Every day I trawl through almost 250 web site feeds in order to write Lifehacker, and for the past 2 years I’ve used Bloglines to do so. No other feed reader (not even the one I helped build) had all the features I needed to track what I’d read and what I hadn’t across computers and operating systems.
That is, until I gave Google Reader another whirl earlier this week. The just-rolled-out Reader upgrades turned the app into an even better product than the much older and more-established Bloglines, and so I’ve made the switch.
The most interesting thing to me is that Gina’s reasons for switching were almost entirely different from my reasons.
The comments on the Lifehacker thread (and the spillover digg thread) are good too. People mention wanting
- an API like Bloglines has. Fair point.
- Better favicon support and the ability to rearrange the order of feeds (one digg user wanted to be able to drag and drop feeds). Also fair points.
- Disposable email addresses. This one wouldn’t have occurred to me. Readers mentioned dodgeit as an alternative for disposable email addresses, and that dodgeit can turn that email into an RSS feed. For example, if someone sends an email to firstname.lastname@example.org then anyone can read that email by subscribing to the RSS feed http://dodgeit.com/run/rss?mailbox=funkymcfunk . I never thought of this, but it’s a neat concept to avoid giving out your actual email address.
- OPML import. This is supported (click Settings, then look for the Import/Export tab). One digg reader mentioned a problem with importing Netvibes OPML though.
- Show only updated feeds. This is supported (in the left pane, there’s a link that toggles between “only list updated” and “list all”).
- A mobile reader. A digg commenter mentions http://www.google.com/reader/m/ . Okay, I tried it and the mobile reader works well–it even shows tiny pictures on my phone if they’re in the post. Reader also somehow sent back the “Matt has read this post” info, so once I finish an item on my phone, it’s marked as read when I reload Reader in my desktop browser. That’s pretty cool, and now I yearn to upgrade my phone.
- Automatic refresh. I don’t think Reader does this right now, although it doesn’t bug me to hit the Reload button.
- Ability to sort items reverse-chronologically. Again, not the way that I read but it makes sense.
- Better preservation of formatting when emailing posts from Reader.
After taking Google Reader for a 1.5 week test drive, I’ve now switched over to Reader completely. I found that Reader let me slice through the same number of feeds in less time, and that was the clincher for me.
One hidden Reader gem I noticed today is that the search box for “Add subscription” is very smart. You can type in an exact RSS/Atom url, but you can also just type “www.lifehacker.com” and Reader will go and find the feed for you. That’s cool, but Bloglines can do that much. Today I realized that if you type a query, Reader will suggest feeds.
Let me give you an example. After I read about Beck visiting Yahoo! I kept meaning to add the “Yahoo Yodel” blog to my feeds, but it’s a mild amount of hassle to go find it and subscribe. Now with reader you can click “Add subscription” and type “yahoo yodel” in the search box and it will suggest feeds. Here’s a screenshot:
Boom, right at the top of the right pane is the feed I want: Yodel Anecdotal. One click and it’s added. I love that Reader does something pretty smart with “add subscription” queries. Kinda like in Google Finance how you don’t need to memorize ticker symbols: you can just throw something at the search box and Finance will do the best it can:
If you’re using Reader, try searching for a feed by name. You can also use the “Subscribe as you surf” bookmarklet (click Settings, then look for the Goodies tab), but I like adding feeds by name.
Update: The Google Reader blog mentions several nice new features. I’d recommend the post just to see their “Web 2.0 meter.”