Google Reader upset me recently. I don’t remember exactly what they did anymore. Something about shoving G+ down my throat. Whatever – the point is that Google’s changes to the venerable RSS tool they call Reader disturbed me enough that I went looking for an alternative. And I have found one.
It’s not the RSS folders in Microsoft Outlook. (Cue wild laughter here.) RSS in Outlook is implemented so simply, so ungraciously…it was just an awful user experience for me personally. After importing my subscriptions to Outlook, I couldn’t get unsubscribed fast enough, which actually was really hard.
Anyway…I have landed on Feedly as my Google Reader replacement. Why? In short, it does all of the things I loved Google Reader for, adds a few spiffy extras, and looks stunning while doing it. Oh…and it’s free.
- Feedly hooks into your Google Reader and thus learns what you’ve subscribed to without any fussy import process.
- Feedly keeps your Google Reader subscriptions synchronized. This might seem irrelevant to someone who is whining about Google Reader, but what I like is that I don’t have to have yet another account maintaining a list of things up in the cloud. Feedly just leverages a Google account I already have.
- Feedly’s reading pane is very engaging. You can set Feedly up for a navigation pane on the left, wide reading pane in the center, and miscellaneous on the right. While hardly revolutionary, I feel immediately comfortable in the Feedly interface. The GUI is clean, minimal, and well done. Infrequently used items are hidden until you hover, simple icons are used heavily and without text, and panes are often frameless. This results in an interface that is sort of like augmented reality for RSS feeds. You get to really focus on the content without all of this other information clamoring for your attention. Just pleasant little extras that make the experience better.
- Feedly allows me to share any way that I like, including Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, and more. It’s all just there, including several social media sites I don’t even use.
- Without having to leave Feedly, I can read an entire blog article via the Preview feature. I love this, and use it all the time. I don’t like opening a brand new window to see a blogger’s full article, and Feedly doesn’t make me. Well, in effect, what Feedly does is open up a new window, but the way the frame is laid out, you still feel that you’re inside of the Feedly app. The top of the Preview frame provides Feedly features like “Save for Later”, and underneath the Preview frame, you’ve still got the rest of the Feedly interface. Perhaps Preview is only subtly different from actually opening up a whole new browser window to read a full article, but it’s a subtle difference I appreciate.
- Feedly lets me categorize feeds via a drag ‘n’ drop interface. It’s simple and easy, and as it turns out, really important to me. I subscribe to a lot of feeds, and it’s helpful when I’m pressed for time to zip right over to the category that’s most important to me and skip the rest. Being able to organize via drag ‘n’ drop on a single screen means less clicking around to get a feed categorized as I’d like.
- Feedly’s “save for later” feature means I can mark something as read without losing track of it. Much of my reading is technical, and my brain is not always able to devote the synaptic firings required to properly digest content from some of my heavy-hitting friends in technology. In those cases, I’ll skim an article, save it for later, and then go back to it when my brain has enough free CPU. At the same time, I won’t have the article staring me down as “unread”, which makes an OCD person like me slightly bonkers.
- Feedly has a great iOS app, also free. I don’t like reading on my iPhone 4 overly much. I do it, and it’s an incredible improvement over my old BlackBerry (the Retina Display *is* all that), but I find getting stuck in that tiny little box to be maddening after a while. Feedly makes reading on the iPhone not only tolerable, but even enjoyable. The biggest reason is that I don’t have to press some tiny little touch screen button for everything. I can use swiping motions to do things like move to the next page or mark a feed as read. It takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely workable. I’d rather learn swipe motions than miss the magic button with my big, clumsy thumb.
- Feedly installs as a Chrome app. I am a Chrome user, and seeing a Feedly app option is nice. I haven’t been able to tell what the app gives me versus surfing up to feedly.com, but just the fact that there’s a Chrome app available tells me that Feedly is committed to making sure that the Feedly experience on Chrome is as delectable as it is on any other browser.
I have sung Feedly’s praises here, but Feedly took some getting used to. I had used Google Reader for so long that my brain was hardwired for certain functions to behave in a certain way. Once I learned how to do things the Feedly way, I’ve ended up very happy. I can fly through my reading once again.