Sunday, August 03, 2008

RSS Reader Roundup…Valca Style

RSSicon

Image credit: Designer Aaron Ovadia

Oh my!

I suspect I just bit off more than I should chew.

All I wanted to do was to peek around at some alternative (free) RSS feed readers and see if there was anything worth considering and adding to my arsenal of Windows freeware apps.

Now my Virtual PC system has become crammed to the gills with RSS feed readers.

I took a look at four (4.5) Firefox RSS feed readers and twenty-four (24) “client” based feed readers.

That’s a lot of software to install, play with, and try to capture an impression of.

Methodology

I installed each application one at a time in a session of Virtual PC running XP SP2. Because of application requirements, I did have to ensure I had the latest version of Java installed. One application also uses Adobe’s Air platform.  So that got loaded as well.

I am using my personal (home) RSS OMPL file which contains a total of 111 feeds at this time.  Certainly not the largest amount of feeds, but large-enough to be challenging. It contains a mix of RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom feed formats.

Being a geeky tech-guy, I only read help-files after I have been using a program for a while and need to do some advanced operations.  As such, my experience-reviews are based on thoughts and observations made for each program during the install process, importation and setup of the RSS OMPL file, initial feed update, brief browsing and usage of the feeds, and attempts to play with any customization or application preference tweaking.

In all, I was shooting to try to get “five-minutes” live-fire range work on each one for my initial impressions.

It is my experience that I often can capture a good sense of a program’s usefulness in those first five-minutes, especially if it leads me to play with it even longer.  With the amount of freeware tools and utilities I use and maintain, goodness knows I’ve gotten this down to an art-form.

That may not be really fair, some programs as we will see are much more complex than others, but should provide a balanced overview of my impressions across the board.

Note: While I do keep a copy of my RSS feeds loaded in Google Reader I rarely use it and am not going to be looking at Web-based RSS feed readers…this go round.  If you are interested, Speckyboy has a recent list their Top 10 Web Based RSS Readers pick.  Knock  yourself out.

Firefox Feed Readers

Disclaimer.  I am a Firefox fan-boy.  As such I’m unfairly not spending any time on embedded RSS plugins for the Internet Explorer, Opera, or Safari.  While I do use these browsers, it isn’t for doing daily web-surfing or activity.  They do have embedded RSS feed management support.  I’ve also included some links at the end of this post for the curious.

When it comes to Firefox, there are many RSS-related Add-on extensions available for this wonderful web-browser.  I have chosen to focus on the four that I have found best of class.

They have been listed in order of passion and pleasure to use.

NewsFox - (Firefox add-on) - Yep.  Simply the best. Quick to install. Then makes management of the RSS feeds a breeze.  Uses a side-bar format for the feed list.  You can configure it to show feed-lists and artlcles in either a over/under horizontal format or a three-column vertical format (my preference). You can create as many folders as you wish to organize your feeds by topic/subject. Supports exporting your feed list to RSS and OPML formats for backup. Lots of technical options for feed sorting, notifications, favicons, filtering, auto-refreshing.  Finally, you can encrypt feed articles on your system. I've been a RSS feed-jocky for a while now and this one rocks-my-Firefox boat! If you are code-crafty, you can also tweak additional settings and colors using a css file. Related: GSD Newsfox posts).  As it sits inside Firefox, all the Adblock Plus and NoScript protections also protect my feed viewing.  All around my favorite feed reader.

Sage: a feed reader for Firefox - (Firefox add-on) - I used Sage for a very long time before jumping to NewsFox when it wasn't compatible for the nightly Firefox 3.x builds.  I really liked this feed reader.  The style-sheets were pleasant and pre-done.  They could be easily tweaked to make color or font-size changes.  I really liked the dual-window sidebar view that placed the feed grouping objects on top and the feed posts below.  Now however, after getting used to NewsFox's sorting of available feeds by date/read order that I use, this seems awkward.  It has since been updated for Firefox 3.x compatibility (finally) but no longer fits my style.  It's a bit difficult to quickly sort through over 300 daily posts or so.  Might be great for users with a handful of feeds, although it has no problems handling hundreds.

Sage-Too :: Firefox Add-ons - (Firefox add-on) - This project came out of Sage after it looked like the Sage developers were not going to release a Firefox 3.x compatible version.  Then they did. Supports Firefox 3 and Places, has some security tweaks (whitelist HTML filter and sanitizations), podcasting and error handling updates, tab support, updating checking, ad-blocking.  It stripped out and dropped Sage's search engine support and feed manager (uses Firefox's bookmark manager instead).  All around a good and worthy alternative to the flavor of Sage.

