firstobject News Reader

Download: fonr12.zip 313k release notes Simply extract to a folder and run; it creates feedstatus.xml file in the same folder.

Get Beta Version 1.2.x in the firstobject News Reader Comments, which is also the place to read about and discuss features and fixes.

Small, light, quick, and multi-threaded with integrated Screensaver!

The firstobject News Reader (also called a Feed or RSS Aggregator) freeware edition for Windows provides simple and convenient access to XML resources on the web such as RSS feeds, blogs, and XML web services. It utilizes negligible CPU and is fully multi-threaded to provide a snappy interface despite background downloading.

Advanced CMarkup Developer License

The full Visual C++ source code for this firstobject News Reader (including CMudCtrl and CAnimation classes) is available as part of the Advanced CMarkup Developer License.

  

firstobject News Reader

Any URL that represents an XML resource can be entered into the News dialog to create a new feed. The reader simpy downloads the page you specify from the Internet based on a schedule you can modify. Once downloaded, the firstobject News Reader has specific processing for 3 versions of RSS, ATOM, and Code Project's web service feeds. All these known brands of XML are automatically detected, while other forms of XML are handled generically.

This program requires Windows 95 or later and MSXML which comes with Internet Explorer 4.0 or later. Unlike almost all aggregators and readers for Windows, the firstobject News Reader does not use the Windows browser control to display items; it uses a browser-like custom control. MSXML is only used to download XML feeds; it utilizes the Internet Explorer proxy configuration so that the firstobject News Reader does not need to manage proxies and passwords to simply retrieve a text page from the Internet.

Adding News Feeds

browser right-click menusOn the right are two example right-click menus showing how to copy the link from an XML icon in Internet Explorer and from an RSS hyperlink in Mozilla Firefox.

Feeds are generally indicated by one of the following icons: orange XML button orange RSS button orange ATOM button or orange syndication feed symbol.

Adding a feed to your News Reader is often called "syndication." You may see a link for XML Syndication, or simply an XML or RSS or ATOM icon on the web page where you are reading a blog posting or news item. If you open this link your browser will usually display the actual XML (although in the case of ATOM the browser transforms the XML into HTML). The News Reader just needs the address (i.e. URL location or shortcut) of that XML web page, and it will do the rest.

The easy way to add feeds is to right-click wherever you see the XML or RSS icon or link on syndicated websites and blogs, Copy Shortcut or Copy Link Location and paste into the top of the News dialog. Here are some sample RSS feeds you can copy into the News dialog.

RSS XML feed for firstobject news News from firstobject.com   RSS XML feed for Code Project articles Code Project Articles
RSS XML feed for Google news Google News   RSS XML feed for Code Project lounge Code Project Lounge
RSS XML feed for CodeSnipers CodeSnipers   RSS XML feed for CodeBetter CodeBetter.Com Blogs

A very powerful use of RSS is offered on msn Search, www.craigslist.org and other sites for searching and classified ads. If you do a search on a particular set of criteria, it provides an RSS link which you can copy into your News Reader to keep updated on that particular search. All you need to do is copy the RSS link from the bottom of the website's search results page into the News Reader after you have done the search, everything else is automatic. The News Reader will notify you when new postings are available, providing the item and a direct hyperlink to the article on the website. You would want to use specific criteria so you do not get too many hits (for example on craigslist: Washington D.C., "for sale", "computers & tech, "flat panel", $300-$360).

Some weblogs do not display a "syndication" link or XML or RSS button. Often there is a way to get the feed by manually entering a version of the URL. For example on Blogger (Blogspot.com) sometimes you can just add atom.xml to the address (http://dturini.blogspot.com/atom.xml is the feed for http://dturini.blogspot.com/). If the blog is hosted on Xanga, change the home.aspx in the address to rss.aspx. In general you can do an Internet search on the domain name of the blog site and keywords like RSS ATOM XML and feed, to try to find out if anyone has reported a way to syndicate the news feed on that site.

