Turning inner space into outer space

March 17, 2013

A first look at Feedly as a replacement for Google Reader

The death of Google Reader will actually be a good thing, opening the door to innovation in RSS — something we haven’t seen in ages. And it isn’t shutting down until July 1, so there’s plenty of time for those innovations to make themselves known.

Still, that hasn’t stopped at least 500,000 people from quickly jumping to Feedly. And I can see why — this is a great alternative to Google Reader, and its developers promise to stick around and make changes based on users’ suggestions.

I’m hoping my beloved Reeder, which is based on Google Reader, will make good on its declaration that it won’t die along with Google Reader. Even so, I decided to give Feedly a try — just in case.

I’ve mostly been using the iPhone app version along with the extension for Safari, but there are other options — an app for Android, and extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

Feedly app list view

My first impression was that it is attractive, but overdone. Instead of getting a nice list of headlines that can easily be scanned, you get a magazine-style layout with pictures. In the app, you can flip through them at your leisure. With the web browser extension, you get “featured” articles.

Luckily, there are solutions. With the browser, you can change the default view in preferences to what Feedly calls “condensed.” This layout provides the source, the headline and a few words from the article in a single line for each feed. Nicely done.

The app is a little different. You can create a list view, but you have to make the change from magazine view every time you go into a category. There is no way to make it the default. Take care of this and I’ll be happy.

Another beef with the app is limited ability to organize the feeds. You can’t change the order of the categories and you can’t move a feed from one category to another. You can re-order the categories in the browser, but you have to quit the Feedly app and re-open it to make the changes show up there.

My other problem with Feedly is that you have to go to the source website in order to read an entire article. RSS feeds often give you only the first paragraph of a story and you have to take action to read the whole thing. With Feedly, that means flipping to source. With Reeder, you can use the Readability function to get the entire article within the app in a clutter-free layout. If Feedly can’t come up with something similar, it will be a deal breaker.