Wizz RSS News Reader - (Firefox add-on) - I flirted with this RSS reader for Firefox while I was between Sage and NewsFox. Integrates with Places, filters for words/phrases, will store feeds locally for a set timeframe (offline reading), does have a handy "Quick Read" to see how feeds will be rendered before they are added.  OMPL import/export is great. Nice sidebar format that has multiple windows for the feed objects, the feed posts, and the article content proper. Also has a basic Gmail checker.  I was a bit frustrated as I couldn't seem to organize objects beyond the default alphabetical sorting.  It is quite colorful and has some eye-candy if that's your thing.  The draw-back for me is that like Sage I just didn't feel I could quickly rip-through a list of over 300 new RSS posts quickly and orderly--speed-feeder style.  Wizz RSS add-on website.

Wizz RSS News Reader Lite - (Firefox add-on) - A slimmed down version of Wizz with a few less features, but not really enough for most folks to notice.  Certainly worth considering if you are looking for a "lighter" version with most of the same format and features.

Cream of the RSS Client Crops

These are the RSS feed readers that knocked my socks off, in one way or another.

I have listed them in order of likelihood that I would use them on a daily basis.  Although I'm not ready to abandon NewsFox as my feed-reader of choice, each of these does now drive how just what I am missing by using a browser-based feed reader.  These are all loads faster at loading feeds. Hands down and deliver varying-degrees of powerful options such as filtering, tagging, management, and statistics reporting.

All Sirens that beckon me to them....must resist....

Feedreader3 - (freeware) – Installation was very simple and provided an option to configure it to run on a portable disk.  Always a nice touch. Once installed, a welcome wizard prompted for the default language of choice, to auto-start with Windows (no thanks), and start off with a collection of preset RSS feeds (no thanks). Once opened, I have a three column view with feeds to the left, feed post list in the middle, and the post reader to the right.  I quickly found the “Import OPML” option right under the File menu. I browsed for my own file and selected all; done!  Perfect importation and the fact that I had my feed in sub-folders didn’t cause any issues.  Surprisingly, it didn’t even sort them alphabetically by default.  Nice touch. I didn’t see an obvious “update” button but I found a “synchronize” command under the Tools menu and that did the trick.  In just about two minutes, all 111 feeds and 1764 posts.  The options are very generous, belying the simple interface. and javascript may be enabled/disabled—a great item for security on the web.  Feed sorting is supported by multiple column choices and articles can be displayed “all news” or just for the selected feed/folder.  Most feed names are displayed by site name, but a few don’t translate well automatically and you get the http:// name.  You can edit each feed’s properties very heavily to make your own tweaks. Finally, you can select from one of three layouts for feed reading.  Light, portable, simple interface hiding option-heavy features.  Nothing here not to like.  Claus is very impressed!

NFReader - (freeware) – Download the packed .RAR file with a compression program and you are done.  Portable. Run the exe file and it launches…by default in German. I quickly found the language options and had it set to English.  I found “File” and import feeds and had my feed list quickly imported. Folders were preserved, but everything was resorted alphabetically. I clicked on the primary folder and clicked a likely “refresh all” feeds button.  Almost instantly it reported back there were 1941 new feeds to look at. Options included to start with Windows, minimize to tray, change the color of highlighting for new feeds, show unread feed count in the list, change the font, select/deselect auto-sort of feed list and show unread items first. Options for updating the feeds on program start, a timeout setting, default feed update frequency, and notification options for new feeds.  It has the feed-list to the left and then an over/under window arrangement with the feed articles on top and the selected post viewer on the bottom.  You can either use the text-view reader (faster-plainer) or the HTML view (rich rendering).  Benefits are that it is very fast for feed discovery and has all the basic options covered.  Drawbacks are that you cannot seem to display all the feeds together for a “master” article feed list, leaving you having to select each feed one at a time to review.  However, so someone wanting some plain, fast and portable, this might just do the trick.  Pretty nice!

