Google Reader Alternatives

With the announcement of Google shutting down Google Reader it leaves people on the search for Google Reader alternatives. I was one of those people to some degree. I used Google Reader from time to time when reading various blogs and other RSS feeds, but I was not an every day user as I had my own workflow for doing things that a work around not using Google Reader or an alternative could have been used. That being said, however, I understand that people like their “tools” so I set out to find the alternative tool in hopes that maybe I would find one that would be better suited for myself as well.

I started small and decided to try three different Google Reader Alternatives to start with. That was just the way it happened by default. Why? Mostly because when I started this ambitious plan and started researching I was on my mobile device. I then found that it was not me alone that would be needing more experienced advice than would be found in the “tech reviews” I was finding online so I set out to try and ultimately review the ones I tried in a real-life setting.

Thus the reason for this post. I have tried and am reviewing three Google Reader Alternatives: Feedly, Google Currents, and Pulse. I will not necessarily review them in that order. I will highlight their pros, cons, and basic ease of use from a technical and hopefully a non-technical point of view. I hope to keep these reviews well-rounded and not pull in the overly technical things. I want these to be down to earth and useful to the general and everyday user. If you want technical reviews, you will have to go to the tech-blogs for that.

All three of the alternatives I tried offered sleek user interfaces of varying degrees of user interactivity. You had differing degrees of user settings you could adjust thus my statement “varying degrees of user interactivity.” The interfaces were clean and modern. There was nothing outdated to the look and feel, so no time-warp adventures. If anything the interfaces were too clean and left something for the user to question as to what to do next, at least initially. The average user might feel lost if they are too panicked to push “buttons” or click on things to see what happens.

I can tell you right out of the “user gates” that not all Google Reader Alternatives are created equally in the “user friendliness” category. From the ready made RSS feed standpoint, each of the three I tried work great. You can pick your categories and then choose from a variety of different sources and you have a built in supply of feeds to get RSS feeds from. However, if you want to get RSS feeds from your own preselected sources, the experience was not one size fits all. 

Let me digress a little and address the obvious differences between the three alternatives that I tried.

  1. Google Currents only has a mobile platform. If you have a mobile device(s) this is fantastic because it is all right there and it integrates seamlessly into your workflow. It has an iOS and Android platform available if I remember correctly. I tested it out on my iOS iPhone 5. That is all I have to judge by at this point.
  2. Feedly pulls of of the Google Reader API which is shutting down with Google Reader, however, they are working on a counter project called Normandy to take care of this “problem.” So is it a problem really? I do not think so. They are actually being forward about it and taking proactive actions to overcome the stumbling block that was placed in front of them. No worries. According to their website as of today (March 18, 2013) they will be ready for seamless transition for multiple platforms. Feedly has both web and mobile interfaces so this is a nice option for those who do not have mobile devices. It appears to work with a variety of web browsers which is nice.
  3. Pulse appeared to be most universal right out of the box without upfront problems (due to the Google Reader API problems facing Feedly) because it also has both web and mobile platforms. 

Those were the initial opinions and obvious differences (or similarities) at least. Keeping those things in mind, I took them for a spin trying to get some sort of feel for what I was going to be up against.

First thing I needed to do was get some content, right? All three offer your built in content. They are RSS feed readers after all. You have a variety of topics and different feeds to choose from from the starting gates. Select a few and get started. You can choose from news, entertainment, design, etc. That was the easy part. That was all pretty intuitive.

The not so intuitive part was the reason we are searching for alternatives in the first place more than likely, getting the not built in content into the nicely built user interfaces. Clearly someone was not thinking about ease of use when they were designing. They would have stopped to think about that if they had been considering this. All three alternatives I tried were harder to get the outside blogs I wanted to keep track of into the user interfaces than it should have been. By far Feedly was the easiest to use in this regard. It was not perfect and I have this “why?” question going on every single time I look at the screen, but at least I feel comfortable and have a pleasant experience and can see exactly what I want to see without wondering what I am missing every time I log-in.

You would think that with Google Currents being a Google product, it would be rather intuitive to “import” from one Google product to another. This is not the case. Do not get your hopes up for an easy time. There are a couple of ways to get your information in that I have found. Initially, it did not even recognize that I had a Google Reader account. What? How could that be? I logged in with my Google account. Never fear, right? Just keep telling yourself this.

It has a search feature. So I started searching for the blogs that I read. I am not sure why, but a couple of the ones I have read showed up in the “Feeds” section of my menu at this point, but they did. I was not searching for these particular blogs at this point. I do not even read those blogs the most often and they were not updated frequently. Frustration was starting to rise a little. I started searching for the ones that I knew I read a lot and were updated often. The search feature is not perfect and it will yield a lot of results as there are an infinite number of possibilities in blog names with some combinations so be patient. I was able to add one and it was easy to add to my feed once I found it in the search. Be careful, however, I have not figured out how to delete anything if you make a mistake and add the wrong thing to your feed (although the usual iOS right drag should work). Make sure you get the right one before adding it to the feed.

