nullstream weblog - Sage RSS Reader

« Everybody download Firefox 1.0.1 now | Windows XP x64 in April »

Sage RSS Reader


March 1, 2005 10:59 PM PST

I had written a long article about the tradeoffs of RSS and HTML for reading news, but Firefox crashed on me for the first time and I lost it. So the short version is: download the Sage Firefox extension for reading RSS feeds.

This extension is only 42KB and does exactly what I was looking for. It's a great, lightweight newsreader that is integrated well into Firefox. I still like reading news directly from the site, but Sage lets you know when there are new articles and you can preview them in a nicely laid out format. I thought I would miss the ability to automatically check for updates, but I find that the manual refresh to check all sites actually fits my browsing habits much more. I don't really want to be distracted by new posts popping up all the time.

Not only is Sage a really elegant newsreader, it's also open source. You can browse the full javascript and XUL source right online through a Web CVS interface. The code looks like a great learning tool. Sage and the Firefox/Thunderbird suite are a great demonstration of the cross platform UI that the Mozilla team has put together. Being able to write a full GUI app once that works across Windows, Linux and Mac OS X - in a framework that seems faster than Java could be very interesting. And the installation and upgrade of applications into this "browser platform" couldn't be easier.

You'll notice that there's now an RSS icon underneath the comments section in the navigation bar. Since you'll see updated sites with Sage, this feed is a listing of the latest comments for each entry. So you can not only subscribe to our posts (the main RSS feed), but also to comments people make to the posts. This is useful because it's not just John, Paul and I that generate interesting content here.

Comments (19)

Paul, March 1, 2005 11:28 PM:

I just picked up Rapid Application Development with Mozilla today, since I've become really intrigued with JavaScript and Firefox for delivering applications over the web. Port that to Windows CE, and things get interesting....

Paul, March 1, 2005 11:54 PM:

I'll keep an eye on this, since I currently use Thunderbird for RSS, and I find it slightly annoying since it renders the full web page in a small pane (it would be okay if it was just the text, not full HTML). I'd prefer RSS integrated into the browser.

It's still broken. If you open the Sage sidebar when you have multiple tabs open, only the current tab seems to get the "Window resize" event, the other tabs get cut off.

Also, there is no way to copy bookmarks to the "sage feeds" folder... you can only move them (i.e. one or the other).

Promising though.

Paul, March 2, 2005 12:20 AM:

Okay, I did a manual import of my feeds, and it does to a nice text only summary.

Unfortunately, it won't let you change the names of the RSS bookmarks. Actually, it will, then the next time you click on it, Sage changes it back.

J, March 2, 2005 12:21 AM:

I also use(d) thunderbird, but this just seems a little smoother. It's much easier to manage a ton of feeds in Sage than thunderbird. Sage defaults the view to the RSS, not the HTML so it's faster to load too.

I don't see that resize problem at all. Must be a mac Firefox render bug. Does that happen on the built in sidebars too? (No one said this cross platform UI stuff would be easy - LOL).

I already had all blogs in one folder (so I could get to them easily from a toolbar item). I just pointed sage at that (in the options-settings menu).

Paul, March 2, 2005 09:10 PM:

Once they fix the import / drag and drop bustage, this thing will rock. I've been using for less than 24 hours now, and its excellent! I've now ditched Thunderbird as my RSS reader (and since I do all my email through Gmail in the browser anyways).

John, March 2, 2005 11:44 PM:

Hmm, this thing is pretty cool. It still doesn't give me the same cool summary view that I get with gives me a quick glance at the 5 or so latest posts of all my fav blogs as well as news sites. From there I can just open new tabs of the ones that are interesting to me. I can just scroll through the page to see what's new without having to do any clicking. They should add something like that to sage.

Also I'm still only an occasional firefox user although I'm actually getting close to switching away from Avant. I guess I need to explore some of the add blocker extensions to help push me over the edge. Also I'll have to decide if I'm rebel enough to install it at work.

Paul, March 3, 2005 03:03 PM:

Re: Firefox installed at MS

// excerpt from MSWebProxy.cpp

if (userAgent.find("Firefox") == true) {
if (verbose == true) {

Paul, March 3, 2005 03:05 PM:

Okay, we need comments to respect my indenting, dammit!

J, March 3, 2005 03:41 PM:

Done. I saw this in the proxy code too:

freeSodas = 0;

John, March 3, 2005 03:46 PM:

Ha ha. You guys are just intimidated by my awesome learning curve. - Gosh!

