NetNewsWire and iPhone-Sized Data

I’ve been using NetNewsWire to read feeds on my Mac ever since it debuted in 2003, and I started using the iPhone version of NetNewsWire as soon as it appeared, too. But I found that over time, I was using the iPhone version less and less.

As you might imagine, I subscribe to a relatively large number of feeds — 155 as of today — some of which I read religiously, but many of which I only scan, looking for anything that stands out. The integration between the Mac and iPhone versions of NetNewsWire goes through NewsGator: with syncing turned on, you get the same list of subscriptions, and the read/unread state of each item is synced. So by default, the iPhone version of NetNewsWire does the obvious thing and shows you the same list of subscriptions you use on the Mac (or with any other NewsGator client software, like their web app or the Windows client, FeedDemon).

Back in July, NetNewsWire developer Brent Simmons posted an extremely useful tip regarding how to set certain feeds only to appear, say, on the Mac, but not on the iPhone.1 The idea is that NewsGator’s online account system supports “locations”, and each location can show a specific subset of your full list of subscribed-to feeds. I used this feature to turn off a few dozen particularly noisy feeds for my iPhone location, but for me, I think that was the wrong way to use the feature.

What I want in an iPhone feed reader isn’t just a little bit different than what I want in a Mac feed reader, it’s a lot different. So what I did last week was start over from scratch on the iPhone. Rather than going through my full list of feeds and turning some off, I turned them all off, then went through and re-enabled about 20 feeds — the ones I like best, with the highest signal-to-noise ratios, and which would be most enjoyable in those I’m bored, give me something to read moments. The result is that NetNewsWire on my iPhone launches faster, loads less data over the network, and pretty much only shows me stuff I really might want to read. And the read/unread status of the feeds I’m following on the iPhone still sync to my Mac.

Lesson learned: It’s not enough for an iPhone app to sport an iPhone-optimized user interface. It needs iPhone-sized data, too.


  1. The current version of NetNewsWire for iPhone, released after Simmons’s post, now allows you to manage your subscription list directly from the iPhone. I found it more convenient to use NewsGator’s web interface for making mass changes to my iPhone location feed list, though. 

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