Custom Reader 1.5 Full Review


Now, I'm impressed. I got a prerelease version of CR 1.5 in my email
after posting. Quentin is right on top of this one. The Customer
Service is good and I'm glad to see it. Therefore I want to start
completely over with a full review of CR. I'll take my time on this one
to make it complete. After my prior post, Quentin said they were going
to put a link to download on the front page. It wasn't there as of
August 8, 2005 but I have no reason to doubt him. He also gave me a
link to a pre-release version 1.5 of the CR. This is the one I'll
review.
Let me start by saying – while in my prior review (which I'm told the
version I had was really old), few things worked, everything seems to
work now! That's an improvement and a welcome one at that.

Installation

Download and install was flawless this time. The
install wizard walked me through the options and the EULA. Custom
reader started with it's own series of feeds already in place. Some of
these interested me, most did not. But RSS is all about me, it's what I
want to read – when I want to read it: now. So I tentatively clicked Feeds >Import/export>Import OPML… and glory! All my feeds transfered flawlessly.

Interface

There are two interface options, "Classic view" and "modern view". The
classic view has the feed subscriptions on the left and a reading pane
on the right. The Modern view dispenses with the reading pane and uses
a glorified tool tip to display each channel's round of headlines and
articles.
Classic View Classic View
Modern View
Modern View
This is where my personal preferences begin to alternately groan and
grin.
I really like the clean look of the modern view, but I was miffed that
it would only "dock" on the right side of the screen for left side
viewing. But the next day when I opened the viewer there was an update
(I really like the auto update features on CR.) That update fixed a few
flaws I had planned to report on, and one of them was the docking. Now
I can dock on the left of my screen and read the popups on the right
which is what my odd shaped brain wanted! (Thanks CR!)
As an added bonus when I minimize it, CR goes to the system tray hiding
neatly away while I do my real work. Every once in awhile (according to
my schedule) CR checks for new news and provides a nice little popup
informing me that I have X new feeds and tells me which ones they are.
One click takes me there and I can be up to date and back to work in
seconds.

Reading the news

Reading the news however is still too much
work for me. There are a couple of features missing that I personally
want, I want "One key reading". I want to be able to scroll through all
my headlines hitting only the spacebar. And when I leave a category I
want it marked as read. Of course not everyone wants this, but it
should be an option on a reader claiming to be full featured.
Also when I'm reading via the popup with a mouse there needs to be a
little "Mark this channel read" button. As it is right now I have to
right click to bring up a context menu to mark a channel read. (Yes
this might keep the interface clean but it doesn't have to be a large
button.
When reading the articles all that pops up is a title and seldom a
summary, even in feeds that send the whole article; and forget about
loading graphics. I'm one of those people that actually wants to read
the whole feed (if it's part of the rss/xml file) in my newsreader. I
know that not all feeds are complete but some feeds like "savage
chickens" (http://www.savagechickens.com/) include the graphic pointer
and CR doesn't download the graphic. Some graphics do download in the
classic view, but not all.

Threading

Nothing happy here. One of the features that I'm
starting to look for in a newsreader is the ability to download
threading. Bottomfeeder doesn't quite do what I want but it's ahead of
CR here. Some sites like Slashdot have lots of running commentary
underneath. CR doesn't have the capacity to notify when those comments
are updated. I won't mark this as part of a pro or con though since I'm
not really aware of a reader that handles these well.
Aside from these few rants, I found Custom Reader to be stable – and
fairly clean. If I wasn't enjoying Bottomfeeder at the moment I still
wouldn't switch because I'm persnickety about a comprehensive
"newspaper" view where all my feeds are (completely) loaded onto one or
a successsion of screens and I can read them all with one finger on my
spacebar.
Pro's:

  • Clean interface
  • excellent updating
  • fast loading
  • great customer service
  • Alternative views will be appreciated by many readers.
  • tracking (feedrank) is easily disabled.
  • Import of OPML files worked perfectly in this version.
  • Weather is now included as your first feed.

Con's:

  • It "smells like" spyware since it sends information home but
    on the pro side feedrank can be disabled. (had to mention that pro
    again.)
  • I can't read all my feeds at once, I really don't like switching one at a time.
  • Feeds are not automatically marked as read unless I click on the heading to read the whole article on the web-site.
  • I hate having feeds that I can't unsubscribe and whoever customizes CR for you get's to pick which one's are permanent.

Well there it is, for the most part anyway. CR is a mature – fairly
full featured news reader. It has lots of features and ease of use that
the average user will find quite beneficiall but I believe power users
who want a touch more control will be frustrated by the occasional
restrictions on the way they are used to doing things.
OH and one more note: I just hit the Custom Reader website and they've added a link to the demo. I really encourage you to download it and check it out.
Modified: Quentin replied again but I'm having problems getting Haloscan to count the comments. Fix in progress….