A NetNewsWire downgrade?

Goddammit! Two days after I write a post praising NetNewsWire on the iPhone and explaining why I’ve switched from Bloglines to NNW for both desktop and iPhone newsreading, a new version of NNW comes out for the iPhone and it altered the one feature that made it superior to Bloglines! It’s as if Brent Simmons is offended by my presence and wants me out of his house.

I installed the new version of NetNewsWire (1.0.7) this morning. I was a little miffed that it forced me to reenter my NewsGator account information, but that may be Apple’s fault; if an app and its data are wrapped together, it’s possible that apps can’t maintain data through a version upgrade. So I reentered my user name a password and got on with life.

This afternoon I decided to read some feeds on the iPhone. NetNewsWire seemed to work just as it always has—until I was done reading. That’s when I noticed that I couldn’t go back to reread an article I’d already read. In the earlier version, NNW’s main screen displayed the names of all the feeds. If you wanted to reread an article, you tapped the name of the feed and the list of all items from that feed would be shown—unread items in blue and read items in gray. Rereading an older article was a simple matter of tapping one of gray items. In the latest version, NNW’s main screen shows only those feeds that have unread items. The read articles may still be there (more on that below), but you can’t get to them unless the feed (or the category folder that contains the feed) has at least one unread item.

I find that my feed reading on the iPhone is done in short sessions when I have a couple of spare minutes. As such, it’s very common to be interrupted in the middle of an article or to do a quick scan of a few articles to see what I really want to read later. Since an article is marked as “read” as soon as I start reading it, I can’t go back to it later unless there’s an unread article in that same feed or folder.

Even worse, if I go to the home screen after starting to read an article (to send an email or SMS, for example), the article may be gone when I return to NNW. Whether the article is there when I return, seems to depend on how I left NNW.

I suppose it can be said that my shift away from the article in the second scenario is a signal that I’m done with it, so why should NetNewsWire keep it? The answer is because that’s what I expect, and I expect it because NetNewsWire has conditioned me to expect it. That’s how the desktop NNW works and that’s how the original iPhone NNW worked.

I can “clip” an article, which will save it forever, but I can only read clipped articles through the desktop NNW. Not a great solution if I won’t be at my desktop computer for a while.

I understand that removing feeds that have no unread items from the main NNW screen improves one aspect of usability: it makes for less scrolling because there are fewer feeds in the list. But by dumping read articles, or making them impossible to get at, NetNewsWire has eliminated its one great advantage over Bloglines.

I wish I could go back to the previous version. Now I don’t know what to use.