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The Podcatcher Peril:
Bandwidth/Disk Space Overload

Podcatchers are closely related to news readers (podcasts are essentially very similar to news feeds).

But since there are less podcasts than news feeds in the world, the risk of information overload that attaches to news readers is far less too.

What's of more concern, though, is that podcasts are inherently much bigger files than news feeds.

So if you don't monitor your podcasts closely, it's very easy to run up big bandwidth bills and/or chew up big chunks of hard disk space by indiscriminate podcatching.

Most podcatchers - though not all - provide tools to help you manage your podcasts.

These can include not only tools that let you file your podcasts in an orderly way, but also tools that let you periodically purge old podcasts from your hard drive that you've already listened to or viewed.

Most will also provide some sort of scheduling ability so that you can set podcasts to download at a time when you're unlikely to be inconvenienced by any slowdown on your PC (eg: during lunch or at night)

And most podcatchers will also provide tools that let you set limits on the size of podcasts you're prepared to download, while some offer intelligent downloading that allows you to avoid re-downloading files you've previously received.

All of these tools are very valuable if bandwidth and/or disk space are a concern. So these features are worth paying attention to you when you look over any particular podcatcher's feature list.

Other Podcatcher Resources

Background: A podcatcher (also called a podcatching client or a podcast client) is a specialised type of news reader designed to capture podcasts on the Net and store them on your hard drive and/or portable media player for future playback.

Podcasts are audio and/or video files - often of radio shows or TV programs - which are distributed over the Net through RSS or Atom web feeds for future replay.

What distinguishes a podcast from normal streaming content (eg: a YouTube video) is that podcasts can be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically whenever new content is added.

Podcasts are a relatively new form of online content distribution and they draw their name from the Apple iPod, which was the leading portable media player at the time when the first podcasting scripts were developed in late 2004.

This recency explains why many traditional news readers either don't support podcasts at all at the present time or support them poorly. It also explains why there are so few podcatcher programs around at the moment (as at October 2008 we estimate there are no more than 20 commercial and freeware podcatchers in existence!)

However podcasting to PCs has become increasingly popular with the growth of widespread, cheap broadband . And many of the world's biggest radio and TV broadcasters (such as Australia's ABC, the USA's NBC, the UK's BBC and many many others) now make a wide range of their popular radio and TV content available as podcasts.

Podcasts are popular because they allow fans to follow radio programmes or TV shows regardless of where or when they're first broadcast or screened. This is very handy for people who work shifts; those who travel; or those who find that a particular programme isn't available in their geographic area. So while they may still be relatively new, we think podcasts are unlikely to be a flash in the pan.

And if you'd like to get aboard the podcasting-to-PC revolution yourself, we've found 4 completely free podcatchers that will download pods for you easily, simply and reliably in the background while you go about your daily chores. And they don't require a degree in rocket science to set up either!


Popular Podcatchers
The Juice Team (ie programmers Erik de Jonge, Robin Jans, Martijn Venrooy, Perica Zivkovic, Adam Curry and Dave Winer) developed Juice in 2004 (though the software was originally called iPodder and then iPodder Lemon until legal pressure from Apple Computer Inc forced the name to be changed in November 2005). Since then this open source software has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times and it's spun off several variants, the best known of which are probably IcePodder (which runs on Linux) and PodNova (which runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux). Juice's primary purpose is to manage podcasts in an easy, non-technical way and it succeeds at this task remarkably well. We've used Juice as our own office podcatcher since 2006 so we can report from long experience that it's run without a hiccup ever since the day we first installed it, becoming a firm favourite with our in-house podcasting fanatics. Juice supports more than 15 languages and multiple media formats. And if you want a quick start into the world of podcasting it also comes with a built-in directory of thousands of listed podcast feeds (though quite a few are now broken links). It also supports OPML import and export (so you can copy feeds in from other clients or export them out to other clients) and it not only allows you to schedule downloads but will also resume interrupted downloads if required. Juice's one drawback - and it's not a very serious one - is that it only supports RSS feeds (not Atom). But against this it has a dedicated support forum where other Juice fans can provide help and guidance if you need it. Juice runs on Windows (XP/2003 and higher) and Mac OS X 10.3 or higher. A Linux version is also under development. (Footnote: Australia's ABC recommended Juice as its podcast downloader of choice for some years until they developed their own. If you're at all familiar with our beloved national broadcaster, you'll know that's a very serious endorsement indeed). Get Juice


