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Mixtab Delivers Content With a Side of Eye Candy

Mixtab Delivers Content With a Side of Eye Candy

Mixtab has the kind of visual verve found in outstanding news aggregation mobile apps like Flipbook. On its home screen, feed groups appear as large tiles -- called "tabs" -- on a faux wood background. The name of the feed group appears at the top of the tile and the rest of it is made up of a photo and copy, on top of a transparent smoke gray overlay, with information about the latest feed in the group.

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
11/27/12 5:00 AM PT

Really Simple Syndication is a way for people who produce content for the Web to push that content to people interested in it. For folks like me, it can save time otherwise spent jumping from website to website to gather news.

Mixtab home screen
The Mixtab home screen
(click image to enlarge)
During its heyday, RSS was quite popular, so much so that advertisers agonized over how to monetize the technology. You don't hear much of that kind of talk anymore because social media have largely replaced the functionality of RSS for many people these days.

I am not one of those souls, however. I find that RSS provides me with a more concise way to obtain information than looking at chaotic social media feeds.

One barrier to adoption of RSS for some people is that you need a special piece of software, called a reader, to gather the feeds.

There are alternatives to that, though. There are Web-based RSS readers, most notably Google Reader. Web browsers have also incorporated RSS readers into their makeup. Nevertheless, while Google Reader is convenient, its bare-bones aesthetic leaves me cold, and my browser is bloated with add-ons already -- it doesn't need a built in RSS reader pulling in scores of feeds to further drag down its performance.

Appealing To Eye

So I like standalone RSS readers, and I like them with a little pizzazz and some moxie. Mixtab, a free RSS browser for the Mac, gives me both.

Mixtab has the kind of visual verve found in outstanding news aggregation mobile apps like Flipbook. On its home screen, feed groups appear as large tiles -- called "tabs" -- on a faux wood background. The name of the feed group appears at the top of the tile and the rest of it is made up of a photo and copy, on top of a transparent smoke gray overlay, with information about the latest feed in the group.

When you first launch the software, it contains a number of RSS feeds put together by the program's authors. They include tech news, travel, photography, finance, movies, cooking and fashion. But you can create your own feed groups.

Creating New Tabs

From the Mixtab home screen, you can create new tabs, edit existing tabs, access the program's settings and look at a tab gallery, which consists of feed groups created by other Mixtab users.

When you create a tab, you give it a name and a description, then you can add RSS links. Each link will add a new feed to your tab group.

You can get feeds for a tab by going to a website and clicking on the orange RSS button usually found somewhere on the site's home page.

Tabs you create can be private or public. If they're public, they'll appear in the tab gallery for the Mixtab community.

You can also import OPML files into a Mixtab group. So if you had a bunch of RSS feeds in another reader, such as Google Reader, you could export them as an OPML file and bring them into Mixtab.

You can also customize the settings for Mixtab from its home screen. Preferences allow you to choose different themes, choose whether to view original articles in Mixtab or your default browser, access your Mixtab account information and contact the company's support staff.

Email And Twitter Sharing

When you double-click a news group on the home page, you're presented with a grid of six items. Each item has a headline, its source, its age and a photo.

You navigate through the news items in the feed by clicking arrows on the right side of the Mixtab window. Clicking the right arrow slides in six new items from the right; clicking the left arrow slides the previous six items back into view. The feel is very much like swiping the screen in a mobile app.

story view
How a story appears on Mixtab
(click image to enlarge)

When you click on a story box, a new window appears with the item reformatted for easy reading. You can see the story in its original format by clicking the "view original" button at the top of the story window. You can also move to a previous story or to the next one by clicking buttons at the bottom of the story window

Also from within the story window, you can tweet an item or email it to contacts in your Apple address book. You can also mark the item as a favorite for quick reference and later date.

As attractive as Mixtab is as an RSS reader, it does have a major irritating quirk: it crashes unexpectedly from time to time. Since HTML5 support was recently added to the application, we wonder if that's added an element of instability to the software.

Regardless of its intermittent flaky behavior, Mixtab is a pleasure to use. Its attractive and intuitive interface makes organizing groups of RSS feeds easy, as well as viewing and reading them fun.


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.


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