RSS Readers

My blog reading has gone up noticeably lately. The types of blogs varies quite a bit. There are a few political ones like Andrew Sullivan or Political Animal, but I am not reading them as regularly as I did before the 2004 election. I am also reading science blogs, some software blogs, and I when I moved over to wordpress.com I found several interesting personal blogs. All of this blog reading requires some organization.

For most of my blog reading I have used Mozilla Firefox’s live bookmarks. This simply adds RSS entries to my bookmark folders for each feed. I have to navigate the bookmarks to the appropriate folder and then try to remember if I checked out that listed posts. Works fine if you are only checking out a few blogs.

I tried Google Reader when it first came out. This is web based so I can access it from anywhere. This is important since I check blogs from both work and home computers. When I check physics blogs at work, it counts as work. Google pulls in entries from all of my selected feeds and merges them into one list. One post is shown at the time. You can categorize your feeds so I can label Andrew Sullivan and Political Animal politics, while Cosmic Variance and Uncertain Principles can be labeled physics. You can add multiple labels to a feed so I could have a science label which would be used on Cosmic Variance, Uncertain Principles,and Pharyngula. Google reader pulls the post info into its inteface so you do not see the post as it appears in the blog, although you can always click through. I really do not like the all blogs mixed together view that is the default. The labeled view where I can see just my politics feeds or just my science feeds is better. My biggest problem is that Google Reader does not tell me when there are new entries.

I have used Bloglines.com for about two weeks now. It is web based like Google Reader. It displays a list of your selected blogs in a frame on the left side. The name is bolded when there are new entries and a count is appended. Clinking on the name brings up summaries in the right pane. The size of the summery is not consistent. I am guessing that they are using the original blog’s instruction on cuts. Like Google Reader, Bloglines reformats the post for its interface. You can then click through to the actual blog, if you like. The feature of bloglines that I like best is that I can immediately tell if there are new posts and in which blogs. However the counts do not always seem accurate. In particular I frequently run into the situation that Bloglines tells me that there is a new post when there really isn’t, so Bloglines best feature is actually buggy.

Just yesterday I discovered that Mozilla Thunderbird can track RSS feeds. I put in 22 feeds and started checking it out. The list of feeds appears in the account and folder display at the right. Feeds are bolded and have a count when there are unread posts available, just like Bloglines. Select a feed and the all of the posts will appear in the message index just like a list of emails. The title of the post, the author and the time are shown. For a multi-author blog like Cosmic Variance, that is a nice plus. Select a post in the index and that post is fetched. You can choose to have just a summary or take the default of the whole original post. The comments are shown if they are available. I like this feature a lot. On my laptop which has a wide screen I can have three side by side panes with the accounts and folders, message/post index, and the content.

Conclusion

I need to move beyond Firefox’s live bookmarks, and I am trying to decide between Bloglines and Thunderbird. Thuderbird would be the best choice if I always used the same computer, but I don’t so Bloglines will probably have to do for now.

Update: After finishing this article I found a massive list of rss readers at allrss.com.
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4 Responses to “RSS Readers”

  1. I’m using bloglines, and I find it to be the best solution — not that I’ve tried much else. It would be interesting to know if you find any other ones that out-perform it. as for your concerns:

    “I am guessing that they are using the original blog’s instruction on cuts”

    yes. also, some blogs publish multiple feeds, so it depends which one you’re subscribed to.

    “However the counts do not always seem accurate. In particular I frequently run into the situation that Bloglines tells me that there is a new post when there really isn’t”

    I haven’t run into this problem at all. Check if you have it setup such that it labels updated posts as new posts.

  2. JamesWalden Says:

    I’ve found SharpReader to be the most usable reader on MS Windows. For Linux, I like akregator’s interface better than Sharpreader (tabbed browing being the primary advantage), but it has serious performance problems.

  3. I was on my Linux box when I read the comment, so I checked to see if I had akregator installed. I did, so I started it up and added a few feeds. It behaves very similarly to Thunderbird. It even has a wide view like I mentioned. In the two feeds that I tried for Cosmic Variance and Radioactive Banana I had different results. In neither case do I get the full web page with the blogroll and archive links. In the case of Cosmic Variance, I did get the pictures in the posts, but I did not pictures from Radioactive Banana. Since Radioactive Banana frequently features pictures of art that is a problem.

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