Help me pick a new feed reader

I’ve been using Google Reader since it was created. I really love the *idea* of Google Reader. I like that scrolling through the posts marks them as read. I like that you can toggle between list and expanded views of the posts. I like that you can search within a feed or across all feeds (though selecting multiple specific feeds would be great).

All of that said, I’d like to explore other avenues, because I don’t like that there’s, like, zero flexibility in how the Google Reader interface is configured. My problem starts with large fonts…

I use relatively large fonts. If you increase the font twice up from the default size in firefox on a mac (using the cmd-+ keystroke, twice), and you have more than just a couple of feeds, you wind up with this really horrible side pane with the bottom half of it requiring a scroll bar, and the text wraps, and it just looks terrible. What makes this really REALLY REALLY annoying is that:

  1. I don’t use the features included in the *top* part of the side pane, ever, at all (like ‘trends’ and stuff), and
  2. You can’t resize or disable that part of the side pane.

I’ve used folders and some other features to try to alleviate the issue, but it’s just a compromise, and I’d rather not do that if something else would work better for me. I’ve had a couple of quick glances at just a couple of other readers, but I thought I’d get some input from the lazyweb to see what your thoughts are. Is there a browser-based feed reader that has some of Google’s niceties, but perhaps with a little bit nicer/more configurable interface? Out of curiosity, are you using a Mac-compatible fat-client reader that just totally r0cks in some way? If so, let me know in the comments.

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  • http://michaelshadle.com mike503

    I’d say look at all the newsgator products. They sync online with each other – have a product for every platform (windows, os x, iphone app and optimized iphone web UI, and then a plain old web-based version too)

    It does a pretty good job for me – I never have to read a feed more than once, I am always out on my iphone filtering feeds and then later I can view the ones I’ve clipped in more detail.

    I’m not sure it has everything you’d want as far as customizability and it has a couple pesky annoyances but it’s the best I’ve found so far. In fact, Google Reader would probably be the only other option I would try :p

  • http://mnology.com mnology

    Henh, I’ve just recently switched to Google Reader from the server-side feedreader apps I’ve been using for a few years. Tiny-Tiny RSS. It took me a while to find TT RSS after playing with Gregarious and some other products. TT had the tagging functions I was looking for, handles inline images well, could be multi-user(if you wished). It’s a LAMP thing, so if you’re familiar with that process you should be good.

  • http://python.net/~goodger David Goodger

    Have you tried full screen mode in Reader? Hit “u” to toggle it. It hides the entire sidebar, giving the full width of the window to articles.

    The “Better GReader” extension (from lifehacker.com) has lots of UI customization options, like Minimalistic (Tap W key to hide top bar) & Optimized (Maximize viewing area, cleaner font).

  • Ryan Raaum

    I’ll second what David said – I almost never have the sidebar showing.

  • m0j0

    @David — thanks for the input. I had tried the full screen greader, and it’s nice, but I’d have to keep toggling on and off, and I rather like seeing the yellow highlights if something updates while I’m reading something else. It’s not that I dislike having the sidebar, it’s that I dislike the fact that google has chosen to not make it configurable at all.

    I had *not* heard of the lifehacker extension, though, and I’ll be checking that out immediately.

  • Jeff Wallace

    I moved from Google Reader to Netvibes.com a year or so ago after evaluating various other sites and software. Don’t be too scared of the social networking and other bells & whistles they keep adding in an attempt to grow/monetize the site — you can still just use it as a feed reader (and it is nice that you have an “out” as you can export your feed list at any time).

    I’m not sure about the large font size, but there is quite a bit of flexibility in their interface which I think would allow you to have a better reading experience than Google Reader.

  • http://python.net/~goodger David Goodger

    Another possibility: you can use the “Stylish” Firefox extension (http://userstyles.org/stylish) for the occasional website that is useful but has some annoying style. It lets you apply CSS styles on a per-site basis. All you need is a bit of CSS-fu.

    I have used it to make body text darker (i.e. black) for sites that use too light a gray.

  • Cory

    May I suggest you try those widgets on the top-left? Once I thought of good ways to use them, I ceased to be annoyed by them. Here’s a few tips:

    - starring items you don’t have time or inclination to watch yet. I’m subscribed to a TON of feeds, and I don’t have time to watch some of the 20-minute videos and things that get posted, especially not in my free time at work. If I find them interesting, I star them and go back to them when I have some time to kill.
    - sharing items (with notes): I use both diigo and this feature when I want to spread the love around about an item I find interesting.
    - trends: pretty graphs about how often you read feeds and how much you read. I click it occasionally for a laugh.
    - friends’ shared items – obviously this is cooler if you have some reader-using friends. I have a couple, and they often find neat items for me.

  • http://marcus-christie.blogspot.com/ Marc

    If you just want to read at a larger font, have you tried hitting “=”? It’s a keyboard shortcut in Google reader to increase the font size in the reader.

  • http://autoverse.net/ comzeradd

    take a look at gobblerss. it’s very simple web-based (lamp) client.

