As of lately, I’ve been trying to move my program/service usage online more and more, to make it accessible from any computer and also not to lose information in case of a computer crash. Part of that has been finding a service to follow all the feeds I subscribe to. If you don’t know what a feed is, read Wikipedia’s Web feed definition.
So, deciding which ones to test, amongst other sources, I turned to the statistics for this web site to see what the people who are subscribing to my feeds are using. My conclusion was that the four that seemed most popular were:
The important thing to think of when using these kinds of services is that they should support importing and exporting of OPML files. Then you can just move your feeds from service to service and save them in a file for later reference, instead of entering all the feeds over and over again.
Don’t regard this as a professional review but rather just as a regular computer user testing them out. My impressions were:
From what I gathered, Bloglines seems to be the most popular service online and generally I think it’s ok to use, no more, no less. I don’t like the layout using frames, although I really have to give them credit for their excellent PDA version (the only serviced I’ve had the opportunity to test on a PDA). My preferred usage is to keep my read and unread posts together in the order they were posted by the author, together with an indication in the navigation of how many unread posts there are in that specific feed. Bloglines, as well as all the other services have that indication.
However, one thing that bothers me is that the read feeds disappear from the default view when I click on a feed. It is possible to retrieve them again, but that requires extra steps. An alternative to this is to use Clippings to save your favorite posts, but that’s not as interesting to me.
NewsGator is very similar to Bloglines but with a slightly more appealing layout. It implements the same things with removing read posts from the default view and having Clippings for favorites. The thing with NewsGator, though, is that the whole feed disappears from the left hand navigation, if it doesn’t contain any unread posts. Very annoying.
Google Reader has a default layout which is very sparse but good, and it displays only the latest updated posts. It also has support for keyboard shortcuts, of which I’m a real aficionado. But, as soon as you click the Your Subscriptions link, it takes up the entire top part of the web page.
I would really like to see a way to check posts feed by feed without losing so much space of the web page. Google Reader definitely has potential in my eyes, though.
First, I love Rojo’s front page with the Most Read Stories and Recently Tagged Stories, it’s a great and simple way to see what’s talked about right now. Rojo has also taken a little different approach with tagging posts, something I really like and it makes it very easy to find mine and other people’s posts for a certain topic.
After that you have a number of ways to view your feeds, and the different options you make should stick. Unfortunately, expanded blocks in the Feeds tag view doesn’t seem to be consistent/stable when it comes to that, but otherwise it works fine. Overall, it does seem just a tad slow, though.
I didn’t really find any service that was perfect, but out of these I have to say that Rojo is my pick. One of the reasons for that was the updating frequency, the other services can lag behind up to half a day; I want my information instantly!
So now I use Rojo and another similar service that I will tell you more about another day. I do urge you to test these out; maybe one or several of them are spot on for you.
Are you already using any of the above, or some other service that you would like to tip me about? Let me know!