Review: Brief

For quite some time I had been using Flock as my news reader. I liked the interface of having all my feeds listed in a sidebar. However over the past couple weeks I noticed something odd the blogs I normally visit we’re not showing any new entries. Didn’t think much of it until the other day when I saw the Thunderbird Organization Established — MailCo article on CyberNet News. I noticed on of the references listed was Mozilla Links, which according to Flock had no new articles. I had already had problems with another feed refusing to load in Flock so I ended up having that blog open in its own tab. In the case of Mozilla Links when I manually refreshed the feed it displayed the new articles. I soon discovered this was the case with several of the feeds I subscribed to.

I had looked at the newer (Alpha) version of Flock and just didn’t care for the new layout. I had been considering retiring Flock since the only thing I used it for was a feed reader. That and its memory leaks were far worse than Firefox 2. However while I like the idea behind the Live Bookmarks function of Firefox, you still have to check each feed one-by-one to see if there are new articles. I started looking through the extensions for a feed reader extension and came across Brief.

The interface is very similar to that of Flock’s feed reader. All the feeds are listed in the side bar and a preview of the entry is presented in the main window. Click on the preview to load the entry or site into the main window. The extension adds an optional button to the navigation bar that will open (or close) Brief and its sidebar in a new tab. You can also have a Brief icon in the status bar which quickly allows you to see if there are (and how many) unread entries. The status bar icon is either grey when there are no new or unread entries; or orange when there are new/unread entires (also displays the number of new/unread entries). The extension is highly customizable from being able to choose which bookmarks folder are used to how often to check for new articles to the overall behaviour of the extension (opening entries in new tabs, how many entries to display on a page, notification of new entries and more). Right-clicking on a feed in your list allows you to custom configure that particular feed and over-ride the global settings.

The extension’s preview section on AMO has several screenshots.

Brief is currently available for Firefox 2 only and is about 150 KB. Also there are a couple known issues:

  1. NoScript users must add file:// to the list of trusted sites. I discovered this one real quick, but am use to having to make sites trusted with NoScript.
  2. On Mac OS X options window has no OK and Cancel buttons.