Wednesday, December 1, 2004

NewsBreak, an RSS news reader for your Pocket PC


By Tim Hillebrand

There are several products out there that offer news for your PDA such as JournalBar, Avantgo, and Express Page One. There are a lot newsreaders for RSS feeds, as well. Some even charge a fee for the data on top of the purchase price, but not NewsBreak, a brand new entry to the mobile news services from IliumSoft.

NewsBreak is quick and easy to install. Once installed, all you do is tap on the icon to run the program, select the channels you want, and you're in business. It's that simple--no fuss, no muss. It's the user-friendliest program I've dealt with so far, unlike some of the RSS readers that require all manner of tweaking.

It comes with scores of built-in channel menus for your convenience, covering such categories as news, sports, weather, stocks, entertainment, technology, and PDA--and yes, even eMobie is listed. In Figure A, you can see a sampling of the offered channels.


Here, you see a listing of NewsBreak channels. (click for larger image)

If you want more channels, there's a place on the Iliumsoft Web site to acquire them.

Alternatively, you can do a keyword search online to find sites, or your favorite blogs, for NewsBreak to include. Figure B shows the results of a keyword search.


A keyword search will help you locate additional sites for NewsBreak to download. (click for larger image)

If you already know the address of the site, you can simply key it into the list. It's fast, versatile, and infinitely expandable, unlike other news products for the Pocket PC. You can even add any RSS news feed on the Internet.

Updates can be done on a set schedule, or whenever you want. You can list all of the sites, or just the updated channels. The view can be for only the category you want, such as sports, several different categories, or all at once. NewsBreak will also alert you on the Today screen, shown in Figure C, when new headlines match the keywords you've created.


NewsBreak will alert you when headlines match your keywords. (click for larger image)

As you can see in Figure D, NewsBreak even supports WMSE in both portrait, and landscape modes.


NewsBreak works in both portrait and landscape. (click for larger image)

Connectivity can be done either through ActiveSync or WiFi. It's also possible to connect while syncing with InfraRed or Bluetooth. NewsBreak also works with a Pocket PC Phone connection. Once the data is loaded, tapping on the headline will bring up a summary of the article, but you have to be connected to read the entire story.

Wish List

In a new version of NewsBreak, it might be nice to be able to download the full story for when you are on the road and don't have online access, at least for the categories that interest you the most. It also might be nice to have a quick phone look-up program included while online for finding businesses and addresses, then linking to a map. What about TV listings and local movies? I suppose if you found a Web site with this data you could add it, but it would be better if these functions were pre-programmed.


Clearly, NewsBreak is really in a class of its own. For its ease of use, unlimited expandability, and its versatility, I give NewsBreak from Iliumsoft 4 out of 5. If you value keeping informed, you'll find NewsBreak an outstanding value at $14.95. Maybe you'll consider it as much of a "must have" as I did after using it for only one day. Try it out free for 30 days, and if you can't resist it, which I predict will be the case, download it from Iliumsoft. Upgrades are free for 90 days.