GreatNews: The Intelligent RSS Reader - (freeware) – Installation was fast and standard. By default you get a set of selected feeds.  I had to delete each group/feed one at a time.  Might have been nice to have an installation option to start “blank”.  I quickly found and imported my OPML file.  Importation took about a minute to complete.  99 feeds were imported and a total of 1914 post updates found. GreatNews is one of the fastest feed finders/updates I came across. Blazing fast.  All were sorted alphabetically.  The interface is much more icon heavy.  The plus side is that all the icons are very well designed and it’s pretty clear you can do just about all you want from the main window.  While it doesn’t seem to allow you to see all your feeds at once, you can see all the feed articles in each group. Feeds may also be filtered or searched through. Handy if you have a bunch to manage.  An address bar is also included so you can actually browse the web without opening a web-browser proper.  The Window uses the pretty traditional feed list to the left, with and over/under arrangement for the article list on the top and the post-viewer underneath. The reading pane iteself offers six (6) different reading style formats from a newspaper theme to a Sage replica.  Very nice and everyone should be able to find something pleasing. Options are plentiful to handle feed updating frequency, run a cleanup wizard, feed display and presentation, alerts for dormant feeds (no posting recently), the ability to label feed posts and “news watches”, and many more.  This feed reader brings speed and function with a great and balanced feature set for those looking for more than the casual feed-reading experience.  Good recommendation!

BlogBridge - (freeware) – Blogbridge is a bit different as it is Java based, so make sure you have that installed first on your system. Then you still have to download an installer which was fast.  As an added bonus, the BlogBridge website is rich with FAQ, tutorials, testimonials and tons of additional help for the budding RSS user. Once installed, running the desktop shortcut initializes a setup wizard. Nice touch.  You can select from several feeds to get started, or go “blank” which I did. Then you have an optional “Tip of the Day” for program use.  Also nice and it can be disabled for the intrepid like me.   I quickly found that I could go to “Guides” and Import to import my OPML list.  Happened very quickly and before I knew it, 1636 articles were offered that it found.  Guides are like collections of your feeds; master folders if you will. None of my own folders were imported.  Not so good.  On the left of the default three-column view is the Guide list, in the middle is the RSS feed list with neat little “calendar” icons showing how many feeds were posted (clever), and to the right are the feed articles. Post views can be changed into one of three formats (headlines/small images, excerpts/medium images, full text/large images) and some filtering is possible. You can tag your feed posts, search them, and get advanced statistics if that’s your thing.  The application can be themed and fonts changed, sorting options managed, and many, many more options that are well conceived and valuable.  It just leaves me with a generally comfortable feeling all-the-way around. As an added bonus for RSS newbies, they offer their BlogBridge Topic Guides which are OPML files you can download with selected and recommended RSS feed collections.  A great place to get started if you list is a bit weak.  Advanced RSS feed wranglers will be impressed. Well recommended and just plain “fun” to use.

RSS Bandit - (freeware) – Requires .NET 2.0 framework be installed on your system.  Once done with that you can run the msi installer proper and get the application on your system.  That went smooth and no issues observed.  Getting started no wizard appeared and a list of pre-selected feeds was offered. Fortunately I was able to find that by right-clicking the heading bar I could delete all feeds, which I did.  I then quickly imported all my OPML feeds and easily found the update all feeds button.  There is an integrated web-browser bar which is handy. Very quickly all 1428 feed posts were showing ready.  Reading pane and feed article lists can be moved about in one of several nice configurations.  The way I had my folders organized was preserved (although alphabetically) and while I could list all the articles in each folder at once, I couldn’t easily find a way to list all my feeds at once across all folders.  The options are very, very rich. I especially liked being able to set feed updating frequency and removal of feeds after preset ages.  I could also set links to open in the system default browser or via an executable (great for Firefox/Opera if not set as the default).  You can also apply one of six security restrictions for feeds and browsing display. Very nice touch! Attachments and podcasts can be handled. Program fonts changed.  You can also add additional search engines to the search-bar. Handy.  RSS Bandit really comes off as a mature and polished application.  It is very fast and nicely customized.  It is difficult to believe this is a freeware application!  Did I mention that it allows for tabs?  Finally, you can select custom style-sheet formats for viewing your lists/reading window view.  RSS Bandit is no slouch and great for RSS reader users looking to find more advanced features and feed management options.  Very pleasant to use.

SharpReader RSS Aggregator - (freeware) – Installation was very fast. There was no “setup” wizard and a collection of five popular website feeds was provided by default. These were deleted. Importation of my OPML list was very fast and all feeds were updated automatically showing 1943 posts found.  The default system-tray new-feed notifier was overwhelmed and I couldn’t find a way to turn it off.  Basic filtering and flagging is supported. There aren’t a lot of options. Only the basics here. However the overall effect is very pleasing in a simple way.  Nice feed list column to the list. It preserved all my folders on import and you can rearrange their order.  I really appreciate being able to view all my article in a single list, or by folder, or by feed.  That just seems natural and makes sense.  You can sort the list by any of the available columns. Unread feeds/total feed counts are shown nicely.  Finally, although you can't change the default feed reader style, it is very simple and pleasant.  Very readable.  A feed properties window can be toggled on/off.  As an added bonus, the program can find and discover comments to feed posts and display them as well. Very nice.  For new users or experienced users looking for speed feed-reading this might be the perfect choice.  It is like looking a a Monet; powerful in it's simplicity.  Definitely worth checking out.

