25 October 2010

Started tt-rss support implementation

I want to hear a "Yeah!" from all commenters asking for Tiny Tiny RSS (tt-rss) support in the Feature Poll and in other feedback channels!

But don't get too excited as the implementation has only started. Current git master has login, subscription list fetching and initial item fetching. There are a lot of callbacks missing. It's still long way to go...

Problems with Ubuntu 10.10 indicator applet

Several users did report problems with the indicator applet with the new Ubuntu 10.10. This seems to be a problem with the patch Ubuntu applies to Liferea to work with the Ubuntu specific indicator applet. Evolution seems to suffer a similar effect.

As I'm not an Ubuntu user (none of the current team is) we cannot support you in this case and strongly advise to contact downstream Ubuntu about this.

12 October 2010

Enhanced Browser Context Menu

One of the topics raised in the recent feature poll was the browser context menu. There were several requests for the following menu options
  • Copy URL
  • Save Link As...
  • Save Image As...
The current unstable code now has those three options (based on the click context). For saving links and images the download tool configured in the preferences is used. Before downloading you are presented with a dialog preset with the configured default download directory.

Don't forget that we changed to a Git repository in case you want to try the code!

09 October 2010

Liferea switched to git

Liferea now uses git instead of SVN, please do not use the old SVN repository anymore.

You can browse the git repository online here.

Instructions for compiling Liferea master (the unstable development code) from git:
  1. git clone git://liferea.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/liferea/liferea
  2. cd liferea
  3. ./autogen.sh
  4. make
  5. make install

05 October 2010

Bloglines support removed from trunk

Ask.com announced that Bloglines will be shut down on Novenber 1st.

The Bloglines code is now removed from Liferea trunk (that will become Liferea 1.8), and Bloglines subscriptions are automatically removed.

At least as long as Bloglines is available it will stay supported in the stable Liferea 1.6.

For users of Blogline with Liferea the best choice for similar functionality is to switch to Google Reader and use Liferea's Google Reader support.

Bloglines support is now also removed in the 1.6 branch, the change will be in 1.6.6.

27 July 2010

Sorting Feeds

During the recent feature poll, during discussion in IRC and the occasional feature request in the tracker users did ask for the ability to sort larger feed lists. To allow this we've added a sorting feature to the folder context menu:

It is a simple implementation lexicographically sorting the feeds in ascending order. Nothing more. And we plan to keep it that simple.

In several discussion about the need of this feature the usual argument was about the feed lists being much too long and a specific feed to hard to locate. Sorting all feeds would speed up the feed lookup. To everyone having this problem: please use folders! Organize your feeds in topic folders, don't add more than ~10 feeds to a folder. Don't even start loosing the overview!

I personally do believe the sorting option shouldn't even be necessary. Using folders has too many advantages (recursive viewing, hiding read items) to not utilize them.

Nonetheless "Sort Feeds" is added to SVN trunk to be released with 1.7.5

13 July 2010

Use Case 2 - Read latest headlines

The user launches Liferea by single clicking the notification tray icon. Liferea displays the main interface. The user clicks the “Next Unread Item” icon in the toolbar. Liferea moves focus from the currently-selected headline to the next unread headline. If no headline is selected then the first headline in the top-most feed in the tree-view is selected. The contents of the feed item are displayed in the content pane if visible. Liferea marks the feed item as read and updates the font of the headline to indicate as much. The user can continue to advance to the next unread headline by either clicking the button again, or using a configured keyboard shortcut (set in the user's preferences) to page through the article's content and then on to the next unread item once the article's content has all been displayed. Alternately if the focus is on a headline or a feed in the tree view the user can advanced to the next unread headline by using the 'n' keyboard shortcut.