Managing News Feeds

When you view (click) a feed in the News dialog list it is displayed in the Viewer which is a custom control for accessing feeds. In the Viewer, you can click on an item title link to launch your Internet browser for the full article, or right-click and choose Item Details to see the full feed information already downloaded for that item.

firstobject News Reader viewer

In the main News dialog, right-click a feed name in your list of feeds to get a context menu of actions that can be done on that feed. Use the Modify command in the News dialog list to change the feed title and schedule. The schedule indicates how often the feed should be checked (downloaded), such as "1 hour", "25 Min", "2 days" (with a 20 minute minimum). You should select this time based on how often the feed is updated on the web, and how often you want to see new updates. Use the Update Now command to download the feed immediately. This is rarely needed because feeds are automatically updated after the period of time specified in the schedule, and when the News Reader is started up it updates any feeds that are out of date.

When a feed is updated, often many of the items are the same as the previous time the feed was updated, and some are new. When new items arrive, they are shown in the Notification Window which appears unobtrusively for a few seconds and then disappears. If you click on it, it will not disappear. The number of seconds until it disappears is shown in the caption. The Notification Window can be turned off and the number of seconds can be set in the Settings dialog.

firstobject News Reader Notification Window

From the Menu button you can access the major functions. Show New F7 opens up the Viewer with a list of new items from all of the feeds in order of arrival, with the most recently downloaded feed first. Mark All As Read will clear all New markings, while Update All will queue all feeds for immediate download. The Show Screen Saver action brings up a previoew of the screensaver animation (see below); it is just a way of seeing what the animation looks like without using the News Reader as a screensaver.

The Settings dialog has settings that are stored in the registry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ First Objective Software\ fonr\.

  • "Exit on Close News Dialog" means that when you press ESC or otherwise close the main News dialog, the application shuts down. If the option is unchecked the News dialog only hides and you have to select Exit from the right-click menu of the taskbar icon.
  • "Launch Default Browser" means that it uses the Windows default browser (found in the registry at HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ http\ shell\ open\ command\). If the option is unchecked it just runs iexplore.exe (Windows Internet Explorer).
  • "Notification Window" turns on the window that appears when new items arrive.
  • "Notification Window Time in Seconds (Default is 8)" allows you to set the number of seconds the Notification Window appears when new items arrive. Values between 1 and 300 are allowed.
  • "XML Database File" specifies the pathname of the XML text file that is used to store the feeds. If you change this to a file that does not already exist, the current feeds are copied to the new file. If you change this to a file that does exist, the new file's content is used as the database.
  • Find Ctrl+F brings up the Find dialog which allows you to enter search text (case sensitive) and the search results are displayed in the Viewer.

    How the News Reader Organizes your Information

    Feeds are stored in the feedstatus.xml file. When you start up firstobject News, it reloads this file. The status contains not only the feed configuration, but the latest copy of the feed so that the latest download can be viewed and compared to newer downloads to determine what is new. Only the latest copy of the feed is kept; old copies of feeds are not archived. You can browse and search the feeds (and they will appear in the optional screensaver) even if your Internet connection is down.

    Minimize the News dialog to leave it running in the background. The firstobject News Reader icon is always in the system tray and supports right-click menu for Show New, Reset Window Positions, Exit, and double-click to show the News Dialog. The News Reader program runs as a "single instance" meaning that only one copy of the program runs at a time. If you start it up while it is already running, it activates the already running program. This keeps one copy of the feed database and one status for all feeds on your computer.

    Screen Saver

    firstobject News Reader Screen SaverWith release 1.1, the firstobject News Reader has a screensaver that animates the feed items on your monitor (no multi-monitor support yet). You don't need to install it as a screensaver to see what the animation looks like; just select Show Screen Saver from the Menu button. Feeds are randomly selected and the items are moved around (a brief firstobject promotion is animated periodically or when there are no feeds to display). If any feed item captures your interest, press G to go to view the relevant feed in the Viewer. Press S to skip to another feed, and P to pause the animation.

    The firstobject News Reader program is just a plain small executable file. To set this up as your Windows desktop screensaver, you need a copy of it with an SCR extension (recommended filename firstobject News Reader.scr) in your System folder (e.g. C:\Windows\System32). Just enter COPYSCR into the News dialog edit box and the News Reader will copy itself to the correct folder for you. The status is displayed under the edit box, and you can click on the underlined part to see where it was copied, or to view the error if there was a problem copying it. Once it is copied correctly, go to your Desktop properties Screen Saver tab and select "firstobject News Reader" from the Screen savers drop-down list.

    The screensaver launched by an idle Windows Desktop utilizes the same News Reader process that is already running so that you get the most current download status and do not have two separate processes doing downloads.