Snarfer - (freeware) - Installation was very fast and simple. Note the option to auto-start with Windows (selected by default).  Once going you are given a list of feeds to import (suggested). I unselected all. I then easily imported my OPML list and feeds into Snarfer.  Them instantly began to update. Nice. It was a bit slower on the import than some previous feeders covered, but did find them very quickly. Folder order and feed order was preserved from my original configuration. Favicons are used (nice) and a few different view styles are available; titles which give summary text, details (feed posts over the viewer pane), and newspaper where all the posts are listed in a view format.  Tabs are supported as is a search bar. I really liked being able to view all the feed posts at once sorted by date (or anything else) as well as by folder group or by individual feed. Certainly convenient. Options are sparse but all the basics are covered.  While there isn't a whole lot to Snarfer, it works to it's advantage.  Nothing seems to be missing or done wrong. Certainly a nice basic feed reader that is very fast and easy to use with minimal effort.

Newzie - (freeware) - Installation was fast and no-frills. Once up and running one is presented with a very non-standard inteface. It's hard to pin down, but it seems to me to be almost "Apple" like in design.  There is a substantial "bar" area at the top, followed by a column to the left for feed management and a column to the right for feed post viewing.  I added my OPML list quickly with little effort figuring out how (hint: use the Add) item. Importation was pretty rapid and soon my formerly stark white left-side list was now a colorful rainbow collection of feeds. What I was looking at (ListView) was feeds with the most recent articles "hot-red" listed at the top, and those that hadn't been updated for a while a "cool-blue" at the bottom. Clever! If that's too bold for you, switch to the more conventional TreeView format. You can easily run searches on all feeds/posts or just within a feed post.  You can also change the view of the feeds a number of ways. All are pleasant. I did observe some graphical artifacting when switching between views. Minimizing/Maximizing the window cleared things.  There is a neat "SlideShow" feature that composes and presents collections of your feeds to view as a "slide". Not my thing but bonus points for presentation.  There are all the standard options and then quite a few special ones to Newzie.  All are helpful. There is also a handy "Post Sweeper" tool that allows you to set options to clean up/delete posts based on multiple criteria. More bonus points for keeping things manageable!  If you are looking for a RSS feed reader with a style of it's own, this is probably going to be the one. Nothing not to like here and certainly in a class of its own!  Worth taking a look at just because it is so radically different from the rest in its presentation.  Likely to be liked by power-feeders and those who really want to get different statistics on their feeds and the way they are reading them.

FeedDemon - (freeware) - Installation was fast and direct. A configuration wizard ran post install. handy. I was given the option to import my OPML list at the very begining, very classy so I was able to get started immediately. Once finished my list was present (sorted alphabetically) and feeds were updating very fast with no effort on my part.  There are multiple views to arrange the window elements, feed post reader, and feed article formats.  Lots of options.  I eventually found how to change the "style" of the newspaper post reader element. However the post views always seemed much larger and awkward to read quickly. Great on the rich-text element but much more challenging for speed-feed readers to process in my opinion. I liked the way the feed articles were sorted very similar to the Outlook email format (group-by) I am accustomed to. This can be turned off for simple sorting by column selected.  Posts can be flagged as well. Advanced options to email, send or discuss posts are also available. Did I mention how fast feed-discovery and updating was? It is FAST.  For a while I thought that the style formats for posts were being applied on a per-feed basis but I eventually uncovered the way to click on a folder (or main subscriptions folder) and set the style-views globally.  I find this a dual-edged sword.  While it is nice to have that much control on a per-feed basis, it can be frustrating and overwhelming until you find out global option/tweaks exist.  Super plus points for the "panic" button which allows you to mark "all" feeds as read immediately based on some customized criteria.  Worked great and is a really clever extra.  You can add lots of extra columns to your feed list. It's almost like working in an email client.  Almost everything anyone could want in a feed reader.  I just wish I had a few more styles to find one for my particular puritan tastes.  Recommended.

The Rest of the Milk

These RSS feed readers range from the spectacular-but-flawed to the ho-hum.  While any certainly do the trick in providing basic-to-enhanced RSS feed support, none of them really stunned me and generally had something that either frustrated me or made the application unlikely to be used by me.  Certainly, depending on your own preferences, you still might find the love of your RSS –feeding life in here.