Thoughts and Considerations
  • The 'n' key shortcut seems to stop working as soon as the contents of an article are clicked (e.g. a hyperlink is clicked). In order to re-enable the 'n' key shortcut the user has to click a headline or feed name. Is it possible to allow the 'n' key shortcut to always work? Note that CTRL-N always seems to work, but if we can simply have 'n' work without CTRL it saves my fingers from cramping. Is 'n' an undocumented shortcut?
  • There might be some confusion around the configurable shortcut to “Skim” through headlines and skipping to the next unread item. They are not the same thing, but the difference is not immediately clear to the user without trial and error (and reading the mailing list in my case). It might be beneficial to look at clarifying the two ideas. One suggestion might be to make it configurable which key is used to skip through as well as which key is to skim through. I'd suggest finding two concrete and distinct words, either within the mental metaphor you're trying to leverage (e.g. newspapers I believe) or within the expected user's vernacular.
For reference, this is related to my intro post.
Other use cases:

01 July 2010

Feature Poll Results

A while ago I posted a "Feature Poll" blog post which as I expected had a lot of feedback. Everyone simply loves feature wishing list, must remind most of us of birthdays or Christmas :-)

We after reading through the various comments I tried to consolidate the topics and to weight them for the number of mentions (listed in braces). Here are the results and some thoughts on each:

  1. Performance (6): Well... not actually a feature. But we are working on it!

  2. tt-rss Sync (6): Syncing to tt-rss or another open source Google Reader competitor

  3. Browser Context Menu (4): I grouped several points under this topic:
    • Save Link As (2)
    • Save Image As (1)
    • Copy URL (1)

  4. Ubuntu Messaging Menu Integration (3): Actually a patch exists for this. But not a single developer runs Ubuntu, so we cannot really maintain this feature. For now we therefore have decided not to include it.

  5. More Google Reader Features (3): Most asked for is the folder support. Problem is that Google Reader has label-based folders, where Liferea has stricly hierarchic folders, so there is no unique mapping in all cases and we see no sane way to map non-hierarchic labels into the feed list.

  6. Better Tray Icon (2): Here we need artistic contributions! We are developers, not artist. Anyone? Volunteers!

  7. Stability (2): Not a feature, but it is important. We believe the current code is pretty stable.

  8. Alternative DB (2): While I understand the wish, this is a level of complexity 2-3 part-time developers cannot maintain. Sorry, but this is just unrealistic.

  9. Confirm "mark all read" (2): This pops up more often lately. But does your favourite email client ask for confirmation? I believe it to be an untypical behaviour. What could be a solution would be a generic Undo feature requested one time in the comments and regularily in the bug tracker.

  10. Small Icons Toolbar (1): We try to support all toolbar styles GTK does, which currently doesn't include the small icons mode.

  11. Windows Port (1): I understand the wish, but we cannot support an OS we do not use ourselves. This is something that needs a maintainer.

Note: the list above is a quick summary and might miss some topics mentioned.

What happens next?

Please do not despair if your suggestion isn't immediatly realized. We will carefully consider complexity and importance and will realize as much improvements as possible. I believe we should start with improving the context menu and implement tt-rss support.

27 June 2010

Use Case 1 - Add URL Subscription

Current dialogue (Liferea 1.6.3)

Use Case Description
The user launches Liferea. The user clicks the “New Subscription...” button which results in the New Subscription dialogue being displayed. The user manually types in the feed subscription URL (e.g. http://planet.gnome.org/) (or pastes text from the clipboard) and clicks OK. A new feed item appears in the left-hand subscription tree directly below the last selected feed, at the same hierarchical level. Liferea processes the feed and displays the configured default number of unread items in the headline pane. Liferea fetches any applicable favicon icons for the site and replaces the default icon for the feed based on the feed type with the favicon. Liferea changes the name of the subscription from the initial value of “New Subscription” to the name provided by the feed. Liferea displays the headlines in the appropriate pane, as dictated by the current view.

