Some options for reading RSS feeds on the classic Mac OS

Continuing my investigations into various types of software to keep using a vintage Mac for modern tasks, after browsers and email clients, it’s time for RSS feeds reading. What are the options? Rather limited, as you may guess, but not so limited as to make the experience impossible.

  1. Google Reader inside a browser. It’s the best, most up-to-date, most compatible way to read feeds and keeping them in sync if you’re also using a modern Mac with another RSS reader that syncs with Google Reader. The only problem appears to be the browser, at least with the few tests I’ve conducted. Netscape Communicator 4.78 and Opera 6.03 didn’t load anything; with Internet Explorer 5, Google said that “Your browser’s cookie functionality is turned off”, despite having the “accept all cookies” setting enabled in the preferences; iCab 2.99 (under Mac OS 9.1), iCab 3.0.5 (under Mac OS 9.2.2 in the Classic Environment), and Classilla 9.2.1 (both under Mac OS 9.1 and in the Classic Environment) started loading the Google Reader page after logging in but didn’t go further (of course JavaScript was turned on in Classilla for all the pages in the google.com domain). I’m listing this option anyway, because perhaps with a different Mac configuration you might be able to achieve better results than mine.
  2. Another form of ‘inside the browser’ RSS reading. AmphetaDesk is a separate app but loads content into the browser. Worth noting is that AmphetaDesk is open source and cross platform, and you’ll find versions for Mac OS 8-9, Mac OS X, Linux and even for Windows 95 and 98. I tested it on my Power Macintosh 9500 with Mac OS 9.1 and works fine.
  3. Standalone applications:
    • BottomFeeder looks interesting and, like AmphetaDesk, is available for a slew of platforms. But I can’t seem to make the Mac OS 8/9 version work. It looks as if the zipped archive wouldn’t expand correctly. The only executable file appears to be ‘Visual’ but nothing really happens when I double-click it. I figured I’d mention it anyway, perhaps I’m missing something obvious and you’ll manage to make it work.
    • Acuity is an interesting option and probably the only one left if you’re running anything older than Mac OS 9. According to its webpage, Acuity can run on a Mac with Mac OS 7.6 or greater, but what’s even better is that it can run on 68k Macs as well. Furthermore, it’s still under development. The interface is simple and bare-bones, but the application does its job: it displays news headlines and a short summary when you click on one of them. There’s a subscription manager that lets you add feeds, and by double-clicking on a headline you’ll be able to read the story in full on your default browser (if it’s not open, Acuity will launch it). It’s my favourite solution: tested and working on a PowerBook 5300 with Mac OS 8.1, on a Power Macintosh 9500 with Mac OS 9.1 and on a PowerMac G4 Cube under Classic (Mac OS 9.2.2). As the author warns, the application may exit with “unhandled nil object exception” errors every now and then, but not so frequently as to feel buggy and unreliable, at least in my experience.

The search for further options goes on, of course, but for now I wanted to give you a first round of results and ideas to start with. If you want to add other RSS readers you’ve found or share other solutions for reading feeds on a vintage Mac, I encourage you to do so in the comments.

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