I must admit that I’m very new to the RSS craze; until quite recently I got my updates by signing up for email alerts from CNN & MSNBC and watching the TV news. But now that I’m trying to improve the news coverage on my site, and am also writing a monthly news feature for Computer Power User magazine, I need to stay more current than ever on what’s going on in the handheld/smartphone/portable gaming/music player industries. That means that I need a great RSS reader on my handheld, because I don’t always have time to do all my reading at the office.
NewsBreak is Ilium Software’s entry into the RSS genre, and it’s a great one. After installation, the program walks you through the process of adding RSS newsfeeds with a handy wizard utility. The first step is to specify whether you want to search for a channel online or already know the URL; then you add the URL, name the channel, and finish the wizard. If that sounds like too much for you, you can get a list of RSS newsfeeds from the mobile portion of the Ilium web site here. They’re divided into helpful categories like headline news, PDA sites, sports, stocks, etc. and all you have to do is open the file for the category you’re interested in, check the sites you’d like to add, and NewsBreak takes care of everything else. Every time you connect your device to your computer, or when you’re at a WiFi access point and want to update, all of your newsfeeds are automatically updated, and the main screen shows you how many new stories there are for each feed. Tap on the feed you’re interested in to get all the headlines, and tap on one of those to read the actual story. If the feed includes pictures or logos, you’ll see them too.
The menus are straightforward and offer the appropriate options for each screen. When you’re on the main feed list page, you have the option to change the properties for each channel, filter channels, refresh, set your auto-update preferences, set up keyword searches to find the most relevant news for your interests, export your feed information, and choose whether or not you want feed data to be stored on a memory expansion card instead of main memory. When you’re actually reading a story, the menu options change to allow you to select from one of five different text sizes, whether or not you want to use ClearType, and also gives you the option to save the link to a file or send it via email. I also appreciate the nice little details, such as the fact that stories are sorted to the bottom once you read them, so that when you get updates you can very quickly see what’s new for each site. Each story also includes a link to the complete story online, which you can access with a single tap. If you happen to be reading your feeds while your device is docked, the Internet passthrough connection will pull down the data for you and open the site in Internet Explorer; otherwise you’ll need WiFi access.
Of course there are a lot of great RSS readers for the desktop, but if you want to catch up on the go and make that time waiting in line at the grocery store and the post office more productive, you can’t do much better than NewsBreak. I found it to be fully featured and easy to use, and it has become a regular part of my daily routine. You can get a free 30 day trial or purchase a full license for Windows Mobile or Windows smartphone for $19.95 at the Ilium Software web site.