Thoughts and Considerations

  1. When adding a feed there is no user feedback while updating the feed for the first time. There is some considerable lag time and it is not clear that anything is happening. The status bar indicates it is updating the subscription, but does not provide any moving indicator to let the user know the app has not frozen. Is it possible to somehow inform the user that an initial set of headlines is being downloaded, along with the other info (name, favicon, etc). Just some UI indication that Liferea is working. Ideal might be to have the icon of the feed not appear as a static default feed type but rather a progress indicator such as a spinner (like the browser tabs often have).
  2. Is it possible that the Advanced feed dialogue be changed into a disclosure triangle? For example I've simply merged the two dialogues into one in the mockup below, and made a few minor changes to spacing and wording. The one key value this affords the user is the ability to switch back to the basic dialogue without restarting the “Add ...” use case. It also reduces application complexity (2 different add subscription dialogues). The mockup below is just a first brush at creating the right unified dialogue. It is meant for discussion. Further refinement/polishing/HIG-ifying is possible if/when the direction is agreed upon.

My name is Kirk and I want to focus on Liferea's user experience

Hi everyone - quick introduction: I'm Kirk Bridger. I'm an analyst by day (what that exactly means is a post all by itself) and am eager to give back to this fabulous project. The best way to do that is by applying my skills, which do not include strong programming anymore. So what I can I offer?

The project leaders have given me the opportunity to take a look at Liferea from the user experience point of view. I'd like to throw a few idea out on this blog for discussion, to see if there are improvements the community agrees on that the developers are interested in implementing.

This will range from simply documenting the existing app's use cases (including using the existing dialogues etc.) to doing a full blown heuristic evaluation using the latest Gnome HIG. Other things I'm keen on doing include creating mockups to help describe and explore ideas - yours and mine.

Over the next little while I plan on posting a few basic use cases and some observations/suggestions based on my own use of Liferea, just to get things started. The purpose of these posts is to get your feedback and suggestions to ensure that any changes that result from the discussion best meet the community's needs and app-specific workflows. So please feel free to chime in if you have any thoughts or feedback.

So that's my intro. I like to think I am clearly separated from my designs so please feel free to be as hard as you want on the ideas I put forward here. Note that I said to be hard on the "ideas". Design discussions can sometimes get heated so I'd like to suggest that we all keep the end goal in mind:

Liferea (Linux Feed Reader) is an for online news feeds. There are many other news readers available, but these others are not available for Linux or require many extra libraries to be installed. Liferea tries to fill this gap by creating a fast, easy to use, easy to install news aggregator for Gtk/Gnome.

23 June 2010

Google Reader Authentication Problem

If you are finding this old post you probably do not know about the Google Reader shutdown on 01.07.2013.

Read more about this and how to migrate and save your data.

10 June 2010

Feature Poll

Simple question: What feature do you miss most?

Disclaimer: This is not a promise to implement anything :-)

06 June 2010

Serious performance issues with ext4fs barriers

More often lately users ask for support because they experience horrendously slow performance. In almost all cases they run Liferea on ext4fs where sqlite, when used with a lot of small update operations doing a lot of fsync() calls, is quite slow. This is not a specific problem of sqlite though, it just is very visible with applications performing a lot of write access like Liferea does using sqlite.

The important difference in this aspect from ext4fs to ext3fs is that ext4fs comes with barriers enabled, which is a filesystem feature (optional in ext3fs) that tries to improves filesystem integrity. But this comes at a cost: depending on your application use case this might decrease filesystem throughput a lot, which is what many Liferea users experience.

A workaround is to disable the ext4fs barriers by adding "barrier=0" to the mount options in /etc/fstab and remount the partition.

Recent Work on Liferea 1.8

Sorry, long time no post here. Nonetheless there is work ongoing on Liferea 1.8. We do mostly performance work and small improvements. I want to keep you updated about the latter. Here is a list of interesting improvements we have now in SVN trunk:
  • GTK 3.0 compatibility (Emilio Pozuelo Monfort and Adrian Bunk)
  • identica.ca bookmarking support (Adrian Bunk)
  • Copy select text to clipboard from HTML pane (Ricardo Cruz)
  • New DBUS method to trigger a feed update (Matthew Bauer)

16 January 2010

Docky Helper

omgubuntu.co.uk reports that the GNOME dock "docky" of the Gnome-Do suite got special support for Liferea: It presents the number of unread items in the icon. I guess using our DBUS method to query the number. In fact this is much nicer than the tray icon solution we have to use with panels!