Abilon - (freeware) - No longer being developed but shouldn't be forgotten. Not really any setup. Download and unzip the package.  Loading my OPML file was a snap.  The GUI is nice and simple, with layouts in either a "newspaper" mode, three-panel mode and then in a horizontal split or vertical split. Feeds and groupings were preserved but sorted alphabetically. I couldn't view all my feeds at one (minus) but could view each group of feeds at once.  Ran very fast on feed discovery. Options are basic but sufficient for all but the most demanding of feed reader users. You have a number of Styles for the reading pane.  The biggest drawback was that some feed formats didn't seem to be fully supported as some display picture perfect while others show the text, along with the HTML code elements.  Not so cool.  Neither was the fact that they just didn't seem to be automatically marked as read as fast as I had set the ticker to.  Still, all things considered, this is a portable and very pleasing-to-the-eye feed reader.  Only minor quibbles and complaints.

RSSOwl - (freeware) - Download and extract the files from the zip folder. Then just run the exe file. Wow. Simple enough.  Yep. Full set of pre-loaded feeds. Either a plus or minus. These I quickly and mercifully deleted. Importation of my OPML file was easy and direct. Feeds updated immediately and very fast.  You can't seem to display all your feed titles at once in a list, only being able to view on a per-feed basis. Once past that, feed articles are sortable by columns. A number of view styles can be toggled; over/under or side-by side.  The GUI is nice and polished and you can do searches and highlight searched words. There is a nice cleanup wizard to deal with older posts and the search feature is very advanced. Labeling of posts is also supported. Auto-updating of the program is allowed as is choosing to use either the default system web-browser or another (say Firefox). There is a notifier that can be enabled and tweaked very detailed for all new news, or on a group/feed basis as you wish. It can also retain passwords and login id's for sites.  So why not higher on the list? Mostly because I couldn't organize and sort/display my articles feeds with as much control as I wanted.  Very serviceable and a mature feed-reader application. It shows.

Apprise Reader (beta) - (freeware) - What sets this application apart is that it (for better or for worse) depends on Adobe's Air framework to run.  Once you get that on and installed (pretty simple and fast), you can download and/or run the .air file for the reader. The application doesn't include pre-loaded feeds. It does have that Apple'ish feel to the GUI that reminds me a touch of early iTunes.  Getting started isn't as intuitive. After mucking around for a few minutes to figure out loading my OPML file, I eventually got into the "preferences" and was able to find a bar that allowed me to import my OPML file. Only it didn't like it as I had folders in it. So I had to export my OMPL list from another feed reader after moving all my fees out of the folders and into a single list format. That worked fast, but major points off for that.  Options are very thin; autorefresh only in hourly increments (blah!), auto-remove old posts by day, week, month, year (too basic). Check for udpates to the program in days by slider bar (weak). AOL and Twitter can be integrated, OK. Apprise was only able to find 1335 feeds it could handle, much lower than most all of the other feed readers, even the discontinued ones.  Basic search feature is present. I can view all "unread" feeds at once (nice) as well as individual feeds.  However the lack of grouping them is a big weakness in my book. You can tag/check feeds and view only them.  The post summary view was too short and to read the full feed you seem to have to visit the site in the "site" tab for the post.  Good start but not featured enough for most RSS feed users except those with very basic needs.  Even then I think other options exist that are more flexible.

Awasu (Personal Edition) - (free-limited/$) - Installation was very fast. Yes there were the pretty common default category folders, but no feeds.  No configuration wizard either.  The GUI is very polished and mature. This clearly is a highly-feature-rich application.  I was immediately feeling like I was using a professional/enterprise-class feed reader.  It was intuitive to delete the folders, but took a bit more work that I thought needed (one at a time). There wasn't an obvious "import" OPML option, but I was now on to looking also for a "synchronization" option and quickly found it and the means to import my OPML list. There was a high-degree of control for the import process. Only 100 of my feeds were imported as I was using the free personal (limited) version. Feeds were updated, but not as fast as I would have suspected...and in comparison to others I have tested. The notifications were fast and contained helpful information. There is a great search tool. The properties feature for each feed are very detailed and there is a cleanup tool also. Great logging views. Toolbar items can be rearranged and customized in a very Microsoft Office familiar manner.  There are tons of program options and again the program GUI design really shines here.  The GUI can be "themed" and browser windows options picked up Mozilla Firefox and IE. Tabs and multiple windows are present.  In fact there were so many options and configuration settings possible I just couldn't get through them all in under five minutes.  Pluses; very mature product and very polished. Enterprise/corporate class and then some.  Drawbacks--slower than average feed loading, overwhelming number of options, window sizes too large and almost too much happening on screen at once.  Not for simplicity lovers.  Still, it's hard not to like most everything about this feed reader.  Just almost too much to take in for newbies or casual-to average RSS feed cowboys.

