3 week shakedown, 2 RSS readers remain.

This article will look at the remaining 4 RSS readers ( SearchFox, Rojo, Bloglines, Newsgator Online ) that i am reviewing and eliminate another 2 services based on usability and personal preference. Note: any pros / cons stated below are in addition to the ones already mentioned here.

The Recap:

  • RSS? Why. ( evolution of the Net and why RSS is so popular )
  • RSS? How. ( how to start using web-based RSS services )
  • 1 Week Comparison. ( a look at 6 popular web-based RSS readers )

The Breakdown:

SearchFox -

  • Pros: really fast now – with possibly the fastest OPML import i’ve seen. (ironically, you get a message saying it might take 5-10 minutes for all the feeds to show up, 50 or so in my case, but it took about 3 seconds), if adding a feed fails you get a useful link to validate the feed (also there’s a quick link to the actual website to check if it’s online), machine learning technology is really starting to warm up (stories are given a score based on your interests which saves me lots of time)
  • Cons: no way to sort by date (sometimes you just want to see the most recent articles for a quick second) [see comments], accident prone one-click delete (individual sites and entire folder of feeds with no warning), “email” this post requires a configured email client like OutlookExpress (sort of works against the idea of being web based)

Rojo -

  • Pros: rename feeds (you’re not stuck with default name for any feed you want to add), easily find info on the feeds you’re subscribed to (by clicking the “i” icon), advanced sort capabilities (sort by: feed tags, how frequently read, unread story count, and name), “email this” post (a feature i actually started using regularly)
  • Cons: i can’t see what date each post was made (only vague 2 hours ago, 5 hours ago, etc.)[see comments], tagging stories and feeds can get tiresome (time consuming)

Bloglines -

  • Pros: tabs help keep things organized (not by much), icons associated with feeds (left sidebar) help when trying to quickly find a site, “email this” post (same as Rojo), organize your favorite clipping into folders (on the fly), preview this feed (just before you add it)
  • Cons: favorite clippings are displayed in the sidebar (instead of the main window), clicking on top-level directory in “My feeds” makes all new feeds appear as read (that sucks), “mark all as read” link is kind of useless (see previous con), export OPML feature is unintuitive (file opens in browser instead of downloading the file automatically – user must click “file”>”save as”) and is hard to find because it’s all the way at the bottom of the left sidebar.

Newsgator Online -

  • Pros: favorite clippings are displayed in the main window (instead of the sidebar), convenient “email this” post feature (same as Rojo)
  • Cons: can’t seem to find any info on each of the feeds i subscribe to (# of subscribers, Feed URL), no way to rename anything (folders or feeds), no way to mark “all posts” as read (only mark “this page” or “this post” as read), no icons associated with feeds (icon save time when trying to find stuff fast), had some css problems with collapsible feed descriptions using Firefox.

The Shakedown: (and why they lost out)

  • Bloglines – while it is probably the easiest RSS reader service to get started on, things quickly get disorganized to the point of no return. The result was that i eventually just exported all my feeds as OPML and imported them into SearchFox and Rojo.
  • Newsgator Online – is most likely my 3rd favorite service of those mentioned above. And although there aren’t any major problems to speak of, something about the main user-interface just turned me off. For some reason the whole layout just makes me feel like i have less control over everything. Also, the company as a whole seems a lot more corporate; it makes me wonder how dedicated they are to the free “online” version of their software.

Conclusions:

With 2 RSS readers remaining, SearchFox and Rojo stick out as my favorites (so far). Looks like it might take a little longer to decided on just 1 service but i’m not really in any rush to choose. In the meantime, i’ll continue to use both of them regularly and probably post some more of my observations. i might even come up with some sort of wishlist or “things i’d like to see” in new versions of SearchFox and Rojo so stay tuned.

[ This is a follow up to a previous article entitled:"1 week comparison: SearchFox, Feedster, Pluck, Bloglines, Rojo, and NewsGator", which is itself a follow up to an earlier post entitled: "So you think you can RSS? How", which is itself a follow up to an even earlier post entitled: "So you think you can RSS? Why". ]

Comments 12

  1. Greg Linden wrote:

    Did you try Findory (http://findory.com)?

    Findory is a personalized news site. It learns from the articles you read and surfaces others interesting articles. Findory is unusual in that it not only shows you articles from your favorite feeds, but also shows you recommended articles from other feeds that you might not have found on your own.

