These days, I use RSS to keep up with the blogs and other news feeds that I follow. There is a problem with this, however. The problem is RSS readers.
OK, it’s partly my fault because I am a cheapskate and don’t believe in paying for something if I can get it free. So in choosing an RSS reader, my two main requirements are these: it must be a Web-based reader (to save me cluttering up my hard drive with all those articles) and it must be free.
It seems to me that RSS readers (or “aggregators”, as some people insist on calling them) are today where email clients were about 10 years ago. That is, they are pretty sparse on features, clunky to use and, all in all, not very good. Some have some imaginative features but unfortunately none has all of these.
I have for some time used the Google reader. I think it’s pretty good, compared with what’s generally available. What I don’t like about it is what I don’t like about Google in general: this brand is just too omnipresent and has fingers in so many pies that I at least yearn to escape from it. Add to this the fact that once you sign in to the reader (or to Blogger), your Google ID follows you around like a bad smell until you log out.
I have tried all the usual free online RSS readers. They all have something wrong with them. It’s less a case of choosing the one that has all the features you require than choosing one that has the least disadvantages. I am not going to review them all, you will be glad to know.
While using the Google reader, I was also playing with Bloglines. This is a popular reader but it has several annoying features. The main one is that when you open a “channel”, it immediately marks all the articles as read. This is bad news if you haven’t got time to read them all. Google at least allows you to mark each article read explicitly.
Plinking away yesterday, I made a discovery. I don’t know how well known this is, as they don’t advertise it on their main page, but Bloglines are working on the beta of a new version and I have to say it’s jolly good. It still marks as read all the articles in a source but there is a tick-box labelled “Mark read” and you can untick this to keep the article’s status unread.
It is a simple and straightforward reader but I find it pleasant to use and it allows you to edit each feed sufficiently for my purposes. For example, I like to edit the names of my feeds and I can bo this easily with Bloglines beta.
It doesn’t have folders but you can create “tags” and all sources with the same tag are grouped together. To my mind this is as good as folders and perhaps even slightly neater. It doesn’t sort your feeds but you can do this yourself by dragging each one to where you want it in the list. This means you can group titles without them being in alphabetical order.
The only quirk I have discovered so far is that when a new article appears in a feed, Bloglines beta sometimes marks old articles as unread too, so that you now have one new article and 9 old ones all pretending to be new. No doubt that will be sorted out.
I must say I like this reader. (Never thought I’d hear you say that – Ed.) I will be giving it a serious run for its money in the days to come and hoping it continues to please.