Damn it, Google! Why are you killing off Reader? As a feed reader, its beauty was in its simplicity. I could skim through hundreds of articles in a matter of minutes, marking the ones I was interested in and then, in one touch, clear away the rest. It is, far and away, the best feed reader available.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I auditioned several new feed readers, hoping I could find a worthy replacement. Apparently, it is more difficult to make a simple feed reader then I imagined.
Many feed readers have gone the way of magazine style readers like Currents and Flipboard. They are beautiful to look at, but they are lousy for churning through tons of articles quickly.
To replace my Google Reader, the reader needs to be easy to use, provide a desktop and mobile version, and provide the ability to quickly skim through hundreds of articles in just a few minutes. These are my “top” 5:
Looking similar to Google Plus, each article is displayed on a white card with a large picture and the article headline and summary underneath. Bloglovin’s pictures are too large, allowing only two articles per page, leading to an excessive amount of scrolling when trying to skim through many articles.
Bloglovin also lacks the ability to customize your experience. There is no setting for a condensed view, meaning you always have to deal with photographs and their summaries. The feeds are listed alphabetically on the left side of the page and there is no way to organize your feeds into larger category folders. So, I can’t take Mashable and PC World and place them in the same tech folder. Social Network sharing is limited only to Facebook. I found the entire experience frustrating and time consuming.
The mobile app has thumbnails, headlines and summaries for every article. There aren’t any options for customizing the layout. It was just slightly less frustrating then the website.
Newsblur has a really nice layout, divided into three frames. The left hand column displays your feeds in caregory folders. The top frame lists the articles by headline. The bottom frame is the photo with article summary. It is a very usable layout, and I loved that I could scan articles quickly by headline. You can also organize your streams into folders. Sharing can only be done via Facebook and Twitter.
The biggest issue with Newsblur is that it is not free. There is a free version offered, but it does not allow you to read headlines by folder. You’ll need to pay $24 per year to have that feature, which I was almost willing to do, until I found the number one reader on this list.
Maybe, it’s just my old blind eyes, but I found the tiny text made this mobile app completely unusable for me. Which was a big disappoint, since I liked the desktop page so much. It is well organized and easy to scroll through, but if I can’t read it without squinting myself into a head ache, none of that does me any good.
Pulse takes a more visual approach to delivering your feeds. It provides headlines laid out in a grid, with the options for three different layouts; five small thumbnails per row, six, even smaller, thumbnails per row, or random sized thumbnails in a mosaic pattern. Six thumbnails per row was fairly easy to scan through, but it is very busy with all of the pictures and I found my eyes tiring after just a few minutes of scanning. There is no option to share to Google Plus, only to Facebook and Twitter. There is no import option on the Pulse website for Google Reader.
Pulse – The pulse mobile app is very similiar to the desktop site, using rows of thumbnails with headlines under them. Swiping from left or right, slides the thumbnails so that you can search through the articles you want. It does allow you to access your Google Reader feed and add those items. I did find it faster to search articles on the mobile app, then on the desktop, but it was still more tiring on my eyes then some of the other readers.
Feedly seems to be a very popular choice since the announcement of Reader closing. It has a clean look, but doesn’t offer many customization features. The layout has pictures on the left with an article summary to the right. It is fairly easy to scroll through and get the information, and there is a condensed view that allows you to just scroll headlines.
While the layout is clean, I don’t find it effective. When you click on a folder, it shows articles separated by individual feeds. I would much more prefer having all my articles listed together in date/time order. It does offer the ability to share from G+, Facebook, and Twitter directly from the article view on the site and it imports feeds from Google Reader. For an RSS feed reader, it’s not bad, but it is a far cry from Google Reader.
Feedly’s mobile app looks very polished. My favorite option puts six articles on a page, along with a thumbnail and article summary. Swiping upwards on the screen, brings up six new articles. Swiping a little to the left marks an article as read and using a longer swipe to the left marks the whole page as read. Swiping from the right side of the screen, reveals the feed categories menu. The mobile app is very easy to use, but there is still no view for just headlines.
1. THE OLD READER
The Old Reader has a great look very much like Google Reader with lots of white space and no extra clutter. Feeds are listed on the left hand side of the screen, and the articles appear in the stream as headlines only. The headlines are expandable to summary and then clicking on the summary will take you to the articles’ homepage. There is also a Chrome Extension that alerts me when new articles have arrived. The whole experience is very bare bones. There are a few features that I would like to have, like the ability to put my feeds into folders and being able to share to a social network other then, just facebook.
There is no Google Play Store app, but their mobile web interface works great. It is streamlined and responsive. It has the feeds at the top followed by article headlines below that you can quickly scroll through.
It may not be the most feature laden, but Old Reader was my feed reader of choice. It was the easiest reader to skim through large amounts of articles in a short amount of time. Both the desktop and mobile versions were simple and easy to use.