Online feed readers reviewed

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:

Bloglines

A Bloglines image 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

A NewsGator image 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

A Google Reader image 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.

Rojo

A Rojo image 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.

 

Conclusion

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!
Posted in Google,Reviews/tests,Technology |

38 Comments

  • Keeping your files and programs online is a really good idea, I have to look into that since my computer is starting to get old. Thanks!

    (I'm using Thunderbird 1.5 for my feeds right now and I think it works well)

  • Ã&Acirc says:

    Netvibes …. Netvibes …. Netvibes ….

    http://www.netvibes.com/

    They so rock !

  • I think you meant "So, deciding which ones to test[...], amongst other sources, …" and no I don't use them, I live on a USB Pen.

  • Erik says:

    It's funny, but getting rid of old posts/hiding "empty" feeds is the exact behavior I prefer. For me feeds are an extremely transiant thing. If it's something I'm interested in, I bookmark it.

    For what it's worth, I think there are some options to adjust that behavior in Bloglines.

    I'll have to give Rojo another shot.

  • Chris says:

    Hi Robert, thanks for the brief test. I currently use bloglines but like to switch since bloglines is offline to often.

    I like the bloglines interface (although I also dislike the frame), but the off-times are annoying.

    By the way, you can configure bloglines to let feeds without unread items disappear. I like it this way…

  • Rob says:

    Nice, thanks for the review. Maybe I'll give Rojo a shot.. I give credit to Bloglines for I believe being the most stable one out there but damn it's ugly and clunky. Sorrybut I need sexy in my web apps; I think it's why I use NewsFire and as much as I'd like to not depend on my Mac for the feeds I just can't bring myself to leave it.

  • One of the tricks with Bloglines, if you want to remember a specific post, you can mark the post as unread. That way, it'll always appear in the left. Also, feeds already read disappear from the left navigation. Clicking on (Show All) will bring them all back. Bloglines has also recently just moved their datacenter and I find they are starting to update much more quickly now. I'd like to get around to trying the other ones though. I can't say I *love* bloglines but it has done the job thus far. :)

  • Mark Hadley says:

    Funnily enough i wrote a similar comparison a couple of months ago and came to the same conclusion: none of them are perfect, but Rojo is the best of the bunch…

    There are lots of new online readers on the block now, Feedlounge, Searchfox (which has apparently shut down) and Attensa to name but 3, and i'm hoping to do a follow-up when i get a moment to see if anything tops Rojo…

  • Yannick says:

    I use Bloglines. Haven't had any real problems with it. But thanks for the review of some of the others.

  • I'm currently using Google Reader. Before, I had used Sage, a Firefox extension. But it was just too fixed on one computer, and I – like Robert – prefer to have my stuff online to access it via laptop. Why Google Reader? Well, it's just the first service I've tried and I've gotten used to it.

  • Sumeet says:

    Hi Robert,

    Brian did a review of AlmondRocks, which I've begun using exclusively now. It seems to have most of the features you're looking for.

    AlmondRocks Feed Reader

  • Glen C. says:

    Of course, bloglines has keyboard shortcuts as well. I love bloglines and personally don't mind the frames at all. I'm not sure why everyone is down on them in this instance. I suppose a javascript updating thing might work but that also excludes a certain audience: those with javascript turned off.

  • I use Bloglines so that I can access my feeds from home, work, vacationing at my sister’s house and from my Treo 650.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Emil,

    Yes, I like having things online. :-)

    Arní,

    Good suggestion, although to me that's a slightly different thing. I will get back to that in an upcoming post.

    Robert W,

    Thanks for catching the typo, I changed that. The USB way seems like too much of a hassle to me… :-)

    Erik,

    Yes, no doubt people like this behavior too. I really want the posts in their context, though, that's my problem.

    Erik, Chris,

    If you know how to change it Bloglines, I would appreciate you letting me know. I have looked around for but couldn't find it.

    Chris,

    Thanks, I hope it was at least a little bit helpful.

    Jonathan,

    Yes, I know about marking certain posts read, but that feels backwards to me; I would prefer if that were the default behavior. For me at least, the feeds never disappear from the left column, even if all of its posts have been read.

    Sounds promising if they're faster at updating now!

    Mark,

    Thanks for sharing, your article seemed very comprehensive. And I thought this post was at least a little bit original… :-)

    Good to see that you share my opinion about Rojo.

    Yannick,

    I'm happy for you then! :-)

    SilentWarrior,

    I think it definitely has potential, but that it also needs some updates to the layout.

    Sumeet,

    Thanks for the tip, although it seems like it works they way I dislike: it removes read feeds and posts unless they're explicitly saved.

    Glen C,

    Absolutely true, Bloglines has got keyboard shortcuts too. For me it wouldn't have to be an AJAX-type of thing for updating, but just the whole thing as a single web page.

    Joe,

    I have actually tried Kinja briefly, but I didn't really like the new interface. Also, it seems a bit sluggish, at least right now.

