Switching to Gregarius

Written in the mid-afternoon in English • Tags: ,

I’ve switched to reading feeds with Gregarius because I grew tired of tweaking my old reader, unfortunately code that apparently is no longer developed. Gregarius has more bells and whistles than I’ve had time to look into, and I had to change my reading habits a bit, but not too drastically. Installation was a breeze and I could move all my feeds with a couple of clicks using an OPML file. Gregarius is also themable and pluggable, which is always a guarantee for hours of fun adjusting the behaviour to your liking.

I never liked the idea of being tied to a single computer when reading email or Usenet News, or using IRC. That’s why when I looked for a feed reader, I wanted it to be web-based. A text-based application on UNIX might also have been acceptable, but today everything tends to be more mixed media, so better not start with something that immediately limits the experience. (I’ve already been stuck with text-only email for the most part because I can’t shake my old habits.)

I started with Feed on Feeds and actually have used it for about 18 months. Just like the author Steve Minutillo says, it has just enough functionality to do the job, and I’d add that it does it rather well. However, occasionally problems would come up with new feeds (and sometimes even with old ones) and most recently timestamps stopped working (likely due to having upgraded to PHP5). I went to upgrade MagpieRSS but it hasn’t got a new release out. Neither does FoF.

I recalled having seen a nice looking web-based reader some time ago and tried to remember its name. Well, it is Gregarius. I installed it, and it was handling all but 3 of my old feeds (these 3 are from the same hosting site, vuodatus.net). I decided I’d deal with those 3 feeds later.

For some reason the default theme on Gregarius has a style sheet where font sizes have been set to “smaller” and “smallest”. The result on my 1920×1200 screen is practically unreadable, especially since I’d be spending a lot of time reading the output. Fortunately there was a new theme called Simplicity by Adam Kalsey, which is vastly better. (It’d be perfect if it either let the browser choose the font sizes per my preferences, or if there was a configuration option to set the text size. I’ll save the rant about point-based font sizing for later.) Without this theme I might not have switched to Gregarius so quickly.

I had to fix a couple of small PHP issues (at least one of them stemming from PHP5), and another issue with Apache configuration. It is great that Gregarius is available using svn, so I can easily track my own modifications. The project is also using Trac to manage problem reports, so it is easy to contribute changes back.

I’ve noticed at least one more problem (search doesn’t work), but I didn’t have search before so at least for me it is not a regression. It also would seem to be rather easy to fix once I take some time to find out what the preferred fix is. (I think I know already, but never hurts to confirm you are working towards the same goals as the developers.)

There are also some plugin problems that seem baffling at first look: I need to read more code to understand how they were supposed to work in the first place…

Overall, though, I’m very happy with the new modern look for reading my feeds.


  • Development seems to be moving along, which is always a definite plus.
  • Categorization is a nice to have feature.
  • I’ll definitely play with the themes and plugins eventually.

The jury is still out on:

  • I haven’t thought about the ability to tag posts yet.
  • I’m yet to figure out how to retrieve flagged items (it says “flag for later reading” so I did, but couldn’t find any place for “show all flagged items”).


  • Can’t think of any yet…

If you want to have a look, check out https://kimmo.suominen.com/rss/. (The page might not remain open in the future, but it is for now.)

By the way, I also found a more recent version of MagpieRSS bundled with Gregarius, and it almost fixed my FoF dates: now they are only off by the timezone of the post…


  • 1

    You can retrieve flagged items if you enable the button in the stickyflag plugin.

    Sameer — 26.4.06 @ 1:26

  • 2

    Glad you like Simplicity.

    Some of the stuff in the Simplicity CSS file is leftover from the default Gregarius CSS. As I refine it, the cruft like fixed point sizes will go away. For now, you can open up simplicity/web/css/look.css and replace both instances of “font-size: 11px;” with “font-size: 0.85em;” (no quotes). The only problem you’ll find is that some browsers will have som inheritance quirks and somethings will look to small — like paragraph tags inside li tags.

    Adam Kalsey — 27.4.06 @ 7:26

  • 3

    It looks like most plugins have no effect on my installation of Gregarius. My guess is that this is because of PHP5. I wonder if it is something similar to the array problem I ran into with Tasks. I’ll try to find some time to look at the code, but today it is too beautiful outside to spend too much time by the computer. :)

    Regarding Simplicity: I wonder if it would be better to use absolute sizes (preferably point sizes, pt) instead of relative sizes (such as em). At least it would avoid inadvertent “accumulation” of the size definition in nested structures. I definitely agree that using pixel (px) sizes for fonts is bad, as that doesn’t account for the different display resolutions and pixel densities.

    I’ve also noticed that (at least some versions of) Internet Explorer handle relative sizes differently, although this might just be a consequence of the different “base CSS” it uses compared to Firefox (and other Gecko browsers).

    Kimmo Suominen — 30.4.06 @ 15:59

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