  • http://zedshaw.com Zed A. Shaw

    Well, I think you should try out Newsbeuter. Yes, it is a console application, so it might make your MacBookAir cry, but it is really the best feed reader (and podcast grabber) there is. It’s so good I wrote a whole rant about it:

    http://zedshaw.com/rants/i_want_the_mutt_of_feed_readers.html

  • Sergey

    I switched to Netvibes after iGoogle UI was changed recently, and so far I’m very happy with it.

  • http://www.dougalmatthews.com Dougal Matthews

    Just a thought; if hiding some of the stuff on the top left would fix your problems you could sort it with a few lines of JavaScript and greasemonkey. I could write this if you want, wouldn’t be hard so i’m guessing you could.

  • G D Milner

    I have to second the NewsGator (http://www.newsgator.com/) I use it for my podcasts only since I am still hooked to Google Reader for me news feeds, but it’s a great product. It has an online version that syncs with it’s off-line Feed Demon which is pretty customizeable.

    Cheers

  • Me

    One app: NetNewsWire.

    Free. Works on the mac. Part of the newsgator cloud, so it syncs with the online newsreader for the days you don’t have your mac with you. I recommend the ‘bullit’ style as it has large fonts and is easy to read .

  • http://benjiyork.com Benji York

    To turn off the navigation pane by default, click “Settings”, “Preferences”, and uncheck “Always start with the navigation pane visible.”

  • m0j0

    @Benji — I *want* the navigation pane there, I just want to be able to either resize the part that holds my subscription list (to make it bigger), or (ideally) to have it take up the entire side pane — I don’t use any of the stuff in the top half of the pane, so why is google forcing it down my throat by prioritizing it over my subscription list, which is the real reason I use the tool anyway?

    @Dougal — I code in lots of things. JavaScript isn’t really one of them, and I really don’t want to hack on this. I have plenty of other projects to get through. I’ve heard that greasemonkey can do some cool things, but this just isn’t something I have an interest in. And I hate javascript. I’d be bitter about it if I did it, too, because in reality, google should just make the damn side pane configurable — I should have to do this. Let me collapse the top portion of the side pane, or treat it as another block entirely that I can hide or remove. It’s not hard to do on their end, from what I can see (well, technically. Dealing with users is another matter perhaps).

    @Marc — that ‘=’ keystroke is the oddest thing I’ve ever seen. It only affects the currently-active element! So if you’re looking at your Slashdot feed and hit that, only the ‘Slashdot’ menu item, and the currently visible posts change font sizes. Weird.

    I’m trying out newsgator now, and on first glance it looks pretty darn nice, so we’ll see how it goes and I’ll post again next week about it. I thought newsgator was that company that got in some hot water years ago about harvesting user data and putting spyware on PCs and stuff like that. Guess it wasn’t them, but the co. definitely had ‘gator’ in the title.

  • http://nibrahim.net.in N

    Have you considered Bloglines? I’m not sure if it will address *all* your concerns but I’ve been a happy user for a couple of years now.

  • http://linuxart.com/ Garrett

    I use Feedly; it’s a great Firefox extension and integrates with Google Reader.

  • m0j0

    @Garrett

    Feedly is really pretty darn cool! It’ll probably take some time to get it exactly how I want it, but that’s fine. I’m still playing with the newsgator stuff as well, but I think Feedly has an edge in that it integrates pretty well with my current environment. It takes subscription info from GReader, pops up a little sidebar while I’m browsing so I can tweet or add a subscription without changing focus… lots of nice little bells and whistles, and it’s easy to read, and adjusts to font size changes very nicely. Thanks a ton for the recommendation!

  • rezzrovv

    I would like to replace all my google apps and services where possible. I just don’t believe in concentrating that much power with any entity or individual regardless of motto. I’ve had little success so far.

  • m0j0

    @rezzrovv

    Google certainly has the capability to harvest an overwhelming amount of data. Also, I’ve considered their motto to be “relative”. If everyone else were cutting off users’ limbs, but Google just smacked them with a blunt object, they’d be considered *relatively* “not evil”. Doesn’t make it nice, though :)

    That said, the ability to integrate all of these various generic services, on the web, without them being housed under one company’s roof, while technically possible, hasn’t been done to my knowledge, and if it were done, you’d just be granting access to the very same data to some other corporate entity. And even if it weren’t corporate, I probably wouldn’t trust it :)

    Where does that leave us? Using nothing but a bunch of disparate tools that have no knowledge of each other? Downloading a fat client that knits all the pieces together? I’d love to see what happens to combat the issue.

  • http://bitzero.org James

    I really like NewsFire http://www.newsfirerss.com/

  • scrub

    I second bloglines. They’ve got a mobile version of the website that works well in addition to the regular website.

  • http://voyagerfan5761.blogspot.com/ Voyagerfan5761

    Now that Google Reader has been redesigned, have you taken a look at the new interface? At least one of your problems wnt away; the sections of the sidebar can be collapsed now.

  • m0j0

    Thanks for posting. I checked it out, and it *is* indeed much more usable now. However, in the short time between now and the time of this post, I’ve kinda grown to rather like feedly. I’ll probably use both now — feedly for my morning routine, and then greader when I have 5 minutes left on my break to quickly browse new stuff.

  • Grant Austin

    I’m a fan of ViennaRSS: http://www.vienna-rss.org/