I discovered the benefits of using RSS/Atom Feeds over two years ago. Feeds are a method by which users may subscribe to websites and have the latest content delivered to them, without the need to visit the sites in question. If you read a number of websites the main benefits are two-fold; Not only is content delivered to you as it is created, but you do not waste time visiting sites that have not been updated. Using Feeds I found I was able to read about more topics that interest me in a far shorter time.
After trying various ways of reading feeds I eventually settled on a combination of FeedDemon and NewsGator Online. FeedDemon was fast and efficient, the synchronization via NewsGator Online meant that items read on my home PC were marked as read on my work PC, and vice-versa. I could also use the NewsGator Online website to check feeds from any webbrowser.
Google Reader, a web-based solution, was one of the products I passed over in favor of FeedDemon. When the Google Reader team released a new version at the end of last month I decided to try it out for a few days. Exporting/importing OPML feeds makes it easy to try out different readers without the need to recreate subscriptions.
My ‘few days’ has almost become three weeks, and I find it hard to imagine going back to FeedDemon and NewsGator.
The interface of Google Reader makes browsing new items a quick and streamlined process. The “river of news” view, where content from all feeds is mixed into one list, is something Google Reader does a lot better than FeedDemon. I especially like the way items are marked as read once scrolled past - removing the need to manually mark items or feeds as read is a welcome change. There’s also a form of “smart sort”, where items from less regularly updated feeds appear higher in the list of new content.
One of the features I most like about Google Reader is something that FeedDemon has long lacked; the ability to ‘Clip’, or in Reader terminology, ‘Star’, items for later reading, and to have this synchronized across different machines. NewsGator Online, the synchronization backbone of FeedDemon, supports this yet the the FeedDemon client does not. Along with proper folder hierarchies for Feeds this is one of the most often and long-requested features for FeedDemon.
There’s also the matter of cost; Whereas Google Reader is free FeedDemon costs a one-off payment of $30 for the current version, with synchronization via NewsGator Online costing an additional $20 annually. In my opinion FeedDemon is certainly not $50 better value than Google Reader. Should Google start exposing an API for Google Reader to allow integration with third-party applications or webpages then NewsGator may well find itself in a sticky situation.
So if you’re using FeedDemon, or a different RSS/Atom reader then I really do recommend checking out Google Reader. I think you’ll be impressed. And if you’ve never tried using NewsFeeds, then now’s the time!