    You can get started on Findory just by reading a few articles, but you can also start by importing your OPML at http://findory.com/s/

    Posted 30 Sep 2005 at 9:50 pm
  2. Esteban Kozak wrote:

    Nice, SearchFox RSS is making it to the finals. By the way, you can sort posts chronologically by clicking on “turn personalization off” on the upper right corner.

    As for the workflow, I would like to get your thoughts regarding the “archive page” and “archive all” features. These features combined with the personalization engine make SearchFox the best way to process large sets of data. Here is how we envisioned the workflow: aggregate lots of feeds in a folder, read the most important posts (first couple pages) and archive the rest. If you sitck to it, you’ll start noticing huge productivity gains over Rojo. In addition, you won’t mind subscribing to lots of feeds because the important stuff always bubbles to the top. You can go back to archived posts using search or clicking on “show all”.

    Let me know.

    Posted 30 Sep 2005 at 10:26 pm
  3. elran wrote:

    hey guys, thanks for all the input..

    Greg: i have tried Findory a few times, and my first impression was a good one. always a good starting point for new and interesting stories. but i will give it another go, since you seem pretty enthusiastic about it. i like the idea of stories that surface allowing you to find other interesting articles.

    Esteban: that is really great. i’m so glad you can sort posts chronologically. i was really missing this feature (i’d actually switch over to Rojo every time i wanted to see most recent posts). i was a little worried about turning off personalization, as i wasn’t sure if the effect would be permanent. this is actually an awesome function. Being able to “pause” or turn off a feature (even if it is the main feature around which your whole software is built) is always an excellent bonus in my mind. shows you’re focused on the user. good job. By the way, i’ve been experimenting a little with the “archive page” and “archive all” features. so far, i like them but i only used them when i’ve been away from my computer for a while (1 day or more). i’ll have to try using it more regularly and get back to you on that one. maybe i’ll do a post focused on SearchFox/Rojo productivity and workflow..

    Posted 01 Oct 2005 at 12:53 am
  4. moen wrote:

    Well, you are doing better than me. I can’t get my OPML file to inport into searchfox to find out how wonderful it is. Basically the file uploads, the site thinks about it for around 30 seconds, then presents me with a blank page. Not terribly impressive as this same file works flawlessly with Rojo and Bloglines. Sadly, no one at the searchfox support email seems to want to look into the problem.

    Posted 01 Oct 2005 at 9:59 am
  5. admin wrote:

    hi moen:

    i had a similar problem with adding a single feed. it would choke on it and then after a few seconds just returned a feed error.
    turns ou the feed would not validate because of some extra white space at the beginning of the file. Both Bloglines and Rojo ignored the blank space and added the feed without a problem, but SearchFox complained. But once i figured out what was causing it stop validating, i removed the white space and SearchFox stopped complaining.

    did you try contacting Esteban directly? (hey Esteban, do you think you can help this guy?)
    hope everything works out for you though..

    Posted 01 Oct 2005 at 11:57 am
  6. Kevin wrote:

    I’m going to echo the comments of some other readers. Findory.com should really be included in this shakedown because I have to say that on using rojo, I prefer findory. It’s UI is more intuitive and its been kept simple stupid.

    Thanks

    Posted 03 Oct 2005 at 3:00 am
  7. elran wrote:

    well, i probably won’t include Findory in this side-by-side comparison.. but maybe in a seperate entry.
    also, isn’t Findory more of a news / info site than an RSS reader?
    one more thing, why is it that the last 5 out of 10 times i’ve gone to Findory, the site has been down? are they experiencing a lot of growth or is my internet connection just a little screwy..

    Posted 04 Oct 2005 at 1:24 am
  8. Michael Eakes wrote:

    Great suggestion. In Rojo, we’re making the publish time of a story appear as an absolute time (rather than “2 days ago”, etc). In the mean time (while not completely obvious) the absolute time is currently viewable if you mouse over the relative time. Thanks, Michael

    Posted 05 Dec 2005 at 9:30 pm
  9. elran wrote:

    right on,
    thanks for dropping by michael.

    i did not know that about the absolute time being available if you mouse over the relative time. i like that, kind of like a hidden feature. bonus. i just wish i could think of a good place to suggest putting it so that it would seem more visible to the user..

    will you be replacing the relative time entirely? because, maybe you could add a choice to “view absolute time” or “view relative time” in the account settings>preferences>display. that way it wouldn’t clutter up the main interface and users could have it show up either way.

    anyway, thanks for the heads up and i’ll be updating the body of this post with the new info as well.

    Posted 06 Dec 2005 at 12:49 am
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