  • Dag says:

    Thanks for this review. It was helpful. I have tried three of them and no one is good enough. But I'll test the last one and see if this is better.

    Maybe you should write one?

    /dag

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Tanny,

    Thanks for sharing!

    Dag,

    Thank you, I hope you will Like Rojo. But I agree, it's hard to find a perfect one.

    And nah, I'm not really the appropriate person to write one… :-)

  • Chris says:

    Hi Robert, if you've activated the My Feeds Tab there is a link options. There you can set detailed options for displaying the feeds.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    Ah, sorry, I asked you for the wrong thing. What I want is nothing to disappear, even if it has been read. I want to keep all feeds as well as all posts all the time.

  • andr3 says:

    At the moment I'm using Netvibes for quick reading of news and SearchFox for intensive aggregation. Searchfox will shutdown soon, so I'm now looking for new aggregators. I was so happy with SearchFox… :(

    None of those you mentioned convinced me, having tried them all already. :(

    My hopes are on Feedlounge, or if not I don't see any webbased reader taking SearchFox's place… I'll probably go with RSSOwl (cross platform is always a plus). :)

  • [...]
    برامج ويب لقراءة RSS

    من مدونة روبرت تالك، نظرة على تطبيقات ويب لقراءة ملفات RSSØŒ Ø§Ù„Ù…Ù‚Ø [...]

  • Robert Nyman says:

    andr3,

    Regarding Netvibes: like I said to Arní, I will get back on that another day. I never tried SearchFox so I can't really say anything about that.

    Cross platform isn't even a plus for me, it's a vital criteria. :-)

  • Thanks for the brief…

    nice to see a review for such technology and your way was excelent to be understod by people who are still in thier first step of this world

    i am new to the RSS tech and i am using Bloglines… from your review i think i'll use Rojo to see how it work

    Best regards from Dubai

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Garmoosha,

    Thank you, that was really my aim! :-)

    Good luck finding anything that suits your specific needs!

  • Firefox users may be interested in these suggestions. For a hosted solution, try Bloxor. For a workstation (local) solution, the Sage extension is outstanding.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Douglas,

    Bloxor seems really good, I definitely need to try that one out!

    I've been using Sage for a long time now and I love it's simple interface. However, I don't want to be dependant on any installation and sometimes that's not an option for me, so therefore I'm looking for an online alternative/replacement.

    But if an install is an option for any of you reading this, I really recommend Sage.

  • stoicho says:

    I use http://live.com

    A know, I know – it comes from Microsoft

    But it has surprising good interface (minimalistic and Apple style cool ?!?!)

    It lacks some features, but I think they are going to put everythink up very soon.

  • [...] E 7 Maximize your search behavior in Firefox Internetworld gets web standards all wrong Online feed readers reviewed

    Sear [...]

  • Robert Nyman says:

    stoicho,

    To me it doesn't matter who offers the service. If it's good and you like it: go for it! :-)

    However, to me, Live is something more than just an online feed reader: please read more in my A war of personalization post.

  • [...]

    Bloglines NewsGator Google Reader Rojo [Read : Robert’s Talk (Online feed readers reviewed)]
    Entry Filed under: S [...]

  • [...] p; Related reading Newsvine – what is it good for? A war of personalization Online feed readers reviewed
    Posted in Technology | Add to [...]

  • rickdog says:

    My favorite is NewsAlloy, it's the most capable and feature-rich. This is the baby of a very nice and talented man from the Ukraine, Volodymyr Danylyuk . I'm amazed that one man can create such an app. I introduced Michael Harrington at TechCrunch to NewsAlloy (unknown to Volodymyr) and he loved it, but Volodymyr took a real beating the next day:

    "from: Volodymyr Danylyuk

    to: me Jan 30

    i'm dead :) after users invasion

    this weekend invasion just made me to rework some stuff to handle 5 times more users online :) who is uploadingtheir opml's :)

    but thank you for promos! today i have lot of work to fix your atom problem and raise processing scales"

    I also *really* like the elegant feedreader that is provided for PortSpace bloggers. Nice wysiwyg editor for posting, clean usable design.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    rickdog,

    Thanks, and thanks for the anecdote, that'sinteresting to hear! I tried it and it seemed very capable. To me it had too many functions… :-)

  • Prashant says:

    Very good review..can you do a review on rojo feedexchange too? would be interesting to know how much traffic bloggers can get from that simple feed.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Prashant,

    Thank you!

    I'm not planning on it right now, so at the time it doesn't seem likely it will happen.

  • [...] época em que o Google Reader surgiu, outras soluções similares já existiam. Do já citado Bloglines a outros menos conhecidos, como Rojo e NewsGator, não é como se os [...]

  • [...] época em que o Google Reader surgiu, outras soluções similares já existiam. Do já citado Bloglines a outros menos conhecidos, como Rojo e NewsGator, não é como se os [...]

  • [...] estudantes americanos criaram um site que lista as melhores opções de leitores. Veja mais aqui. Este texto mostra as opções antes da existência do Reader. Entre os destaques está o Netvibes e o Rojo, [...]

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