Feed Reader: Found

A little over a week ago, I wrote about my hate-affair with Outlook 2007 and its (mis)handling of my Blogroll. I got several suggestions on what I should be using, and I’m happy to report that I have come to a decision.

But first, let’s go through the contenders. Now, this isn’t meant to be a full-review of each product, however, I did subject myself to at least 30 minutes of freshly imported RSS goodness with each product before I came to a decision.

Feed Demon
This was the first suggestion I got, courtesy of Scott. Now Scott is the secret leader of the Anti-Microsoft Holy War, so I hardly expected him to recommend a Windows-based product. I did expect him to thumb his nose at whatever he did recommend and scoff, “Why aren’t you running OS X?”. He uses NetNewsWire, which is a Mac-only product by NewsGator, but Feed Demon appears to be its Windows counterpart. (Why they don’t just call it NetNewsWire for Win…oh…that’s why).

Feed Demon is pretty slick, with a channel-meme to manage your feeds. My favorite features: online synchronization with www.newsgator.com, keyboard shortcuts for navigating through the XML-goo, and the “news bins”, which is a fancy name for clipping the article for later consumption. My least favorite features: constant prompting to sign up for synchronization with a NewsGator online account (I get it, I know! Stop pestering me!), it’s not free, and it quietly installs (naughty!) another NG product called FeedStation, which is billed as being able to manage your podcast/RSS enclosures. Score: B+

Google Reader
No one suggested this one in particular, but I heard about the Google reader around the time that I heard we were looking to outsource our student email servers with Google/Gmail or Microsoft Live.

It feels a lot like Gmail (especially in “list view”), so it immediately has a nice “welcome home” feel to it…if your name were Google…and you ate Ajax or something. Anyway, it has keyboard shortcuts for navigating through your feeds, it updates your feeds even if you’re not signed into Reader (which is similar to other online-only readers), and it’s incredibly fast/responsive (at least in IE7 on Vista). Oh, and it’s free (if you sign up for a Google account). Importing my feeds from the last remnants of my blogroll from Outlook 2007’s exported OPML file was a breeze.

Only a couple of things stand out as minuses. Unlike Gmail, which has a pretty standard web-based-email interface, Reader feels a little less intuitive. I’m not entirely sold on the online-only business, as sometimes I want to sync-and-go. Score: B

Bloglines was vociferously recommended by both Dave and Roz, and since I trust them both, I had to give it a try.

I actually signed up for Bloglines a really long time ago, at least long enough ago that I had forgotten that I signed up for it. I went to register my normal username, and it was taken. It reset my password and I was back in business. The first thing I noticed was in fact the worst thing I noticed. After importing my OPML and clicking on a folder, it instantly marked the whole folder/feed as read. Gah! I like my feeds like I like my email; unread if I’d like to get back to it. Marking a whole feed as unread was just too cumbersome for me. Marking all 300 of my “Geek News” posts as read when I click on the folder just makes no sense to me.

Bloglines does have keyboard shortcuts (although I couldn’t find documentation on what exactly they were). The UI doesn’t feel as streamlined as Google Reader, and it’s online only. Bloglines does offer more than just a reader interface; you can also setup your own blog (but hey, I’ve got one of those I think). Score: C-

Mozilla Thunderbird
I didn’t realize that Thunderbird also did RSS aggregation, and stumbled upon it as an option when doing a search for RSS Readers on download.com.

Like Outlook 2007, it treats RSS feeds as another type of email item, and it’s an asynchronous (read: not online-only) process. The normal conventions apply like drag-and-drop to other folders, mark individual items as un/read, and keyboard shortcuts for the same. In version at least (maybe it’s fixed in the latest rev), the feeds update when you hit the “get mail” button, but the unread count in the individual folder doesn’t update. After I imported my OPML, I was clicking “get mail” like a mad-person and it looked like Thunderbird wasn’t doing anything at all.

If you use Thunderbird to read your POP/IMAP mail, and you like managing your feeds in the same client you manage your email, this is probably the package for you. I don’t use TBird for email (Exchange and MAPI a’ight?!?), so that feature isn’t as compelling. Oh, and it’s free. Score: B-

Barry, my boss, suggested this one. It hasn’t been updated since 2002. No way, José. Score: D

The Winner
Feed Demon. I like the keyboard shortcuts, the “news bin”, the synchronization with newzgator.com, its responsiveness. Somehow, for me, it made feed reading more efficient; I was blowing through my feeds in record time. All the others had me fumbling through “clumsier” UI and constantly switching from mouse to keyboard to mouse without really getting me any further along. I said to Scott, “Now I know how you can keep with your 600+ blogroll!”

So? 92,653 words later, I’m using Feed Demon, and Scott gets to collect his prize. Scott? Just let me know which week of your on-call shifts you want me to take! Many thanks to Barry, Janice, Roz, and Dave for their time and suggestions.


3 Responses to “Feed Reader: Found”

  1. 1 Dave February 1, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Now I’m tempted to try out Feed Demon.

  2. 3 roz February 2, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    i have a comment about bloglines…

    ok, so you click the folder and all 300 posts are marked as read. boo hiss… you don’t want to read all 300 just then. all you have to do is click on the button to display items from the last session / 1 hour / 6 hours / 24 hours / week / month / all / etc (there are more options than what i am listing).

    so you can’t really use that as an excuse! i think bloglines deserves at least a B. it’s easy and fast, neat and clean! what more do you want? how much time do YOU have to filter through all the junk on the internet!?!?

    yours truly,
    toughy duffy fancy pants

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