23 August 2006

RSS reader reviews

Sorry Stavlund - one more post that's not about - ooooh - church DANGER! ;-)

So my first RSS reader was the one that came in Google's Desktop Sidebar, which calls RSS feeds "web clips" and, sadly, doesn't work very well. (Or at least didn't at the time, and it was bad enough that I'm not inclined to try it again.) It was one of those products with lots of ambition but poor execution - it tried to add feeds automagically for you based on your browsing habits (which was neat, if perhaps a bit Google-standard-creepy), but it made it absolutely impossible to manage a list of feeds across multiple computers. Also, it missed updates - alot.

So I dumped it in favor of a Firefox plugin called Wizz RSS Reader. This was better - the feature set was all I could ask for - but since it did all its work within Firefox on the local computer, it tended to make both the browser and the slow computers I run it on v-e-r-y v-e-r-y s-l-o-w. It might be OK if you watch fewer feeds than I do (72, currently), but for me, it was untenable.

So yesterday I got fed up with that one too and went in search of something better. Here are the incredibly unscientific results of my auditions for "Croghan's Next Top Newsreader":

  • Pluck. Grade: F. I had high hopes for this one. I've heard good stuff about the company, and they had a Firefox plugin that seemed similar to the one I'd been using, while fixing its major problem (by being more server-based). I set it up, and was digging it, but after an hour, I noticed that it had decided that absolutely everything I subscribed to was new and unread. I "read" each feed individually (the only way to change the status to "read"), and an hour later, absolutely every feed was "unread" again. I went to their support site, and it said that this was a known issue that their engineers were aware of, but there was no fix at this time. I wrote them a perturbed e-mail in which I likened that to Microsoft saying, "We know that IE7 doesn't actually allow you to browse web sites. Our engineers are aware of the problem, but we have no fix at this time. We hope you enjoy the product anyway." I tried their web-based client, but as far as I can tell it makes no attempt to keep track of "read" vs. "unread" at all. I didn't try their IE plugin (I rarely use IE), but, you know, what all this comes down to is: F. Drop the "Pl", replace it with an "S", folks - thanks for playing.
  • Rojo. Grade: D. Hmm. Looks like it might be cool. Register. O-kay - it seems to think that if I want an RSS reader, I must also want a contacts manager. What-evah. Import my feeds. 18 of 72 feeds failed to import. Why? No explanation. Other readers seem to like those feeds. I like those feeds. What's wrong with those feeds? Bah.
  • NewsGator. Grade: B. OK, now we're talking. Registration is easy, all my feeds import, everything's managed on the server, everything I want to customize seems to be customizable, and - bottom line - it works. It tells me when there are new posts in my feeds, and lets me read them with a minimum of bother. When I move to another computer, it remembers everything. Good job, guys. You would have been the winner, except that (like Darth Vader) I am forgiving, and I decided to give the final contender another try, even though their servers were down when I first tried playing with them last night. And the Oscar goes to:
  • Bloglines. Grade: A! Overall, the experience is very, very similar to NewsGator. I was using them side by side in two Firefox tabs, and one thing became very apparent: Bloglines is a lot faster than NewsGator. That's a big win. Then, I noticed that Bloglines has a little notifier program for your Windows system tray. I installed it, and it works. Bloglines, you have found the way to my heart. I heart Bloglines. At least after using them for half a day. They'll probably do something to piss me off eventually, but for now, let us enjoy sweet summer love while it lasts. :-)
So, this has been another public service sort of post, though obviously your mileage may vary. What do you use? Is there anything I didn't try that you would recommend? I know, I'm barely back home after all night parking at Inspiration Point with my new squeeze, but I got a cheatin' heart. :-)


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on Bloglines. Easy to register a new feed, good organizational control, and it is FAST. When I post to my blog and then check Bloglines (takes less than a minute) they have the new post!

I'll have to check out the notifier.

Anonymous said...

Nice, succinct reviews! If I used Windows I'd find them particularly useful :-). I myself use NetNewsWire, but but I'm merely satisfied with it.

Mike Croghan said...

Actually, I think the only thing I tried that shouldn't apply equally well to Mac (other than Google Desktop - and don't bother with that for RSS, believe me) is the notifier for Bloglines. Everything else is either web-based or Firefox-based. Of course, if your Mac browser of choice is not Firefox but Safari or Camino or something, that's another matter.

That said, you might want to check out Bloglines (100% web-based, apart from the optional notifier) if you're only merely satisfied with NetNewsWire - yep, they've got an OS X notifier too, and I bet it works as well as the Windows one.

After several days, I still heart Bloglines. Turns out they've got a very handy mobile phone interface too, for the pathologically connected (like me).