Chill Pill: The Cocoa Touch to Cure Your RSS Fever

RSS — “Really Simple Syndication”. It’s the Web’s answer to staying up to date. There are a myriad of RSS readers out there, from native apps for nearly every platform imaginable, to web apps that promise cross-platform synchronization and consistent UIs. Today we’re going to look at an app that promises the best of both worlds — native and web.

If you’re familiar with the hip web scene, you’ve probably heard of Shaun Inman. He’s the guy behind Mint, pioneered sIFR, and recently started development on an epic iOS platform game called Mimeo. He also created a unique solution to the RSS Reader conundrum — Fever.

But today’s article isn’t about Fever. Fever is a web app, and you can read a nice review of it on our sister site Web.AppStorm. This is a review of the app Chill Pill for the Mac — a Cocoa-based Fever experience. Read on to see how it leverages OS X to heighten the Fever experience.

Chill Pill’s Purpose

Chill Pill is designed as a native app version for Mac OS X of the web app Fever. The developers sum things up quite nicely on the Chill Pill site:

Chill Pill allows you to enjoy Fever’s rich RSS experience while taking advantage of Cocoa and all of the other modern technologies in Mac OS X.

Chill Pill's Main UI

Chill Pill's Main UI

That’s a common goal, translating a web experience into one native to a certain platform. It’s been done with Google Reader in apps like Gruml and Reeder for OS X. But when that happens, you become stuck between two UI designs. Do you retain the conventions of the web app? Or do you switch to one more at home in the desktop environment?

In my opinion, you should utilize the native platform you’re building on to the full. Native apps have advantages that the web can only dream of at this point. And that creates a niche for your app to live in.

Features

Chill Pill can be found in the Mac App Store for $1.99. Right there are two important features.

The Mac App Store is the hottest place to buy software right now. It’s got the weight of Apple behind it, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Being on there is an important feature for new Mac apps today.

The $1.99 price is also a feature. While some may look at that as a worrying sign of downward pricing trends in the App Store, I see a different reason for it. Chill Pill adds an additional $2 price tag to Fever. Fever costs $30 alone.

Already that’s twice NetNewsWire, one of the most popular Mac RSS readers. Chill Pill knows that it has to hit impulse purchase price, and I think it has.

From the outset, there aren’t a ton of obvious features that Chill Pill offers, beyond Fever itself. Across the bottom of the screen is a toolbar of sorts. In the left hand corner are three buttons — add, remove, and settings. In the right hand corner is a search box.

While the add feed and remove feed buttons are new additions to Fever’s feature set, the settings and search are prominent features of Fever’s current UI, and are still in the main Fever area of Chill Pill.

It seems to me that if they want to be “taking advantage of Cocoa and all of the other modern technologies in Mac OS X,” then they would be replacing Fever’s features — or at least their UI — with their Cocoa counterparts, rather than duplicating functionality.

If there’s a way to access Settings through Chill Pill that is superior to the way Fever natively does it, then why leave Fever’s way intact?

Chill Pill's Bottom Buttons

Chill Pill's Bottom Buttons

So, on the surface, Chill Pill doesn’t seem to add much to the Fever experience. But cracking open the Preferences gives us some more to play with. You can set Chill Pill to open articles in their built-in article viewer, a Webkit-based in-app browser which is nice.

You can set Chill Pill to display a Growl notification when new items appear, and Chill Pill also offers the ability to apply custom user stylesheets to Fever. They say you can customize it however you want.

See, this begs the question to me, if they have this kind of control, why don’t the utilize it to customize Fever themselves, removing that duplicated functionality I mentioned earlier?

Chill Pill's Preferences

Chill Pill's Preferences

Where To Grow

Ok, so maybe I’ve been a little harsh on Chill Pill. But, everything I’ve said has been in good spirit. Desktop clients to web services really need to justify their existence if they’re going to take off.

