Straw 0.25.1

Straw is a syndication feed reader for GNOME, developed primarily by Juri Pakaste (I think).

Categorization of feeds is a great feature, allowing individual feeds to be displayed as members of multiple groups. For instance, I have a GNOME category and a User Experience category, both of which display Seth Nickell’s weblog, since he is both a GNOME developer and a user experience/interface designer. I like this a lot more than the hierarchical “files in folders” metaphor some other aggregators use. It appears that it is also possible to create sub-categories, but the interface isn’t very clear (I stumbled on this feature by accident).

Suggestions, bugs, etc.

  1. The toolbar display setting is not being inherited from my GNOME Menus & Toolbars preferences, which I’ve tried fiddling with in an effort to get them to take. I had this problem in Liferea, but quitting the application, altering the toolbar display setting and re-opening the application resolved the issue. I’ve tried the same steps with Straw without success.
  2. In addition to inheriting the user’s default toolbar display setting, a View => Customize Toolbar menu would be nice. Take a look at GEdit’s View menu to see what I mean. Here’s the GNOME HIG page regarding the use of toolbars.
  3. Good gravy! Please step up to the GTK+ 2.4 file picker (Figure #6)! The old one is a usability travesty.
  4. Import and Export commands should have ellipses as they require further user interaction to complete, and assigning keyboard shortcuts to them might also be a good idea.
    • Import Subscriptions…Control-Shift-I
    • Export Subscriptions…Control-Shift-E
  5. A contextual menu option to copy the address of feed links (homepage, individual headline) would be nice.
  6. “Mark All as Read” in the contextual menu as it is in the drop-down menu.
  7. The Subscriptions pane contextual menu command reads Remove but the resulting dialog text and button are worded with Delete. A small inconsistency, but one that should be resolved.
  8. Importing grouped OPML files could optionally create categories and sub-categories depending on the hierarchical structuring. Asking users if they would like to do this would probably be best.
  9. Favicons to the left of the feed name would be nice visual differentiators. Their display could be toggled in the General section of the preferences.

Feed Properties Window

Is there any way you could make the Properties window remember its size? Epiphany’s does, so I’m assuming it’s possible.


  1. Since the categories cannot be rearranged within the category listing box (a feature that might be of some value), it might make sense for check boxes to be toggled by clicking anywhere within the category’s row instead of the user having to hit the rather small check box itself. See Epiphany’s Bookmark Properties window behavior to see what I mean. It’s a small thing, but it saves a substantial amount of time when assigning categories by providing a far larger click target to the user (Fitts’ Law at work) and decreasing the space between the scrollbar and the space the user must click to (de)select a category.

    Compare the size of the clickable regions (outlined in red):


    Straw's category assignment window


    Epiphany's category assignment window

  2. Providing a rollover highlight that indicates that the clickable space extends beyond just the checkbox and label text would also probably help. Check out the File Management preferences that use check boxes or radio buttons (Views and Behavior) to see behavioral examples.

Applications Preferences


  1. That you can create sub-categories using a slash is not made clear in the category creation interface. I only discovered this by creating a group called “UX/UI” (for User Experience/User Interface). This is potentially a very useful feature that should be clearly noted in the interface.
  2. Instead of two buttons, Ascending and Descending, how about two radio buttons? Radio buttons would more clearly indicate the active setting. You could place the existing button graphics to the right of the appropriate text label:

    Ascending (Graphic)

    Descending (Graphic)

  3. Since most users are not going to use an external source for their syndication feeds, the related interface elements could be placed in section revealed only when the user checks the “Use external source for category contents” box. I’d mock this up, but Glade is still a mystery to me.

Published by

Daniel J. Wilson

I am a designer, drummer, and photographer in Brooklyn, NY.