Reviewed by: Lianne Reitter, May 2005
Published by: Thunderstone Media LLC
Requires: Mac OS X 10.3.5, iTunes v4.x or higher
It’s Monday morning and I'm running late (again), but I can't leave without checking to make sure that my iPod mini has the latest Podcasts on it. I have a forty minute drive into work through some of the worst rush hour traffic in North America, and without something interesting to listen to I may go mad. The one key piece of software that gets my podcasting content on my player and me out the door is iPodderX.
Two of the fastest growing Internet technologies are Atom feeds and RSS feeds. The technologies rely on simple XML files to point suitable RSS reader software at news, information, blogs, podcasts, and many other items of wide ranging interest. The newest RSS phenomenon includes the technique of including audio and video file downloads in the XML newsfeed. That's where podcasts come in because they're nothing more than MP3 files containing everything from news and information programs, hobby information, technical advice and a thousand other things. As of this writing, there are well over 5,000 different active daily, weekly and monthly podcasts available for download. So iPodderX is one of those programs that you may find indispensable. iPodderX is used to fetch selected Internet podcasts, movies, photos, documents and many other kinds of files for your Mac. iPodderX also automatically dumps podcasts into iTunes so that I can upload the podcasts to my iPod.
I have not found or used a better podcast aggregator than iPodderX. The interface is simple, with a list of feeds that I have subscribed to, a sub-list of current episodes available for each feed, and a browser window where I can read or view the contents of each episode. This browser functionality makes iPodderX a great newsreader and for podcast feeds the browser feature will show any information that the author has included such as podcast show notes. Since podcast feeds include downloadable files, often MP3s, you can configure iPodderX to either automatically download those files or leave them on the provider’s server for you to download manually when you are ready. Unread feeds are colored blue and are also denoted with a little blue dot so you won't miss a thing.
Subscribing to a new feed couldn't be easier. You will usually find a new feed to subscribe to from an originating web site; those orange and white buttons on a web site that say RSS or XML will bring you straight to the URL for the actual feed. Copy & paste the URL into the Add Feed dialog in iPodderX and you're done. Set up iPodderX further to automatically download enclosed files from your new feed. You can even convert text to audio and listen via OS X's voice recognition software, making iPodderX a perfect tool for people with impaired vision.
Once you have subscribed to some feeds, configuring iPodderX to retrieve your content is just as easy. Have iPodderX check your feeds once an hour, once a day or several times a day. iPodderX will store any content it downloads in any directory you choose. If you are worried that your hard drive will quickly fill up you can set iPodderX to limit the amount of space it uses. Once that predetermined hard disk space is reached, iPodderX will start deleting files—oldest first—so you needn't be concerned about how much space is being taken up by downloaded content.
Configure iPodderX further still and have it move your downloaded content to iTunes (for audio and video files) and iPhoto (for pictures, and if you are running iPhoto 5, video as well). For podcast listening away from your computer, create a special playlist in iTunes. Configure iPodderX to send podcasts to that playlist and when you update your iPod, all your podcasts will be synced up with your player. How’s that commercial go? Set it and forget it! Once the initial simple configuring is done, iPodderX will have your content where you want it, when you want it, however you can also play your audio and video files directly in the browser.
If you really like to individualize your playlists, iPodderX will help you with that as well. From within the program, a Playlist Builder will allow you to pick and choose separate files from all of your subscribed feeds, allowing you to create either a new iTunes playlist or a new iPhoto Album. Give it a name, click the Create button and it’s done, transferred to the appropriate iLife program for your use and enjoyment.
If you prefer, iPodderX can even have iTunes convert the MP3 files into AAC files, making your podcasts bookmarkable. Bookmarking a podcast means that if you have to pause it or turn your player off, when you get back to listening, the file will start just where you left off. After all, the drive to work may not last as long as the podcast and it’s nice to be able to pick it up again for the drive back home.
If you grab Internet content through an OPML file, iPodderX will handle that for you too. You can also export your subscription list to either an OPML file or a blogroll and easily share your favorite feeds with others. You'll never lose your iPodderX information either as the program also includes a simple backup utility that will send all your subscription information to your .Mac account. How handy is that?
iPodderX will also help you find interesting content. When I first wrote about podcasting in November’s HotLinks article in the Kickstartnews e-mail newsletter there were approximately 35 podcasts available worldwide. There are in excess of 5,000 now, and this broadcast medium is growing in popularity daily. The amount of available content is daunting, and impossible to navigate without some help. iPodderX includes a directory of all available podcasts listed by category from “What’s New” to “Wine” (podcast topics on books, computers, entertainment, food, gadgets, hacking, law, news, science, sex, travel and many, many more are listed in between those as well). iPodderX Top Picks and iPodderX Most Popular are two other directory categories that I like to watch mainly because they're essentially created by the users of the software. A user controllable setting in iPodderX will make a note of the podcasts you regularly listen to and will share that information with other users. No personal information is gathered and it’s nice to have everybody’s opinion. It is incredibly helpful for me as it saves a lot of time trying to filter out the good from the bad. Help files abound in iPodderX too. Along with the online help system, you can also take a tour of the software or link to the online forums for support.
Podcasting is a marriage between Internet broadcasting and portable listening. Creating a podcast is relatively easy and a lot of people are getting into it by either creating content or listening to it. If you want to explore this ever growing medium on your Mac, you simply can not do without iPodderX as your news and podcast aggregator of choice. Highly recommended.
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