Look at the Twitter client market: Twitterific’s UI keeps people coming back, TweetDeck’s power and customization draw people to it. If Chill Pill wants to succeed, it has to really do what it claims, leveraging all the modern technologies of Mac OS X.

They’ve started. Growl integration is nice. Custom stylesheets are cool too, especially for the clientele of such an app. But there’s so much room to grow.

Chill Pill needs to take a look at Fever’s weak points and strengthen them, while making its brightest features shine even more. Fever’s built on a unique concept of grabbing the “temperature” of the news you’re interested in. That is — and rightly should be — the first thing you see when you crack open Chill Pill.

But once you move past “What’s Hot”, the experience of reading individual blogs could be better. Perhaps they could take that as an opportunity.

I think the biggest thing Chill Pill needs to do is expand the Cocoa integration of the app. Rather than layering on some buttons at the bottom of Fever’s current UI, they need to make more of the UI Mac-like.

Create a better navigation area for starters. Turn as much as they can from web technologies into Cocoa UI elements. If they can present an even better UI than Fever’s original, then they’ll justify their reason for being here. And they’ll win themselves a lot of fans.

Wrap Up

The bottom line here is — I do like Chill Pill. I think for anyone who uses Fever on a regular basis, it’s a steal at $1.99.

The basic feature set that it currently sports isn’t enough to entice a wide enough array of customers though. If they come back with a strong update that integrates Cocoa UI elements and features into it, they could take the Fever community by storm and carve themselves a well-earned niche.


Summary

Chill Pill allows you to enjoy Fever's rich RSS experience while taking advantage of Cocoa and all of the other modern technologies in Mac OS X.

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  • http://twitter.com/richardzimmer Richard

    Unfortunately, Chill Pill doesn’t support HTML5. So, you’ll need to have Flash installed to view any video content, if you come across any in your RSS feeds. Otherwise, solid software!

    • http://zachlebar.com Zach LeBar

      Thanks for bringing that up Richard. Hadn’t noticed that. Definitely something to keep in mind. Though I wonder if that’s a deficiency in the Chill Pill app or in Fever itself.

  • Joshua Hamilton

    I’m a big fan of Fever, and Chill Pill has piqued my interest, but honestly how does it really provide any advantage over something like Fluid?

    (Personally I prefer the regular in-browser experience to Fluid anyway.)

  • Mel Buckpitt

    The weakness with this is that it needs Fever. If you don’t have a server and the php chops to install and debug the Fever script then you’re stuffed.

  • http://www.hammyhavoc.com Hammy Havoc

    Pretty great concept, though I think it still needs a little refinement to be a truly viable competitor to NetNewsWire.

  • http://chillpillapp.com Nicholas Penree

    Hello,

    Thanks for your feedback on Chill Pill. I’m the primary Chill Pill developer. We’re happy to see people interested in the product. We have plans to implement native experiences for much of what Fever offers.

    I wish you could have mentioned some of the cool things that mix the web app and Mac app together like customizable styles or multi-touch gestures. Two or three finger swipe right over an article to open it in your preferred browser (or article viewer). Two or three finger swipe left to switch between your lists. Three finger swipe up or down to navigate the list.

    Chill Pill 1.x is just the beginning, we think you’ll like what we have in store for the future.

    Nicholas Penree
    Conceited Software

    • http://zachlebar.com Zach LeBar

      Hi Nicholas,

      Thanks for taking the time out to read my article. So nice to hear you guys are planning on continuing to work on Chill Pill. My apologies for not highlighting the gestures. I work on an iMac and use an older Wacom tablet instead of a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad, so I wasn’t aware of them, and didn’t get to test them out.

      Looking forward to seeing how Chill Pill grows. I’d love to get some updates on how it goes along the way. Feel free to get in touch.

  • http://spigotdesign.com/ Bryan Hoffman

    I’ve purchased Chill Pill and while it’s good, it only offers a few tricks over what the Fluid version of Fever can do.

    Looking forward to future versions however, as well as a more distinctive dock icon. (I replaced my with the Fever icon).

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