October 19, 2006

Google Reader, Revisited

When I initially reviewed Google Reader nearly a year ago, I found it seriously lacking and abandoned that chunk of my Google suite. I planned to revisit it, test it some more, and even send feedback to the Reader Group. Other things took precedence, but I believe I would've made time if Reader was at least decent enough to make the effort. It wasn't.

Late last month, Google announced a major revamp to the Reader. I've been working with it now for about two weeks, and the verdict: Very Impressive. It's now a fully functional web-based RSS reader that can rival Bloglines, which as Doug pointed out, hasn't made any major changes/improvements for a while. I've moved about 25% of my feeds over from Bloglines. into it, with no major problems.

What I like (and if any of these were in original version, I can't remember):

  • The navigation is a vast improvement over previous interface. I can view all of my subscribed RSS feeds, or easily bring up just the ones with updates. The page also opens with "A look at what's new," with what I'm guessing are the most recent headlines. When you click on the updated feed, you can toggle between list (headlines only) and expanded views of the feed entries.
  • It's much easier to delete feeds, or to make batch edits like assigning folders. The first thing I did: delete everything that was in there when I set up the site last fall. Took all of 15 seconds. You can select or deselect all of your feeds, or select just the ones that aren't yet assigned to a folder
  • You can star items to save for future reference, and look at those together. These items are still treated as "marked as read," but you can still get back to them.
  • Lots of keyboard shortcuts (though you lose then once you move off the home view).
  • The Tags option allows you to share by offering a public option for starred items or for feeds within a folder.
  • You can also share items with others: using the provided URL or script to place the last 1-10 headlines on your webpage.
  • There's a subscription bookmarklet you can add to your bookmarks toolbar.

Google Reader Image
Google Reader Image

A few things that need work:
  • In several instances, it did not recognize the feed I wanted to import, like the feeds from Knovel (other than K-News).
  • It's a wee bit slow at times, and when it's loading or adding feeds the browser throbber doesn't do anything. All you get is an image of the Google Labs flask with bubbles coming out of it.
  • You cannot get a total of unread items beyond 100. It just becomes 100+ .
  • You cannot adjust the frames, so you may need to rename some of the longer feeds to something shorter.
I'm still checking to see how Google Reader handles feeds from journals and database searches, which have been a problem in Bloglines when the new content wouldn't show up in bold unless I changed one of the subscription settings.

Overall, the Google developers have done a great job to make this a fully functional, useable RSS reader.

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