Now, today when I was looking at the menu, I noticed that it did in fact recognize that I did have a Google Reader Feed. It was under “Add Subscriptions.” I just rolled my eyes. What else was I going to do? Under that was in fact listed all my blogs that I read safely listed. For each one was a little button to “add” it to my “library” or my feed. Upon going back to the main menu, under “Feeds” those that I selected to “add” were then now on the list. It would have been nice to have saved that frustration when I opened it up initially. Maybe I missed it. I might have. I am pretty sure that it did not pull up anything when I scrolled through all the options initially, however.

With Pulse, I am still trying to figure out the best way to get my wanted outside content into the user interface. It is sad, I like the interface. It is okay to look at actually. The problem is, there does not appear to be an easy way to find your outside content. The search features for adding new content is pretty much useless for narrowing down the junk from the real stuff. I did in fact find references to the blog I wanted, but not the blog itself. I still have not figured out how to get that blog in. I cannot find a way to import a list of blogs into the “Feed” which would be ideal in my opinion. You can at least delete something once you get it on the Feed if you screw up.

Then again maybe I am not as happy with the interface after all. Upon flipping back to it, after looking at Google Currents and Feedly, Pulse just looks crowded and busy. You have a screen of squares that are pictures with overlaid text. The text are the article titles or blog post titles. They are all in rows and columns. You can narrow down where the squares are pulling their content from the left hand column’s menu options, but the same busy screen returns with narrowed results.

You also do not have an option (it appears) to actually open the original content in another browser window (or tab). Not only that you do not have the option to respond to the posts right there in the Pulse screen. It is quite limiting in that regard. Sometimes I want to go read more of the blog and do it right there in the blog itself. I want to get engrossed in the experience. I want to find out what else they have to offer outside of the posts themselves. Sometimes people do offer other things than just the daily (or whatever rate) bleed of blithering nonsense. That aside, however, I take delight in finding comments on my blog and receiving feedback. From time to time I like to delight others and leave the same. If I cannot do that quickly and easily from where I am reading the post or get to the blog quickly and easily to do that, I just won’t do it. I might not remember to come back later when the thoughts have escaped my mind entirely. Being able to share the post quickly and easily on Facebook and Twitter are nice, but I am not big into that. I personally and more likely to blog about things that I read. It has to be really good to get me to share it on Facebook. A little less impressive to get me to Tweet it.

That leaves me with Feedly. Like I said it was not perfect, but thus far it was by far the easiest to get my list of blogs into so that I could read them all in one spot. I also found a couple of new sources of other RSS feeds to read. That was a nice addition. At any rate, I initially could not figure out how to get to my Google Reader stuff even though it said that it could use that. It showed that I had a list, but it did not allow me to view anything no matter what I did. I eventually hit something and added something just right and voila I had it. Of course then in my “index” it now shows not one but two “Blogger Following” lists. That is just a tad bit annoying and partially why it lost its almost perfect status with me. If you click on one of those lists on the left hand side menu, it expands to show all of my Google Reader stuff. Perfect. If you click on the other one in the same menu, it expands the other one. What? Then why have the other one at all? It makes no sense at all. It shows up on the “Index page” twice so I have two identical lists there as well. The thing is, I cannot figure out how to delete the second one to make it go away.

The thing I like about Feedly is that it is clean and nice to look at. You have a couple of different options for viewing the different feeds and ultimately getting to the different feed items. You have an overview screen that gives you the latest featured items. That is nice. I can see the latest and greatest right there and scroll through them. I can even set my settings to show what I want to show in the “featured” items. That is nice. It has some adjustable settings. Pulse had very few settings at all (practically none). You can even change the look and appearance. You can easily switch back and forth between the feeds. I have to say that sometimes the “featured” items load slowly and sluggishly, but just loading another view will pull them up.

Another thing that Feedly adds that I did not notice at first is that in Firefox was that it adds a “plug-in” of sorts. Down in the bottom right hand corner of my browser screen I have a little icon that is non-intrusive. When I hover the mouse over it, it reads “Feedly Mini” and essentially it gives me a few options. I can save the site for later, recommend publicly on Google+, share on Facebook, share on Twitter, or email.

There are a lot of options right in Feedly itself on the Feedly website. You can save things for later. You can mark things for later. There are links directly to the website to view it later. You can save articles that are not blogs, so just general websites that you come across you can save them for later viewing. You can even create tags for things right in Feedly for the various things you are reading. Very nice.

As far as what I have seen thus far, I am going to be deleting the Google Currents App from my iPhone and downloading the Feedly App instead. I will be trying to delete my Pulse account because it is useless to me as far as I am concerned. I have not had a pleasant experience thus far. As of right now, I am pleasantly enjoying Feedly more than I thought I would.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.