CITA RSS Aggregator - (freeware) - Needs .NET framework. Installation went smoothly. I did have to go and make a desktop shortcut icon. Gratefully only two default feeds were included. The list imported fine, but I had to manually confirm each one of the feeds to import. Yuck. Interestingly CITA kept my "folder" arrangements as "categories" and then also lists them by unsorted feeds tab as well. That is flexible. I had to kick off the updating of the feeds manually to get started.  Updating was quick but not blazing fast like some of the others covered here. I couldn't seem to look at the feeds until the loading/refreshing process completed. The GUI is basic but presentable. The default notification window was a bother considering how many feeds I just imported and refreshed.  The options are nicely advanced including tweaks on appearance, feed handling, updating, podcast support, malicious HTML checking, individual feed property handling, feed ordering, and (like most here) proxy support.  Drawback? Well, it's a bit "clunky" in design compared to some of the others. You can change font sizing, but no changes for styles or post viewing.  For that matter, it loads the feed pages up in a full HTML browser window view. Again not helpful for speed-feed reader and mass-feed junkies who have hundreds of posts to read and sort through daily.  I kept feeling there was something I was missing or that there should be more.  While a serviceable and useful application, it just didn't have as many features or options as most all other readers listed here.

RSS Xpress - (freeware) - Installation was fast and problem free. It does launch an browser window to the the website (not needed IMHO). It opens minimized to the system tray so you have to go looking for it to get started. One feed is included by default, for the RSS Xpress news--and can't be removed. Bummer. Importation of the OPML file was a snap and did allow selection of which feeds I wanted (if desired).  Folders were preserved but sorted alphabetically.  I manually got the feeds updating and they did so pretty quickly.  Just about a minute and a half in total. Gratefully you can view the feed articles globally (my preference) or by folder group or by individual feed.  If you find a feed post you like a lot, you can "protect" it and it is locked and added to a special folder for quick access.  Searches and filters are handy and supported. Fonts can be sized normal or small. Again, all the expected options are present. It does have a pop-up notifier that can be adjusted and turned on/off and additional notifier "themes" can be downloaded and installed.  Display is with a tree-view list to the left and the over/under format with the post article list on top and the post-summary below. To read a full post you can click on the "more news" link which then opens up the full post in a new tab.  Again, not really conducive to power-feed-speed readers.  This really seems like a RSS reader for newbies or those with very basic feed reading needs.   While it covers all the basics, it just isn't as user-reader friendly as I expected or would like. That said, it works well and fast and delivers what it offers.

ThinFeeder - (freeware) - Installation was rocket-fast. But again I had to go searching in the Program Files list for the program and copy a shortcut to my desktop. It loads very fast and opens with no wizard assistance for setup. It couldn't handle my OPML file with the folder structure so I had to load the "plain" version I created earlier as a backup. Importation was slow. No way around it. Nor do you "delete" feeds you don't want; you "unsubscribe."  Confusing for newbies used to right-clicking or looking for "delete".  The GUI window can be "skinned" with a small but nice number of themes.  Folders/categories don't appear to be able to be created. Instead you have a list of all your feeds. Period.  Each feed must be reviewed/listed individually. That said, the GUI was actually pretty nice from a speed-feed reader standpoint.  There is one window at the top/left for the feed list, another to the top/right for the article list, and the bottom window is for the feed post reader. The default ost reader style is simple and not HTML rich.  The post list doesn't have columns, only titles so you can't sort it. You can select a web-browser other than the system default which is nice.  Refresh times can be set on a per-minute basis so you aren't locked into pre-set timeframes. Preferences are very basic and simple.  Overall it is a nice and "cute" little RSS feed reader. I'd probably recommend this one to to newbies who don't need anything but the basics.  However, its lack of column details, sorting, grouping, searching/filtering and other more regular features means that it falls lower in the pack.  However, I'm left with a very likeable impression.

