There are lots of RSS readers in the App Store, and with each release, it seems they’re each more feature-rich and impressive. What if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles and the sometimes hefty price tag? What if you just need to know when the sites you’re interested in get an update?
NewsBee, more or less just a menubar app that links to your favorite sites, may be the answer. It’s not really an RSS reader, since you can’t actually read anything in NewsBee. Instead, it aggregates the titles and links of all the most recent posts of a particular site. But is NewsBee just enough for a menubar RSS app or not even close?Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.
What’s the Buzz About?
You’ll find NewsBee comes complete with several news feeds out of the box. The default on launch is Ycombinator’s Hacker News, a collection of tech news and culture articles from all over. Also on offer are Google News, Mashable, LifeHacker, and Reddit, among others. It’s a good mix of tips, entertainment, and old fashioned news of the world, so if you don’t really want to go any further with NewsBee, you’re still on good footing.
But why not go further? Hovering over Preferences in the dropdown menu and selecting General brings up the Site Information window. This is where you can add (or remove) NewsBee’s feeds. It’s simple enough to get rid of a feed; if you just can’t bear to look at one of those default feeds any longer, select it and click the minus sign. That should get rid of it for good.
Adding a feed may be a bit more work, but not much. Hit the plus sign, and name your new site feed. Then visit the website and find its RSS link. You’re going to need both the feed URL and the site host. The site host may be the same as the URL for the site, but it may be something like “feeds.feedburner.com,” and NewsBee will just keep popping up errors if you don’t get it right. Once you do have everything entered correctly, though, it will be available alongside the rest of your feeds.
The favicon of the site you’re currently reading will appear in your menubar; when you’ve finished, that favicon stays in your menubar until you choose new site to browse. Click on NewsBee, and you’ll get a dropdown list of the most recent posts to that blog or articles on that news site. If you want to access a different RSS, hover over Preferences, and a menu of all of your sites will pop out. Choose the one you want, and it will replace the current selection.
Hover over an article link for a quick preview, if available. When you click a link, it opens in your default browser. Again, you can’t read anything inside of NewsBee, but it will keep track of everything you’ve read elsewhere. Once you’ve clicked a link in NewsBee, you’ll see a check mark appear next to that article title. Read all of the articles in a feed, and you’ll see an entire column of check marks.
Form or Function?
NewsBee isn’t much to look at, and the favicons don’t do a whole lot for the overall aesthetic of my menubar, but NewsBee isn’t trying to win any beauty contests. In fact, it’s about as trimmed down, including trimmed of all design, as an app can be. It falls into that category of “one thing well” apps, in that it sets out to perform a single function and isn’t really interested in accomplishing a whole lot else, and that includes looking good.
While I certainly admire an adherence to simplicity, and as a menubar aficionado, I always enjoy moving any function from my Dock to the top of my display, it’s possible to be stripped down and look good at the same time. I wish NewsBee had taken a little more care with its design, especially with that of the menubar icon, so I’m not stuck looking at the logos of Mashable or Google or Feedburner or, worse yet, some backwoods blog with even worse design that NewsBee.
I’ve tried a couple of feature-rich RSS readers and have one languishing in my Dock right now. My trouble is I never seem to use them; they’re too much for me. I have to set aside time to use them, and there’s just too many cat videos on the internet waiting to be watched for me to remember to check all the great blogs I keep subscribing to and forgetting to read. Even if they’re cat blogs.
So I like having something in my crowded little menubar that’s both simple to use and easy to access whenever I have a free moment. That’s where NewsBee fits in. If I have a moment switching between projects, I can open a link or two from NewsBee and catch up with a couple of blogs. Just a few minutes is all I need; it’s the omnipresence of NewsBee as a menubar app that works.
There are lots of people who don’t rely on menubar apps as much as I do, and there are plenty of people who want more features from an RSS reader. NewsBee isn’t going to be for them. For users who are willing to give up a few extraneous features for a bit of added utility, though, NewsBee may be just right.