Sunday, July 4, 2010

FreeRange Reader

RIP mDigger...sort of. Just a year after I adopted mDigger Reader as a replacement for AvantGo to keep up with news and RSS on my Windows Mobile PDA, mDigger decided to drop support for Windows Mobile, shifting their focus solely to Apple's iPhone and iPad platforms.

Once again, forced to hunt for alternatives, I first investigated Viigo. However, that was recently purchased by RIM, the company behind Blackberry, so they've killed all non-Blackberry platform support for the app.

Many other programs out there either required purchasing and/or did not download more than an RSS feed itself, which often doesn't include a full article in the case of news. However, I happened upon FreeRange Reader. This program gives the option to configure a feed to download the full story page for each headline when updated. It effectively downloads the normal verison of the wepage but reformats it for better reading on a mobile device.

FreeRange Reader seems to be what I will be using for now...I don't know how long this run will last, as it seems development has stopped since the company was purchased by Handmark. The version for Windows Mobile was last updated in 2007, and the version for Blackberry was last updated in 2008. Compared to mDigger, FreeRange doesn't have as extensive of a catalog of feeds, but since you can configure it to download full stories for any feed you find, there is a nice flexibility there (mDigger required the developers to create an mClip for any feed that didn't include a full story; this did yield better formatting than what I get with FreeRange though). The feed configuration is online, which is also handy.

Some gotchas with FreeRange:
  • Each feed that only has headlines instead of full stories needs to be individually told to download the full story. This configuration can only be done from the mobile device and not from the web configuration.

  • It works on VGA devices (like my Dell Axim x51v), mostly. Fonts show up larger than they should and are not as crisp as they could be.

  • Scrollbars don't show up in some parts of the configuration where they should. Of note is the "screen font" configuration page. I use size 6 to get a reasonable font size, but I had to use the directional pad while in the drop-down to select it, as it is hidden by default.

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