I've decided to give Google Reader a try as my primary feed reader. For the next week or so, I'll use it exclusively to figure out if it is a suitable replacement for FeedDemon.

Last night I did an OPML export of my subscriptions and imported them into Google Reader. Here's what I learned from that process:

  1. Google Reader intelligently applied labels to the sub-groups of feeds in my single large OPML file.
  2. The system made to attempt to warn me of feeds that it could not import. I'm certain there are a few which were password protected or otherwise not accessible to the public. This strikes me as an important omission.
  3. Though I was subscribed to all of the imported feeds, it took several hours for the Google Reader to "get" that. There were no unread items initially, and trying to select feeds by tag label resulted in a confusing user experience.
  4. You cannot "mark all as read" but they're apparently working on that.
  5. You cannot search within your own subscriptions. Again, this strikes me as a serious shortcoming.
  6. The Google Reader Group is well attended by some of the Google Reader engineers. This is impressive.

Having said all that, the product has improved a lot since I first kicked the tires. It's responsive and uncluttered. You can even turn off the fancy animation. Like Gmail, it seems to have a bit of a learning curve (good keyboard shortcuts but no folders), but I'm trying to keep an open mind about it. I suspect I'll end up unsubscribing from a few of my marginally useful feeds just to keep the clutter down.

I'll try to document the pros and cons I run into along the way.

Have you tried switching to Google Reader? What was your experience like?

Update: Okay, screw that...

Posted by jzawodn at July 10, 2006 06:54 AM

Reader Comments
# Patrick Cavit said:

I tried once when it was first announced and then again several months ago. Both times I was seriously disappointed in its ability to handle a large number of feeds. Folderless organization is great for some things, for me and my 200+ feeds it isn't so hot.

on July 10, 2006 07:19 AM
# Karl said:

I've tried Reader a few times and it certainly has improved, but for someone with 100+ subscriptions, as myself, it requires far too many clicks, in comparison to Bloglines, for me to scan updates. Bloglines requires just one and a page scroll.

on July 10, 2006 07:22 AM
# Anon said:

I am looking for a free feed reader as my trial on FeedDemon is about to expire. Would I be better off paying the fee to use FeedDemon or is there a really good free alternative?

on July 10, 2006 07:26 AM
# Hanley Leung said:

I tried it half a year ago and I couldn't stay with it. The best for me has still been My Yahoo!. I like how My Yahoo! allows me to see articles "from the last day" as opposed to only seeing the headings ones of the headings from the last X hours.

on July 10, 2006 07:47 AM
# Guna said:

It has certainly improved since I've joined but I haven't settled down with it yet. Unsubscribing from few feeds is not an option for me to keep the clutter down. So still open minded and looking for a useful tool.

on July 10, 2006 07:50 AM
# St0n3y said:

I use FeedDemon and stuck with it after trying Google reader several months ago. I simply didn't like the fact that I was not able to find posts from a specific feed. Some feeds I skim heavily, while others I read a bit more closely.

on July 10, 2006 08:10 AM
# Guillaume Theoret said:

I can't make sense out of how feeds get updated.

I used to use Rojo exclusively as my online feed aggregator but knew it had problems updating some feeds. Now I've been using both Rojo and Google reader concurrently because Google gets feeds Rojo doesn't and vice versa. Which is extremely bizzare considering I set up Google by exporting opml with Rojo.

Google seems to have difficulty with a lot of wordpress feeds and Rojo seems to have difficulty with a lot of blogspot feeds.

I wish RSS Bandit were available to me offline. It's the only aggregator I know of that works perfectly but it's desktop software so any time I'm away from my laptop I end up having to wing my surfing circa 2002.

on July 10, 2006 08:15 AM
# Darren said:

On "mark all as read"--I had a similar problem when I gave Newsgator Online a try. I imported in my OPML file with its 2000 feeds, and then had to wade through all the new items and mark them as read, 50 at a time.

on July 10, 2006 08:42 AM
# Abhi said:

Tried googlereader a few months back but found bloglines to have a more intuitive interface. The only problem with bloglines is that the aggregator stops at 200 items in a feed(not a problem with google.) Also, exporting opml from bloglines is a bit of a pain. As Karl & St0n3y stated, I read some feeds in detail while skim others(news sites.) With google reader, I'm presented with a single feed item at a time. Too much of a chore to click on each item to figure out if it is read-worthy or not. Oh, and if you are not signed into your google account(or have 1 or 2 gmail ids) then you need to sign in everytime you want to access your feeds.