Feed'n Read - (freeware) - Installation was a bit longer than most, and the initialization of the program took a while also. No desktop icon was created although I asked for one. Once launched I got a large-number of RSS default feeds.  Those had to be removed. No configuration wizard was offered. Too bad as I am getting to like them. Again, no deleting, nor unsubscribing. This time I had to "remove" each grouping/feed I didn't want.  Luckily importation of my OPML list was very fast and although sorted alphabetically, went fine otherwise. A click of the Update All button and it was all systems go with a very fast and respectable feed update process.  There is a helpful progress window and log tab at the bottom of the program.  Nice touch.  A web-browser address bar is present to be used for general web-surfing if desired. Items can be filtered as well.  I didn't see a search bar.  There are a lot more tabs to this presentation than you would expect. Overall it results in a pleasant GUI interface.  I couldn't get all the articles to display at once, nor by groups, but only by a per-feed basis.  Points off for that. The view-pane for posts was readable. The options are all present for most needs, including archiving, caching, browser handling, podcast handling, feed updating frequency, and general program behavior.  No skinning/theming/styling options.  Property information on feeds is basic. The icon bar is very helpful but the oversized icons cannot seem to be minimized and the resulting bar takes up a lot of valuable screen-space.  However removing it (which is possible) then removes some of the easy function access.  Liked it more that I thought, but just a bit limited for anyone but new RSS feed users and those with very basic needs.  Not as flexible as I would have liked.

YeahReader - (freeware) - Smooth installation with no post-install config wizard.  The usual default feeds are provided. All had to be manually "removed" one at a time.  Importation of the OPML file was awkward.  I found easily where to do this, but I had to browse to the file, the select "read" to begin the importation process. I then had to select the ones I wanted (or select all) but I still couldn't import. Turns out I had to cancel, then create a folder in the feed structure list first. then go back and repeat the process, this time selecting the folder I created before I could import.  Once imported, I lost all my OPML folders and got the basic RSS feed list only.  Any categorizing would have to be done from scratch, again. Not a pleasant thought with over 100 feeds to manage! Feed updating took a while as well. I can't call it "slow" but it was longer than most all other readers.  Searching is available as is filtering on a basic level. There is a feed list to the top-left, an article list to the top-right, and a viewing pane at the bottom.  Clicking on the article column items didn't seem to result in any sorting.  Looks based on date only.  There isn't a way to globally view the feed articles either.  You can select from several basic post-reader styles, but nothing too exciting. Only basic options are present for configuration.  It does have a speech reader.  This is a very basic reader. Does the job, but not much beyond that.

Wizz RSS - (freeware) - This is a "standalone" version of the same one mentioned previously as a Firefox Add-on!  Feature sets are pretty similar. See also: Wizz RSS download - Wizz RSS 3.0.0.2 preview

Omea Pro - (freeware) - Installation was fine. It did automatically launch and offer to install a plugin for Firefox (declined). A helpful configuration wizard opened on first-run. which offered to import feeds from several sources and let me select the OPML file. It also offered to import favorite bookmarks from IE and Firefox. I could add user information if desired (name/email). Omea reader isn't really just a feed reader. It is better described as an information manager as it handled web, notes, feeds, and contacts as well. The interface GUI is very busy with lots of windows and tab areas.  That said, I easily found the "feeds" tab and located that my feeds were imported based on the original folders, but sorted alphabetically again.  Feeds were refreshed automatically at import and a view was displayed showing all the unread feeds by date grouping as well.  Feeds could be viewed in several window pane arrangements. And the application icons and right-click menus made management of the actions I wanted pretty simple to complete. Advanced and basic searches are possible and it appears there are lots of options for managing information here.  Program options are very extensive.  This looks to be a program best-served for information-overload junkies and those who need to really organize their feeds and information from feeds.  Not really for casual users. Nor is it really conducive for speed-feed readers as well. The interface is just too busy for feed reading alone.This is more like an environment for feed management.

BottomFeeder - (freeware) - This may be near the bottom of the list, but it isn't chum! Installation was smooth but I had to create my own desktop shortcut. It also triggered the Windows Firewall to block it (allowed). No config wizard was seen. Two default feeds were provided as examples.  My OPML list was imported, but the folder names were removed. Otherwise the import/update process went smooth. Updating took a bit to complete. Not really as "fast" as I would have expected.  The GUI is a bit Gnome'ish and as it is multi-platform supported, I'm sure this is by design.  Feeds can be sorted/displayed globally, by folder, or by feed. Nice and appreciated.  The window layout is in a familiar feed list tree to the full-left, the feed articles to the top-right, and the feed post reader at the bottom-right.  Not bad. Lots of columns for the feed articles and all can be sorted by clicking on the column header. Lots of operatons can be performed on each post including printing, flagging, emailing tagging, del.icio.us'ing,  There are a number of post-reader "style-sheets" to pick from but they mostly look the same.  You can tweak font sizes and formats. A serviceable and respectable feed reader with more than a few bells and whistles for advanced users and uploaders.  The multi-platform support is nice for folks using it across different systems.

