NetNewsWire Lite: A News Reader Stripped Back to the Core

Brent Simmons, the author of, has just released a new free version of popular RSS reeder NetNewsWire. It’s called NetNewsWire Lite and is available on the Mac App Store.

Stripped back and simplified is by far the best way to go with any ‘lite’ version of software as it gives new users an easy way into your software and, in the wake of some huge Mac App Store successes, can lead to increased interest in the full version.

Let’s have a look at whether it can work for NetNewsWire…

How Light Is Lite?

This new version is specifically designed to be ‘fast and light’, and it is. NetNewsWire Lite is called such because it doesn’t have Google Reader syncing, tabs, Combined View and other features you might be used to. It does however, make an attempt to nail the basics for folks who like their apps light and lean. (There will be a full version of NetNewsWire 4.0 with Google Reader syncing and other features)

NetNewsWire Lite

Interface & Design

The interface of NetNewsWire is clean and effortlessly sleek. Imagine what it would look like if Safari had a child that was an RSS reader and you’re probably on the right track. The colour scheme is almost identical and the icons are uncannily similar.

This is, however, in no way a criticism of NetNewsWire. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I think the stripped back version works!

The Navigation Bar

It’s aimed directly at casual users, some of whom may never have used a Mac App of this ilk before. The similarities to Safari and the intuitive layout and key commands are what will suck people into the wonderful world of the RSS reader. I particularly like the use of simple key commands, the arrow keys do exactly what you feel they should do allowing you to seamlessly move between sources and articles.

Tapping the right arrow key while on an article will neatly open the nearest link, while tapping the space bar will scroll the article just the right amount…

Opening a Link

Also worth noting is how immediately logical the three column layout is. It just works. It’s clear how everything good about NewNewsWire Lite stems from an admirable attention to detail and commitment to thoughtful design on the part of the developer. My only qualm on the design front is regarding the dock icon… perhaps I’m just a little too fussy.


After using NetNewsWire for some weeks its easy to forget how much impact the simple details have on your reading experience. It rarely hesitates for anything more than a nanosecond to load an article or switch to a different source.

It’s also drastically easy to add new sources. NetNewsWire even helps you out on this front by allowing you to enter a web page rather than the address of an RSS feed, it’ll then go and faithfully try to find what you’re looking for.

Add a Source

On the functionality front NetNewsWire pretty much hits the nail on the head. It does exactly what it says it will. The three prominent central buttons are just what you need in that position. If you have 900 unread items then simply hit the ‘Mark All as Read’ button and feel the panic drift away, if you want to share your discovery then hit ‘Share’ and select your favourite method:

  • Mail Link
  • Send to Instapaper
  • Send to Twitter


Pressing the ‘Share’ button and choosing ‘Send to Twitter’ will open the official Twitter desktop client.

I’m not going to go into length about the obvious functional shortcomings of NetNewsWire Lite, things such as the lack of Google Reader syncing, because that’s precisely the point. There are things it doesn’t do!

It does, however, function extremely well as a introduction to RSS readers and would be the perfect App for any casual reader to use – straight out of the box.

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of feeds you have then simply add some folders and organise to your hearts content!


There are inevitable comparisons to be made with the multiple other RSS readers for Mac out there, but I’m going to look at the biggest potential threat to NetNewsWire Lite – Reeder for Mac.

Reeder for Mac

While it’s not actually been released yet, and so a review would be wholly unfair, it is in public beta. Reeder has a beautiful interface but does move further away from the Safari experience. This isn’t a problem, I prefer Reeder’s minimal approach, but could impact those people who’ve never used an RSS reader before – NetNewsWire Lite’s prime target audience.

Ultimately though the comparison is slightly pointless. Reeder for Mac will, in reality, be competing with the full version of NetNewsWire and that’s a story for another time. In its own field NetNewsWire Lite is an extremely adept App that provides a very enjoyable reading experience.

It is definitely worth giving Reeder a try while it’s still in public beta though!

Final Thoughts

I like NetNewsWire Lite. It’s unassuming and feels very natural to use, perfectly mimicking the kind of user experience you get with Safari. It’s not a RSS reader for hardened advocates and Google Reader users (probably one and the same), but rather a fast and light version of an excellent App that would suit many people down to the ground.

NetNewsWire is a worthy download from the Mac App Store and perfect for anyone who hasn’t yet tried to streamline their internet reading habits.


NetNewsWire Lite is a super stripped back RSS reader that makes it simple, and fast, to keep up with the news on your Mac.