Dayspring for Mac Review

The death of Google Reader has been catalyst in the RSS market. This has lead to a resurgence in new, and updated RSS backends and clients. The market is exploding. I expect it to consolidate over time, but for now the name of the game is differentiation.

Dayspring is a Mac app by Paul Dunahoo of Bread & Butter Software. I've been following him on App.net ever since I joined the service. He's young, but quickly established himself as a competent developer of genuinely useful applications. He writes quality apps, and he has good designed sense. Dayspring is his latest, and arguably most complicated endeavor.

Startup Experience

At startup, Dayspring suggests you add sample RSS feeds. I think it's a good idea for an app to give users some direction when it's first launched, or in what I call a dataless state (any point in which an app has no data in it).

Paul includes his own blog as one of these two preloaded feeds which at first seems like shameless self promotion, but after more thought makes sense. I often seek out the blog of an app, of developer to keep up with their work. The way Paul configured Dayspring, I don't have to go fishing in the seemingly bottomless internet, I can automatically subscribe to his blog seconds after launching the app if I so choose. It might be nice to have more, and diverse options thought (i.e. general news, other Apple blogs etc.).

Usage

By default the app displays RSS entries in a new Timeline view. This new view allows you to continuously scroll through your feeds in chronological order. There is a option to view your feeds in a more common three-pane Mail.app like interface. The new timeline is a welcome addition. It adds variety what is a relatively app space.

As far as workflow is concerned there aren't a lot of options. You can't sync Dayspring with services like Feedbin. Sharing to social networks like Twitter, read later services like Instapaper, or bookmarking services like Pinboard is all non-existent. You can star articles, and open them in the browser. Tabs aren't initially very obvious but are very useful. You also have the ability to import an OPML file (which is how most feed readers and services export your feed list).

Design

Apple stripped much of the color (and by extension much of the fun) out of OS X since the introduction of Lion. It's nice to see some color in Dayspring. In one sense it competes with NetNewsWire which has very little color. Hopefully Apple will follow Paul's lead, and continue to reintroduce some color into OS X like they've already done in the iTunes 11 sidebar.

I've already mentioned the similarities in the interface. It also has an activity monitor similar to Mail that shows you a progress bar when your feeds are being refreshed.. It sits in the bottom left-hand corner, and displays which feeds are being refreshed. It's one of those little features that doesn't seem big, but I find to be a nice touch. It also makes the app feel more responsive since it's obvious how fast your feeds are being synced.

Syncing and RSS Backend Thoughts

Dayspring doesn't sync with any RSS backend services. I don't blame Paul for not including sync. Although an essential feature for me, it certainly doesn't strike me as simple to implement. With APIs for umpteen different services that all work differently I can see why that is a daunting task.

The one good thing about Google Reader's domination is that everyone had one API to write against (said API wasn't fully documented and terrible, but at least it was consistent; devil you know versus the one you don't). A way to combat this problem of all these different APIs is for a group of backends to establish a common API. It would be a lot simpler if a bunch of services we're similarly implemented.

By lowering the bar, I anticipate developers would implement more backends because of the reduced complexity of doing so. Services like Feed Wrangler might not be fully compatible with a standard for backends (although they could do it for the common feature sets). I'm concerned that RSS clients will end up picking the winners and losers for the backend and I don't like that prospect. I think one standard is a simpler ways to combat that.

Wrap Up

When I decided to review Dayspring it gave me an interesting perspective on software in the abstract. I found myself asking questions like: "What happens when I review a piece of software that I may not use full time? How do I review software that doesn't have all the features I would like?"

Reviewing isn't a science. I think when you make it one it often leads to skewed results. If a product comes out that doesn't fit whatever mold you've created it might get a bad score just because it's different. Dayspring doesn't have all of the features I want, but that just means it's not for me. I if you're looking for a solid, bare-bones RSS reader I recommend you give Dayspring a shot.

Dayspring is available in the Mac App Store for $2.99.

Reagan Knopp