Christophe Bouhier's jPodder was - like Juice (above) - one of the first podcatchers ever built. And in 2006 it went through a complete upgrade to the powerful Java SWT platform, which allows it to run on multiple computing platforms (ie Windows XP/2003 and higher, and Linux). jPodder has many of the same features as Juice (ie OPML import and export; scheduled downloads; automatic retries for broken downloads; support for RSS feeds etc). But it also has a few features that Juice doesn't. These include the ability to limit download size (handy if you have to conserve bandwidth!); synching files to Windows MediaPlayer as well as iTunes (Juice can synch to iTunes only); external playing of MP3, MPEG-4, Real, Quicktime, Windows Media, DivX and Xvid media formats (Juice can download all these but only allows external playing of MP3 formats); and support for the emerging podcast:// and pcast:// transport protocols (which isn't important now, but may become important in the future as podcasting continues to develop). jPodder comes in two language versions (English and Dutch) and it incorporates its own built-in browser so you can look over, sort and manage your podcast directories from within the software itself (with intelligent colour-coding of things like partial downloads etc to make the task easier). jPodder also has a Smart Downloads feature that will limit downloads to the latest updates available (again, handy if you need to conserve bandwidth). We found that jPodder was easy to set up and simple to use, and it was encouraging to see that - like Juice - it has a forum for support if you need it, along with an occasionally-updated blog. jPodder is distributed under a GPL licence and it's completely free. It's also currently the second most popular freeware podcatcher next to Juice. Get jPodder


If you use Linux (any of the major variants) or FreeBSD as your operating system, then Thomas Perl's gPodder may be worth your inspection if jPodder doesn't quite meet your needs. gPodder is an open source GPL podcatcher built exclusively for the Linux platform and it provides most (though not all) of the functionality of Juice and jPodder - for example, OPML import and export; the ability to schedule downloads and limit download sizes (though curiously, not the ability to resume broken downloads); synching to Media Player and iPods; and the download and external playing of MP3, MPEG-4, Real, Quicktime, Windows Media, DivX and Xvid media formats. Unlike Juice and jPodder, though, gPodder supports both RSS and Atom podcast feeds, along with BitTorrent podcasts. gPodder was initially developed in 2005 and has been updated almost monthly since that time. Thomas and his friends freely admit that this may mean there are bugs in some of the initial new releases. But the gPodder community work on them actively and the software has become pretty robust with the passage of time. gPodder certainly isn't for everyone. But if you enjoy Linux and software built especially for that platform by devoted fellow fans of The Penguin, then gPodder may be for you. gPodder also supports the German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Galician and Czech languages. And it's 100% free. Get gPodder


Lance Robinson's PPR (Primetime Podcast Receiver) is a Windows 2000 (or higher) podcatcher that runs on the Microsoft .Net Framework - and if you don't have this on your PC already it can be downloaded for free from Microsoft. PPR (like gPodder, above) does a little less than either Juice or jPodder in some areas at the present time. But what it does do it does quite well! PPR supports OPML import and export and allows you to schedule downloads, resume broken downloads and/or limit download sizes. It will also synch to both iTunes and MediaPlayer and it allows download and internal playing of MP3, MPEG-4, Windows Media and DivX files right out of the box (though it will also let you download Real, Quicktime and Xvid formats too, but you'll have to fire up other viewers to run them). PPR supports RSS feeds (though not Atom or BitTorrent). But uniquely, it also supports m3u, pls, wpl, apple and iTunes playlist formats. PPR also has a system tray notifier to let you know when new podcasts arrive, and it's intelligent enough so that it can be set to avoid downloading podcasts you've already received (very handy if it's been awhile since you've last run it). PPR also has tools to intelligently manage your library of podcast downloads and it's supported by Lance's own blog, giving you the ability to raise questions and/or suggest ideas for future enhancements directly with the software's programmer. PPR has been steadily upgraded over time; is well put together; and it's also completely free.


This page last updated: 08-Oct-2008


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