NetNewsWire is reborn on iOS

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radar dish NetNewsWire
NetNewsWire has used a satellite as an app icon since forever.
Photo: Donald Giannatti/Unsplash

Nerds of a certain age will have a warm place in their dorky hearts for NetNewsWire. First released in 2002, for years it was the best RSS newsreader on the Mac. At some point, a terrible version turned up on iOS, then withered and died. Now, original developer Brent Simmons is back in charge, and a new, free iOS version of NetNewsWire just launched for iPhone and iPad.

NetNewsWire is back

NetNewsWire is an RSS reader app. That means you give it the URL of pretty much any website/blog, and it will aggregate all the new posts and articles from that site. It’s similar to other apps like Fiery Feeds, Reeder and Unread.

NetNewsWire circa 2008.
NetNewsWire circa 2008.
Photo: Black Pixel

The history of NetNewsWire reads like the plot of a 1980s soap opera. It was created by internet nice guy Simmons, and then eventually sold. Then it was sold again, and along the way, some truly awful apps were launched for iOS. Then, the rights to the name were given back to Simmons. Now it’s a part-time, open-source project, done for love. And it shows. This is an impressive app — technically, design-wise and looks-wise.

Beautiful, fast, easy: Pick 3

NetNewsWire is modern, clean and fast.
Modern, clean and fast.
Photo: Ranchero

Previous users will recognize the app right away. It’s clean, clear and has plenty of blue all over the place. The app is also — just like the original Mac version — fast. Really fast. Loading all your feeds is quick, and the app itself is super-responsive. When I loaded an OPML backup file of all my usual feeds to test the app, it loaded the file, and all the associated news stories, in moments.

Syncing feeling

Speaking of loading articles, this initial version only supports Feedly and Feedbin sync. If you use NewsBlur or any other online RSS service to sync all your feeds, you’re going to have to wait for support to be added.

NetNewsWire also offers great iOS support in general. It uses contextual menus, supports multiple windows on the iPad, and works with a ton of keyboard shortcuts. The original Mac version was also exemplary in this regard. And like the Mac version, you can pretty much navigate the entire app with an attached keyboard, paging through all your unread news without ever touching the screen. Speaking of Mac versions, Simmons’ modern reincarnation of NetNewsWire is already available on the Mac, too.

I really like the new iPad version of NetNewsWire so far. I’ll have to wait for it to support my preferred sync service, but when it does, I may even be tempted away from the awesome power of Fiery Feeds on iPad or the understated beauty of Reeder.

NetNewsWire: RSS Reader

Price: Free

Download: NetNewsWire: RSS Reader from the App Store (iOS)