March 19th, 2013

sandwich

Things That Aren't Reader

My adventures in Google Reader replacement. Personally, I don't need multi-platform with a back end, which is admittedly one reason Google Reader was so great, but I really only use my Mac. So: web services and Mac standalones.

Feedly
This seems to be the service that's trying to position itself as the Seamless Google Reader Replacement. Right now it uses Google Reader as a backend, but they promise that by July 1, it'll seamlessly be using its own backend. Of the web services I tried early, they were the ones with the least problems being hammered under the weight of Google Reader refugees. (At first there was missing UI which made the interface very confusing, but it recovered fast). It has the magazine-style page format, with a focus on pictures, but the categories and individual feeds are prominent, and it has a happy toggle between "show all" and "show unread". Oh! Hey, they have a setting for the format - you can switch it from Magazine to Titles (like reader) or Card (more like pinterest) or other things. Points for them. I can live with this one, and the "seamless transition" (assuming they make good) is a nice perk. It has google ads along the side - my goodness, it's as if they found a way to make money from their free service so they don't have to dump their users!
Pulse
Well, this doesn't really want to be an RSS reader, it wants to be a glossy content provider that might barely let you read RSS if you ask nicely. It starts out by insisting that I subscribe to three of its auto-populated feeds about Sports or Entertainment or whatever, and I couldn't get rid of them. (Maybe in in the iOS interface that would have worked; the UI seems designed for iOS and the web site is a less-loved offshoot). That just irritated me too much, and I quit before getting further.
Netvibes
This requires importing the OPML subscriptions file (which is an XML file that Google Reader will output. It not ending in .opml confused me for a bit). You have to sign up and create at least one of their feeds before you can import, but you can delete their feed after that. It does actually note which feeds are not working (as opposed to most of the others, which just stop giving me articles - I can prune my list of the broken ones! Bonus!) Though deleting the broken ones takes too many clicks - I'm okay with clicking on the "delete" icon and then clicking on the "OK" button to delete it, but the extra window afterwards telling me it's deleted, that I have to click on the "Close" button to close is a little much. Alas, the OPML file does not seem to contain what I have read and what not, so everything is new. I can get it to display only unread articles, but not hide feeds with no new articles, which I kind of prefer (well, maybe that's why I never notice when feeds stop working). It makes clicking to open in a new browser window (as opposed to the in-reader window) easy, but in general, I don't really love the interface. I kind of like the clean white space UIs, and this one is more greys and lines. Maybe better for people who get headaches from too much white.
The Old Reader
Meant to look like the old version of Google Reader. It imports from an OPML file too. However, it took about four days to import an OPML file, and it's still very slow to actually run. It might be fine if it stops thrashing, and I think it has the social features that Google Reader used to have, so it might be the place for the Reader Sharers to go, but that was never my thing.
Reeder
This is a Mac standalone. The in-reader browser window is very nice, and you can toggle on and off "internet plugins" (i.e. video players). I'm not actually sure which browser they are getting the plugins from. In general, I like it, except that videos don't seem to have sound (?), and getting to a browser window is hard to do trivially.
NewsBlur
It looks like it could be good, but I wasn't willing to pay $24 just to test it. (I understand they're swamped, I can't really blame them for needing to ramp up with money.) They do seem to have pretty attentive support, so that


Anyway. I have mostly been switching back and forth between Feedly and Reeder. Reeder is a little faster with the pseudo-browser format, but Feedly is better as far as actually being a browser. I suppose I'll keep switching back and forth until Reader dies, and then see who does better with their back end.