Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Free RSS Readers

Having had a quite a few requests from staff over the last few weeks for aN RSS reader to be installed on their systems, I thought I'd jot down some notes on a few of the free ones that I found. Yes, some of you will be saying that browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox all support RSS feed subscriptions and they do indeed but stand-alone applications can offer some extra functionality that some users think they want. But before I go there, I have to mention another alternative first…

Online RSS Aggregators

Bloglines - I use Bloglines, a free online service that helps me subscribe to and manage my feeds. It's an online aggregator that tracks a huge load of RSS and Atom feeds and serves me the ones I want as they come in and I can take clippings of items that interest me as I browse through them. You can even create a personal blog on Bloglines and then post clippings directly to that of you want to share articles.

It doesn't push newsfeeds at me by default so I get no visual notification of new posts but there is a web-based notifier available and there are lots of third-party utilities and even Firefox and Internet Explorer extensions that will do the job if required.

Since I move between home and work machines I find it simpler to check my feeds this way without having to subscribe twice. It also means that I don't need to install any particular software package and I can get those feeds from any internet connected computer.

Google Reader - Another online aggregator and one that is gaining a good sized user base. One of the attractions is its similarity with the GMail interface. Like GMail, feeds are organized into folders by tags and you can also give a post a star, which is useful if you want to flag it as interesting or just to be able to find and read it later.

Like Bloglines, you also get a public page, a blog into which you can share any of your feed posts. Unfortunately, it's not very customizable at present and the only way to post items is to use the share icon on each post. This is Google based though so I'd expect some more functionality to be added as the system develops. Where it hits big with power feeders is its large number of keyboard shortcuts.

Personal Portals like My Yahoo, NetVibes or iGoogle also allow you to add feed content to your pages. It's not exactly cutting edge but if you use them, then you might find it a useful option.

Standalone Aggregators

There are literally loads of these and the easy option for me here is to take advantage of the fact that the nice people at the Simplehelp blog have a good article reviewing a goodly number of them…

20 Free RSS Readers Reviewed

This covers Alertbear, Attensa for Outlook, Blam. BlogBridge, BlogLines, Firefox, Google Reader, Netvibes, Newsgator Online, QuickRSS, Rojo, RSSBandit, RRSOwl, Sage, Shrook, Straw, Thinfeeder, Thunderbird, Vienna and Vista Media Center. They don't review every possibility so I'll add a few more here too

SharpReader Windows Compatible - A Windows based RSS/Atom aggregator. I quite liked this one when I tried it out as it has pretty threading support and allows you to view connected items together and it can even show connections between items with the same link.

It'll minimize to the System Tray and, if configured, can popup an alert when new items arrive.

BottomFeeder Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - A good, cross-platform RSS and Atom news aggregator available for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows and various shades of UNIX. It has to be said that this is a somewhat dated, if rich in functionality, reader. There's no obvious threaded article support and new items are displayed in a scrolling tickertape style window.

RSSReader Windows Compatible - A Windows RSS and Atom news aggregator, which displays new items in a System Tray popup. A few of our staff had this installed and were quite happy with it but we had problem installing it on non-admin systems and it doesn't list as having Vista support.

NetNewWire Lite Apple Compatible - Published by the same people that give us NewsGator Online, this is the Lite version of NetNewsWire, a Mac OS X RSS and Atom news aggregator. It can synchronize with NewsGator Online and the rest of the Newsgator suite of RSS applications.

I used to use NetNewsWire Lite before I discovered BlogLines but it's still a very useful reader and I know a few Mac users that have stumped up the cash for the full version.

2 comments:

Jim Henderson said...

Alan I use Endo as a feed reader. It pretty good and allows you to archive specific posts. Its the stablemate of Ecto which is an offline Blog writer.
There is a Mac and PC version of both programs.

Allan Ogg said...

Thanks Jim but unfortunately neither Endo nor Ecto are free.

I don't mind paying for software if it gives extra value or has some unique functionality but not when there are so many free and perfectly good alternatives out there.