June 09, 2004

Extensive RSS Reader Review & Compilation

[Via beSpacific:] PCWorld has a very good review on the current RSS reader (news aggregator) offerings. While the review focuses on only five programs, the real gem is the expanded chart that covers 18 news aggregators, including information on the price, Atom feed support, pros, cons, comments, and overall ratings (up to 5 stars) for each. As I've looked at most of the readers listed at some point or another, consider it your one-stop RSS reader shopping list -- it includes both PC- and web-based readers. Whether you're new to RSS feeds or a veteran looking for a better reader, there's something listed for everyone.

By the way, I completely agree with FeedDemon as the Editor's Pick -- definitely my favorite for PC-based readers. If I could add two features to FeedDemon, it would be an expandable/collapsible Outlook folder interface (presently under consideration by the developer), and SharpReader's ability to thread posts to show common links between blogs and therefore inter-blog discussions. So far, that seems to be SharpReader's claim to fame, because otherwise it's a fairly basic reader which also requires the large .NET Framework installation to run.

If you prefer web-based readers for ease of use and central storage of your feeds (so you don't have to try to keep all your PC's synchronized), then Bloglines is worth serious consideration. The downside with free web-based readers (thin clients) is that they tend to run a little slower than the PC-based fat clients, even with broadband connections -- mainly this is due to the page refresh latency inherent in web browsing, reliance upon scripts, etc.

Also, the web-based services need to make money somehow, so it's probably only a matter of time before they morph into various tiered free/pay service models, adopt advertising, or some other form of revenue generation. Thus once they have a critical mass of users and their feed lists, the service can change. In the meantime, it's not a bad place to start and kick the tires. As long as they offer an OPML* file export feature, you are free to take your accumulated feed list elsewhere. It's also a good idea to back up your web-based feed list on a fairly regular basis, since you never know when the service could be down, or worse, out of business.

(*OPML = "Outline Processor Markup Language", and it's an XML-based format that's used to exchange outline-type information between applications running on different operating systems and environments. In plain English, since your list of feeds can be formatted as an outline, the OPML file format makes them portable between most RSS readers via their Import/Export features. Very cool if you ask me.)

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard