As most readers probably know by now, the second beta of Internet Explorer 7 is out, and it offers some nice improvements such as tabbed browsing and feed reading. I'm far too biased to comment on the actual feed reading experience in IE7, but I would like to make some unrelated comments for the IE7 team.
First off, I'm sure I'll get questions from people wondering when FeedDemon will support the new Feeds API, but right now I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer for them. If I was just starting out with FeedDemon, I'd be happy to support it and avoid writing all the ugly code to handle feed downloading, caching, parsing, etc. But since I've already coded that, supporting the API requires a lot of extra work, so there's less incentive to support it right away.
More importantly, I haven't seen any statement about what Microsoft plans to do with the user's feed (attention) data, and I can't give customer data to Microsoft without some idea of how this data will be used. For the record, I don't mean to suggest that they have "nefarious plans" here - it's just that if an application is supposed to hand the user's data over to Microsoft, some reassurance that this data won't be misused is necessary.
Also, I'm concerned about how the feed API appears to let any application access the user's feeds. I realize this is a beta and the documentation isn't complete, but I do hope that there will be a way for the user to keep certain feeds private to specific applications. Related to this, how are secure feeds handled? Can any application read the user's password-protected feeds, or is there some mechanism in place to protect against that?
Last point about the feeds API: I'm really glad to see that the raw XML of each feed can be accessed, but I'm not sure whether applications can store extra metadata in each feed. Is this possible, or does FeedDemon need to store this metadata somewhere else once it supports the API? I'd prefer that it be stored within the actual cached feed, so that different applications could read each other's metadata.
OK, now that that's out of the way, here's a smattering of other feedback regarding IE7 Beta 2:
- The WebBrowser Control should provide an event that tells the host application that the user chose to subscribe to a feed. It's easy enough to hack around this, but it would be nice if hacking wasn't necessary. It would also be nice if there was some notification when a feed is detected in the current page (see next comment).
- The user has the option to have IE7 play a sound when a feed is detected in the current page, and this sound still plays when IE7 is hosted in another application (and even when FEATURE_DISABLE_NAVIGATION_SOUNDS has been enabled). FeedDemon offers this same auto-discovery feature, and it automatically excludes feeds that the user is already subscribed to. So it's confusing when the embedded IE7 plays this sound in FeedDemon for a feed that the user is already subscribed to.
- IE7 says the MIME type for some feeds is "XML Feed Document," and other feeds are just "XML Document." It would be better if this was consistent.
- I love the way the WebBrowser control now differentiates between when the user opened a link in new window and when they opened a link in a new tab. It took less than a minute for me to adjust FeedDemon to support the new "Open in New Tab" context menu item.
- I wanted to use the IE7 beta a few days before commenting on the UI changes, since I realize the immediate reaction to change is usually negative. Overall I like how the toolbutton overload is managed, and the space above the page being browsed is more wisely used than in previous versions. But while I have nothing against blue boobs, I do find the placement of the navigation buttons awkward. The navigation buttons act on the page you're browsing, so I'd really prefer them to be closer to the browser page instead of off in the top left of the window. This is especially annoying when the "Favorites Center" is showing, since the buttons are even further away from the page. FWIW, in FeedDemon, I found it useful to place the toolbar below the tab so there's less mouse movement required (screenshot).
- I'm glad to see that IE7 supports both import and export of OPML.
- I'm not wild about the use of the word "synching" to refer to feed retrieval. This isn't synchronization - it's scheduled downloading. (Disclaimer: part of my motivation here is to avoid any confusion with the type of synchronization that NewsGator offers).
- I'd like to see a "Favorites" toolbutton that displays your favorites in a dropdown menu.
- I never would've guessed that Dean likes the Spice Girls :)