Onfolio 2.0 revisited

February 16th, 2005 at 2:32 pm

Oh what a difference a release can make…

This week I’ve had the pleasure of revisiting Onfolio 2.0. A while ago I tried out Onfolio 2.0 beta 1. Back then I said “as a research tool on a more powerful system with feed-reading as a secondary activity, it might be a great tool. As a quick and easy in-browser feed-reader, it’s not my cup of tea.” [Onfolio Follow-up]

My initial interest in trying out Onfolio 2.0 was due to my search for a better feed aggregator. Feed aggregating is a new feature for Onfolio in 2.0, and in it’s beta 1 incarnation I felt that the feeding aggregating was playing second fiddle to it’s primary research / collaboration functions (not surprisingly).

Last week Onfolio released Onfolio 2.0 Preview Release. This time around, my opinion has drastically changed. In particular, the interface, which, in my beta 1 experience, felt inelegant, often interrupting me for 2-3s on each operation, has been incredibly sped up. No longer do you have to deal with progress dialogs with every action (at least that’s how it seemed back then). The few remaining progress dialogs on the more intensive actions (e.g. generating the feed newspapers) appear and disappear almost instantaneously, and are completely unobtrusive. All-in-all the application feels very responsive, even on my poorly under-powered 4 year old p3-450 (which is even below the stated minimum requirements for Onfolio 2.0).

My experience has been so good with Onfolio 2.0 PR that I’ve been using it as my primary aggregator for the last week and probably wont be switching back to FeedonFeeds in the near future. For some context to the extent of my feed usage, since switching from FeedonFeeds I see that my FoF has collected 692 new articles, all of which I’ve read through Onfolio instead.

Furthermore, my enjoyment of the feed aggregation interface has actually led me to explore the research / collections side of Onfolio a lot more. One thing I’ve spent a lot of time with is the weblog publishing of Collection Folders. It was ridiculously easy to setup my linkblog last weekend, with Onfolio’s great integration with Blogger (one among the many blog APIs it supports out of the box).

I have noted some issues with my use of Onfolio this week, which are listed below.

Comments about the Feed-Item Capturing
I only have one minor comment about the wondeful feature of capturing a feed-item into a collection folder (and then in my case having it auto-publish every 5min to blogger): Despite unchecking the ‘Open Destination folder’ option in the Capture Item dialog, the Onfolio sidebar still switches from the Feeds tab to the Collections Tab (it just doesn’t select the folder the item was captured to).

Comments about the “Publish to the Web” feature of Collection Folders
First, when posting a captured feed-item, Onfolio posts the entire post as the body of the posting (giving a very clear citation of the source).It would be great if you could set Onfolio to only post a summary of the captured feed-item. This would be useful for the ongoing controversy of linkblogs and the posting of full item contents. Many bloggers would be more comfortable if linkblogs were only posting parts of their items. The only problem with this is the unpleasant issue of parsing html tags to make sure when you post a summary you’re not breaking open any html tags (like unclosed anchors etc). I suppose you could just strip the HTML and then summarize, but that’s kind of inelegant if you ask me.

It would be great if Onfolio supported something like “perform a HTTP Get on the following URL after publishing to weblog”. Users could then specify their bookmarked Pingomatic URLs to have that link fired after a publish event occurs.

There have also been some issues with charset conversion of captured feed-items and the posting of them to weblogs. You’ll notice some of the articles on my linkblog are completely blorked with improperly converted character issues.

Lastly (this one’s pretty minor), Onfolio’s captured-item publishing template proceeds the quoted item body with a
<p>From: …</p> line, but places no space in between the </p> and the <blockquote> tag. When some programs create an RSS feed they strip out the html, and the From: … line merges without spaces into the first word of the captured item body.

Comments on Onfolio’s Feed Aggregating
The Newspaper interface works great, but it would be nice to have a few more options for specifying what the newspaper view will show you. I’d like to have an option somewhere in between displaying “Items published today” and “Items published this week” (Perhaps “Items Published in the last [ ] days”).

With many feeds in your aggregator, views like “items published this week” can easily overwhelm a browser by trying to display hundreds of items in one page. Pagination (Show x items/page) would be great.

I would also love if unchecking “Automatically mark items in newspaper as read” to actually disabled automatically marking items as read until I MANUALLY (would definitely need a shortcut key here, say… Shift+space maybe, in addition to the ‘read/unread’ icon) mark an item as read. As it is now, simply selecting an item (say to send it to a linkblog) marks it as read, which isn’t always what I want. I understand what it’s doing now (with the option checked, every item is marked as read the first time it is shown in a newspaper view, rather than when it is selected).

It’d be great to see a “collapse on read” view much like how I’ve setup feedonfeeds (screenshot).

That being said, I love the newspaper view, and in particular love the shortcutting of the up/down arrow keys for moving back and forth between items).

Anyways…

Ultimately, the Preview Release of Onfolio 2.0 is an fantastic. The feed aggregating features have taken a strong place as a primary feature of the product. I was convinced enough in my first day of usage to switch to it for my feed reading full-time. Hopefully my issues here addressed much like my issues with beta 1 were. Nevertheless, the comments I’ve made here, in contrast to my last review, are in no way going to keep me from using Onfolio 2.0 PR full-time. This is a fantastic version upgrade. I highly recommend people should give it a try. Kudos to the Onfolio team.

5 Responses to “Onfolio 2.0 revisited”

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for the great feedback. I am on the QA team over at Onfolio and just wanted to let you know that I have entered defects and feature requests into our tracking systems for following up on.
    I will tell you that we have talked about some of the feeds feedback internally in the past already, so those are definately some good ideas. The pagination request is something one of the feeds developers likes as well. There’s always more tweaks/polishing that can be added to a product. 2.0 is buttoned up pretty tight for now, but look for some of these features in a future release.
    I’m looking into the charset issue because it does not seem to always occur, even within blogger accounts, but we’ll track it down and see what we can do about it.
    Thanks again for the great feedback.

  2. Wow, thanks for the detailed comments. This kind of feedback really helps us make the product better.

    The problem with posting unicode characters is unfortunately a documented bug in the Blogger posting APIs. Until Blogger fixes the issue, no tools are able to post non-ASCII characters into their system. Onfolio is able to post Unicode content into other services (like Typepad).

    You might be able to get the newspaper collapsing behavior you want by tweaking the newspaper stylesheet to make it collapse read items. If you add the following CSS rules to the bottom of the Onfolio/HtmlWorkspace/newspaper.css file, the items you have read will display collapsed.

    —— Collapse read items CSS —–
    .item-selected .item-content, .item-selected .publish-time, .item-selected .feed-home{ display: block; }
    .item-read
    {
    padding-bottom: 0em;
    margin-top: 0em;
    margin-bottom: 0em;
    border-bottom: 1px solid #D3D3D3;
    padding-left: .5em;
    padding-right: .5em;
    /*font-size: .8em;*/
    }
    .item-read .item-content, .item-read .publish-time, .item-read .feed-home
    {
    display: none;
    }

  3. brent says:

    Spike: I’ll try out the css…
    You know, I thought there might be a way to get some of the functionality through editing a css file, but I never actually looked to see what was in the onfolio directory.

    Thanks.

  4. brent says:

    Mike: It’s neat to know that someone’s actually listening.

  5. Anonymous says:

    FYI for final release we are going to fix the P / BLOCKQUOTE spacing issue as well as add an option to post only a summary of feed items for link-blogging. Alas the character set issues you identified are a result of Blogger not handling non-ASCII characters (I would imagine this will be fixed by them in the not too distant future).