on July 10, 2006 09:12 AM
# Josh Woodward said:

I've been using it for the past couple weeks. I like the uncluttered interface, but I don't like the fact that it's not very flexible. I'd like to see some way to have a tree of feeds. It's also missing a way to control the request interval, which is probably common but would be very handy. Feeds that are meant to be fetched frequently aren't very useful.

on July 10, 2006 10:03 AM
# jake said:

I use it a work and find it especially usefull at aggregating feeds from sites that are otherwise restricted by the corporate proxy. I like the fact that the atcile pane on the left scrolls with the mousewheel.

on July 10, 2006 10:08 AM
# casey said:

There used to be a nice Greasemonkey script that made the scrollwheel mark the articles as read in G'Reader. I found this to be a great way to scan through my news quickly.

Unf a few Firefox updates ago, this script stopped working. I wish Google would make it an option, I really prefer to scan without clicking.

on July 10, 2006 10:09 AM
# casey said:

Just remembered another thing I like about it. Google Reader supports SSL (like most other Google apps). My work's proxy blocks BoingBoing, but I can read it with Google Reader :D

on July 10, 2006 10:11 AM
# dave said:

i use bloglines.com

on July 10, 2006 10:14 AM
# Todd said:

I have been using Google Reader for a few weeks, and other than a few minor short-commings (ex. mark all read), I rather like it. The Firefox extension "Feed Your Reader" gives you the ability to add an RSS feed directly into Google Reader or your personalized Google hompage. I like the fact that there is a "Google Gadget" that allows you to read your Reader feeds directly in on the Google hompage. It is nice not to have to leave Firefox to read my feeds.

on July 10, 2006 10:40 AM
# John said:

I tried Google Reader when it first came out. It was *okay*. But I used Bloglines already and was happy with them, so no compelling need to switch yet.

on July 10, 2006 12:04 PM
# Alex said:

If you'd like to give FeedLounge a try, let me know.

on July 10, 2006 12:33 PM
# Pan said:

Google Reader is pretty much unusable for reading a large number of feeds IMO. Reading one item at a time and having to constantly use the javascripted scrolling is just too clunky.

I've been using Bloglines for a few years now (hard to believe it's been that long) and I've yet to find another service that handles that aspect well. Rojo comes close, but its responsiveness/load times is still not there for me.

on July 10, 2006 01:18 PM
# Andrew Ducker said:

I use Google Reader. I only have 6 feeds on it, as I use it for links (I use LiveJournal as my aggregator for people) and Ifind it works well except when I go away for 3 days and come back to 400 digg links...

on July 10, 2006 02:32 PM
# Jamin Gray said:

I tried Google's feed reader back in October and gave up on it nearly instantly:


One interesting thing that came out of that failed attempt to use its UI was the realization that the ability to quickly scroll down large numbers of "items" displayed in their entirety instead of just subject lines is very powerful. I realized I wanted that ability for reading mailing lists and other sorts of grouped messages. I can very quickly scan and stop when something catches my eye.

on July 10, 2006 09:32 PM
# Kevin Burton said:

They should of just bought Rojo..... I had ALLLLLL that stuff working YEARS ago :)

Of course its not too late Google ;-)


on July 11, 2006 12:36 AM
# Rob Hof said:

I agree with Hanley that the great thing about MyYahoo is that you can see the headings of all the feeds, and they don't disappear from the mere fact of viewing them (as they do on Bloglines without manually marking them unread). Only problem is, more than 125 feeds or so breaks MyYahoo--I get script errors consistently as I try to click away from MyYahoo for anything. Folks there have confirmed this problem and say they're working on a fix--coming soon, I hope??
Not that I want to leave MyYahoo completely, but in the meantime, is there a clean way to export MyYahoo feeds to an OPML file so I can dump them into another reader for now?

on July 11, 2006 10:51 AM
# Marcus said:

Another really, really good thing about it is that there is a very straightforward mobile/xhtml version of it available. I find this indispensible and it is much better than bloglines or other mobile readers I have tried. You need to add the reader module to your personalized Google homepage and then go to that from google.com/xhtml

on July 11, 2006 01:10 PM
# Micheal said:

Does Google or Yahoo even search RSS feeds or Blogs? One would figure that straight text would make it easier for search engines to find my blog and rate it higher, right?

on July 12, 2006 01:41 PM
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