxury of a larger keyboard to edit with, I found at least one feed URL that was too long to fit the input field on the device, but was accepted by the form on the web site.
A welcome feature is the ability to update your feeds as soon as you launch the program, most other RSS aggregators have you enter the program first and then choose an update option. Of course if you are not in coverage area this will fail, and you can always choose to update the feeds on demand from the menu.
Another nice touch is the ability to set up nicknames via the web site so that when you want to forward an interesting article to a colleague via email you can just enter their short nickname rather than have to type in a lengthy email address.
Unfortunately because all the feeds go through a proxy server at FreeRange, you will not be able to add any RSS feeds that reside in your company intranet behind a firewall â€“ you will need a standalone RSS reader for that.
FreeRange have developed an excellent RSS reader for the mobile platform, well thought out, well laid out, and with excellent performance. These folks are mobile users and it shows, recommended. The program is available for $19.95 at Neon Toad, http://www.neontoad.com
Reviewed by Stuart Hunter. Stuart Hunter is a computer consultant specializing in wireless and mobility solutions such as BlackBerry and Websphere. A native of Scotland, Stuart has written two books on Lotus Notes and now lives in South Florida with his wife and daughter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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