Blog Reader Replacement

[Warning: This is largely a rant… it is by no means a serious review of any of these products.]

For the last couple of years I’ve been using FeedGhost as my RSS Reader of choice. I install it on all my machines – home, work and laptop. Up until recently I’ve been happy with the tool. I was originally drawn to it because 1) it looked fresh and new with plenty of visual polish, 2) it had a great synchronization mechanism which meant all my machines could be kept in sync.


Alas, in the last couple of months things have started to fail. Running FeedGhost on my laptop has suddenly jumped from using 100Mb to using well over a 1Gb. Even more worrisome the synchronization seems to have had a few bugs introduced. Blog entries appears under the wrong category/feed and old items keep incorrectly showing as unread.

So… time for a new Blog Reader. The guys at work use Google Reader. I pity them, I try to educate them and when all else fails I just mock them.

So what serious contenders are there? I used SharpReader many years ago. Simple, quick but definitely lacking in features – I don’t think its being actively developed.

So from SharpReader I moved to RssBandit. I downloaded the latest version, loaded my feed list and took it for a spin. Initial reaction is one of disappointment. On the surface it seems much as it was a few years ago. They’ve added synchronization and a download manager. The posts glow a horrible yellow when you mouse over them – very annoying but presumably something that can be turned off.


At the same time as downloading RssBandit I got the latest version of FeedDemon. I haven’t used this product before – I seem to remember a time when it wasn’t free. The Newsgator synchronization seems to work well and is quick as is loading the posts themselves. Its been severely beaten with the ugly stick which is a shame. It also doesn’t behave how I would “expect” in many cases. For instance – it doesn’t seem to let you open more than one node in the feed list tree. If you open one it closes the previous – why?!


I don’t really want too much in an RSS Reader. My feature list in order of importance would go something like:

  1. Simply, effective synchronization of feeds and entry status.
  2. Well rendered post in a couple of layout formats – summary list, “river of news” flow etc.
  3. “Helpers” for adding subscriptions, e.g. Subscribe action takes clipboard URL by default, browser right click extensions etc.
  4. Clean, intuitive user interface – most are way to cluttered.

Of course what might be nice is a WPF based RSS Reader. Maybe using Live Services/Sync Framework behind the scenes to do the synchronization. Maybe Paperboy will become such a tool?

Overall – I’m a little disappointed with the available offerings. Does anyone have a (non browser based) alternative that they’d recommend?

6 thoughts on “Blog Reader Replacement”

  1. Feeddemon is the best IMO. It is highly customizable, maybe you should play with it a little more.

    I use it with the tree hidden and only use the “river of news” panel and the “next” button, which is the only thing that I need.

  2. Hi Nigel,

    I’m a Google Readerer too. I’ve used RSS Bandit and FeedDemon in the past, but Google Reader has captured me. I’d like to know what you think the shortcomings are.

    My workflow goes:

    – Open Firefox
    – Select a bunch of favourites – email 1, email 2, twitter, stack overflow, and google reader
    – Switch to reader
    – J,J,J,J until I see something interesting
    – Close tab

    Here are the advantages of Reader
    – No fat client
    – Automatically synchronized between machines
    – Nothing to backup
    – Has a nice clean interface
    – Just Works


  3. Hi Paul,

    Well, at least your comment finally prompted me to try it for myself rather than just watching others use it.

    First to counter your advantages:
    – No fat client  -> If the option is having to have a browser open I consider this a disadvantage
    – Auto sync -> All the readers I’ve looked at do this now, can run client on any machine and get feed list with history
    – Nothing to backup -> I’ve never backed up feeds since moving to FeedGhost, I’d presume I wouldn’t need to with any of the others either. Unless you mean backup the software itself?
    – Has a nice clean interface -> I guess this is subjective. Its simple (which is good) but the menu at the top it intrusive and wasteful (I don’t have/want any other Google apps why show the links). The search too should be hidden by default – it wastes a whole line but more importantly is just visual clutter. It would be OK with top section gone and then minimizing navigation pane.
    – Just Works – hmm… I’m not so sure

    Well here are my Cons on Google Reader:
    – It runs in a browser
    – I upload my OPML file and it loaded my feeds quickly. However, it won’t refresh them all – just did about 5 of them. Can’t seem to get it to refresh using the “Refresh” button.
    – Where is my context menu (looking for alternate refresh) – damn browser!
    – As I type this its currently locked up my other tab with “(615 items remaining)” to be downloaded… WTF!
    – It shows the received date instead of the published date… WTF! Why… who cares when I downloaded it.

    Admittedly I’m running IE – maybe it only works with Firefox?

    I’ve restarted the browser – still can’t get it to refresh my posts… well at least I don’t have to uninstall it. And on the up side I now have a Google account… err… yippee :-p

  4. Well, I plan to perservere with FeedDemon for a while longer, and I’ll certainly try and customize it to suit my reading habits. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Yes, running an Ajax application in IE definitely does not improve the experience due to the slow javaScript rendering of this browser, but you must admit that IE does not take up much resources and therefore I really do not understand what your problem is with having a browser open to read your rss items?

    I find it incredibly annoying that when using a separate program for feed reading, when you click through on a link in an item you still have to open your browser, which means you then have two programs open!

  6. In my experience an IE tab instance displaying Google Reader consumes more resources than FeedGhost (when it working right). For example after browsing through 10 posts my Google Reader tab is using 65Mb compared to FeedGhost on 50Mb after having browsed 50 posts. Oh – and I think its also worth pointing out the Google Reader is by far the slowest to load posts when compared to any of the full client readers I’ve mentioned.

    Don’t know about the other readers but FeedGhost has a browser built in (not IE) so you don’t need two apps. Having said that my personal preference is to read posts in the aggregator – and queue those links that I want to investigate further in a separate browser instance. When I’m finished the aggregator (e.g. FeedGhost/Daemon) will minimize to tray and continue monitoring – something else that the browser doesn’t support properly.

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