Gavin, March 3, 2005 03:57 PM:

I really like Sage. I was stumbling with using a different FireFox extension to handle RSS feeds. It just created a book mark that held them, not nearly as helpful as Sage is.

Anyone care to share some of their favorite RSS feeds?

Paul, March 3, 2005 04:20 PM:

Is there something other than Nullstream worth reading?

Gavin, March 4, 2005 12:45 PM:

Hey - question for John or Paul. Last night while we were getting our butts kicked at Counter Strike, I thought one of you mentioned that you didn't quite like Sage because you want to read the article at the site and not just read it in the overview page that Sage provides.
I was wondering how you were using sage. I am currently using it by
1) click the 'update feeds' button.
2) select a feed that has been updated.
3) glance through the window that Sage creates with overviews.
4) if a story looks good, then I click on it in the lower left pane which takes me to the site.

This way I can just glance at the list of stories and read the ones I'm interested in on that site.
Right click also works to just open the story in a new tab.

I'm really digging Sage right now. It has made it very easy for me, and really fits the way I want to browse multiple new sites.

John, March 4, 2005 01:01 PM:

Actually what I was commenting on was the fact that since I usually read the entries on the actual site, all I really use / need RSS for is just to show me what is new at a glance for the sites I follow. What I'm currently using is I have my regular RSS feeds setup there as well as major news sources etc. I have set them to show me the 5 latest entries for each feed / site. This page is my home page. So basically I just open my browser and I can scroll through news and blogs looking for new entries that catch my eye, and just open them up in new tabs.
My comment in regards to sage was that while I like the cool summary view for an individual blog, I would like to get an uber overview of all the new entries for ALL the blogs in a folder on a single page so that I didn't have to click on each one.

J, March 4, 2005 11:12 PM:

I can see how a combined view of stories might be cool, but usually I wouldn't want all the topics mixed together Maybe if it was a one page summary of any stories I hadn't read, grouped by site. Sage sort of has this in the bottom part of the sidebar - highlighting the stories that are read for the selected feed and if you mouseover you get a summary. It wouldn't be too hard to just generate a page with that info, from all the unread feeds and posts in order. How 'bout that Open Source Software?

I also agree that it would be nice if you were just somehow notified of the sites being updated. This is what Microsoft's "live bookmarks" (I think that's what they were called) did. You'd actually see the bookmark highlighted if the site had changed.

I definitely like to read the actual site, but as Gavin said, I just read the summary of the article and decide whether or not to click through. Some sites, (like nullstream!) actually have the full article text, and it's cool that sage shows the inline images.

The best thing about Sage (or really any newsreader) is that you're notified when posts are made on infrequent blogs. For Slashdot, ArsTechnica, Gizmodo, etc. you might as well just check the site. But I have so many bookmarks to cool sites that I'd otherwise forget about were they not highlighted every few weeks in Sage.

John, March 5, 2005 02:38 AM:

All the topics aren't 'mixed together'. You get the last 4 or so (configurable) topics grouped by site. You can have it show just the headlines (like I do) or headlines and summary. It doesn't keep track of which ones you have already read or not (that's up to your brain), but it lists how long ago they were posted. You can set it to just show headlines from the posted within a timeframe, such as the last 24 hours if you want to reduce clutter. Probably better to just show you:

So by putting all of them on one page, you don't have to click around to check each feed - just scroll through the page. Plus if you notice at the bottom it also handles a ton of news sources that don't have to be RSS feeds. Oh yeah, the best part? It works with any browser, from any location - even a cyber cafe in Thailand.

J, March 5, 2005 11:46 AM:

Nice screenshot, for a minute I freaked out and thought you had implemented some crazy new interface for Nullstream.

I like the layout of that thing. But it doesn't actually track what you've looked at, right? I would only want to see blogs that had 1 or more unread stories, and also ony see the stories I hadn't read listed.

It really seems like you could generate a summary view like this from within Sage. I doubt I'll have the time to take a look though.

This post lists the 3 basic additions we've been talking about to sage. This guy is exactly right that these features should be added.

J, June 5, 2008 09:27 PM:

Sage development has been resumed for Firefox 3.0 by a new developer. Get it here for the latest 3.0 release candidate:

Paul, June 5, 2008 10:45 PM:

The problem with Sage is that it's client side. I use several computers (work, shuttle, home) each day, and I want my feed state synchronized across each one. This is one of those "if an application can migrate to the web, it will" scenarios.

All links will be marked with the nofollow tag, making them useless for search rankings. Any posts containing spam URLs will then be deleted.