Eluma - (freeware) - Installation was fine, but pay attention to the options. Lots of pre-selected "extras" like IE toolbar, Firefox toolbar, Flash Player install, starting with Windows. I unchecked the lot of them. You are given a config wizard that starts by trying to get you to register an account (pass). A tutorial is offered (nice but pass). Then you can import IE/Firefox bookmarks if desired and/or an OPML file (done).  More category feeds are offered (pass). Finally after much importation work the program launches.  It has a "side-bar" like feel and a media pane shows news topics from a source that isn't from any feed list I chose.  Above that is my feed list that was imported. Folders were preserved.  There are just two menu items "Add" and "More" the later of which displays some additional configuration and action items.  I preferred the "desktop" view rather than the slideout view.  You can't seem to view all feeds globally however, only by selecting each individual feed. Tagging is supported as is a form of searching.  Views and layouts are limited.  Podcasts are supported and there are a number of applicaiton configuration options for feed retention, refreshing and the like. Standard stuff but the non-standard format will probably turn off most old-school users and appeal only to younger and more unsophisticated feed-reader users.  That's certainly not meant in a critical tone. This format just doesn't lend itself easily to quickly reading and managing hundred or more feeds and posts.   It is fun, but light.

KlipFolio - (freeware) - Installation was fast.  Very fast.  Upon running a "getting started" video is offered.  Helpful. KlipFolio reminded me very much of the Vista sidebar. By default there is a module for Flickr pictures, a to-do list, digg, YouTube, weather, Google News and a CPU/memory meter.  These all can be added/removed or hidden. There is a feed-reader module as well.  However, you cannot browse for the OPML file but have to hand-type the path in. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to import the OPML feeds.  You can also add them one-at-at time from URL's .  It looks nice but because it just didn't deliver the ability to import my feed-list, I had to quickly take a pass.Folks looking for an nice Vista'ish sidebar tool might like it however for all it's other pleasant features.  As a RSS reader, it seems outclassed.

Syndirella - (freeware) - Needs the .NET framework to work. Installation was over almost before it began.  Only the developer's feed was included and no config wizard was present.  All feeds from my OPML list were imported very quickly, but no folders were retained (minus).  Feed list is displayed to the full left, the article list on the top right and the post viewer at the bottom right.  No adding folders manual.  Sorting the feed list is done alphabetically.  As such there is no "global feed" list, each feed must be individually selected and viewed.  Unread feed counts are numbered by the feed (helpful) and the reader view is basic and easy to speed-feed read posts.  The post-window can be sorted by columns.  Some feed formats (Atom?) didn’t look like they were supported at all.  In all fairness the developer states on his website that he is now supporting another RSS feed read project listed here so this has been passed by for some time.  Still, it is a light and fast feed reader for the basics.  It doesn't do much more than that, but for some newbies it will be enough.  I think there are more current and RSS format encompassing choices now that would be better starting places for RSS newbies and basic users.  Still worth mentioning.

Well done to all the developers and programmers.  There is certainly a product here to fit almost anyone's preference and needs from the basic to the advanced!

Assorted IE and Opera RSS RSS Feeder Links

As I have mentioned earlier, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Apple’s Safari do have built-in support for RSS feed reading and basic feed management.  For casual RSS feed subscribers, these might just be sufficient.

For those wanting a bit more support consider the following sources and plugins

Miscellaneous RSS Readers (of note, but not reviewed)

Certainly, many other applications (such as email clients like Mozilla's Thunderbird) can also natively or with plug-ins, support and manage RSS feeds.

Seeing as there are a ton of freeware email clients out there, I'll save a round-up of them for another day.  Many email clients do now support RSS feeds as part of their application.

Here are some additional RSS "niche" readers you might be interested in.

More Reviews

A few nice posts that inspired me on this venture.  You might find some more in-depth details here.

Sources for other RSS Readers and non-Windows Platforms

Happy feed reading!

--Claus

2 comments:

ffextensionguru said...

I've been using the Firefox add-on, Brief (http://ffextensionguru.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/review-brief/) as my RSS Feed reader. Nothing real fancy, just a simple reader.

MikeF said...

Totally agree regarding NewsFox.

I did try Brief, and it's nice, but my main beef is it locks up Firefox which doing its (slow) feed refresh, and it nicks all the CPU cycles it can lay its hands on while it's about it. Can't be doing with that!

NewsFox, though, is everything I need in a reader - curiously, I only found out about it while playing with K-Meleon!