Browser Add-ons, Feed Sidebar

Feed Sidebar 3.2 Beta 3: A Gentler Feed Updater

I’ve been working on decreasing the CPU consumption of my Feed Sidebar Firefox extension; one of its main problems is that when it’s time to update the feeds, Firefox can grind to a halt while the Sidebar starts to make tens or hundreds of HTTP requests.

A solution I’ve settled on allows the sidebar to slowly work through your feeds list, spreading out the updates over the interval you’ve set (e.g., update every hour), so that there’s never one big update. For example, if you have 50 feeds, and you have set Feed Sidebar to update them every hour, it will now update a single feed every 72 seconds (60 minutes / 50 feeds = 72 seconds per feed), rather than updating all 50 feeds at the same time every 60 minutes. However, in order to keep the sidebar working as it previously did where all of your feeds would update as soon as you started up Firefox, the sidebar will still do one initial update, leaving only a second between each feed update.

You can install this beta version right here if you want to take advantage of the new update mechanism. Some changes that you’ll notice:

  • The statusbar no longer shows text like “Next update: 4:32 PM”. This is because your feeds are always being updated.
  • As each feed is updated, text will appear in the status bar like so: “Updating 1 of 50 (Joe Smith’s Blog)…” You can click on this text to visit the site of the feed that is being refreshed.
  • If you click “Mark All as Read”, it won’t affect any feeds that were refreshed less than 3 seconds ago. This is to avoid accidentally marking things as read before you realized they were there.
  • There is now an option to disable automatic updates completely.
  • You can still quickly update all of your feeds at any time by clicking the Reload button in the sidebar.
  • The pop-up notifications that used to appear after a full update (“100 new feed items”) are now specific to each feed. The title is the name of the feed, the image is the website’s shortcut icon, and it will either say “2 new items” (or 3 or 4…), or if there’s only one new item, the title of that item will appear in the notification box.

I’d appreciate any and all feedback (comment on this post, email chris@efinke.com, or ping me on Twitter) so that when I release this to the general Feed Sidebar public, I’m not inundated with e-mails saying “Why didn’t you do it this way?” (Again, you can install the new version here.)

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