Where do you go to find the latest information of your interests? Twitter may be the best place to find the constantly updated site of news and rumours, and Facebook Pages and groups start playing a similar role to seed out information to us. While these two sources are useful if we use them strategically, they can overwhelm us very easily because of their constant flow of massive amount of information.
I use Facebook Pages and Twitter to find some latest information, but these two sources may not be necessarily suitable to check if my favourites blogs like academiPad have published new posts or to see if news websites updated their content. Many of us likely have a handful of blogs and websites that we regularly follow, and if we check their update status one by one, it would take a lot of effort and time. To make this routine of checking blog and website update status more efficient, I use RSS feeds through Reeder.
What Is RSS?
RSS, often dubbed as “Really Simple Syndication,” is a web feed format, and even if you’ve never used it, you most likely see RSS icons on news websites, blogs, and podcast pages. Its basic function is to send out updates as rss, xml, or atom formats. (For your information, Atom is an alternative to RSS and it is different from RSS, but their basic functions are the same.) If you’re subscribing to podcasts, for example, you may actually receiving the latest episodes of your favourite shows via RSS.
An advantage of using RSS feeds is to receive often summarized updates from your favourite news websites, blogs, journal websites, and so on. If you want to read more, you just need to click links or titles to go to the actual pages to read the entire posts or news articles. Unlike Twitter, you’ll receive more information because RSS feeds don’t have a 140 character limit, but like Facebook, the feeds contain images, videos, and even audio so the information you receive through them are more dynamic.
We have a wide range of RSS reader apps available, from Vienna RSS, to online Google Reader, to previously shareware but now freeware NetNewsWire (also for iPad, $10, iTunes link), to social media “magazine” Flipboard (free, iTunes link). Among many great apps, I want to talk about my favourite app, Reeder (for Mac, for iPad, for iPhone).
What Is Reeder?
I used to use Vienna RSS as my main reader until the beta version of Reeder for Mac came out. I started using Reeder for Mac and have been using all the versions – Mac ($5) , iPad ($5), and iPhone ($3, iTunes links) – since I got my iPad this year. The reason I’m using the same apps on the different platform is most likely for consistency, but I’m not using them just for this one reason. Here are a few reasons why I enjoy using these apps.
1. Sync with Google Reader
I originally didn’t like the idea of getting RSS feeds through Google Reader. I may be wrong but I think that there is some time lag between the feeds that Reeder receives and those that Google Reader receives: the feed updates are coming through Google Reader so this isn’t a surprise if it’s indeed true. Eventually, I realized the benefit of syncing with Google Reader.
What is the benefit? This does not apply to those who check RSS feeds on a single platform, but those who, like me, check them on multiple platforms most likely want all their devices to start on one device where you left on another. Through Google Reader, Reeder apps snyc both RSS feeds and the status of feeds–read, unread, starred/favourite. This means that all the read articles on Mac will have the same status on iPhone and/or iPad when you open the apps next time. If you check some feeds on Mac before leaving for school/work in the morning, you can start where you stop.
I prefer a simple interface so that I can focus on checking RSS feeds. Those who like more visually appealing apps may want to check Flipboard instead. The iPad and Mac apps share similar interfaces while the iPhone has a divided/abbreviated interface. I like the off-white tone since it is least distracting and much nicer to eyes especially when you have to go through many feeds quickly.
While all the versions of Reeder have various ways to render feeds and their original pages, all the apps use Readability, which, like Instapaper, lets you save web pages for reading later and also render the pages into more reader-friendly layouts. As you may notice in the above images, all the versions have Readability icons within feed views and tapping them opens feed articles in Readability rendering. (Tapping the titles can open the original pages in Readability, Instapaper, and/or Google Mobilizer based on your settings.)
As all the versions share similar functions, let me focus on the iPad app here.
As you can see in these screenshots, Reeder allows you to share feeds with other very easily through other various services. If you use any of the services in Accounts, all you need to do is to turn on the service on Services Panel and to add your usernames in Accounts. From the share icon on the app interface, you can access these services.
Here is the settings page for Reeder for iPad. You can tweak all the details so that you can optimize your usability. A the bottom of image is the setting for sliding or swiping. As you may can expect, all the Reeder apps use up/down and left/right swipe motions to the full capacity. With my settings, swiping left on an article in a list will mark it as a starred, while swiping right will make it as a read/unread. In the article/feed view, swiping up goes back to the previous article, and down to the next one.
I use all the versions of Reeder and I love them, but if you decide to use all of them, you have purchase them separately. In Canada, the iPhone app costs $ 2.99 and the other two $4.99: the total comes to $12.97 + tax, which isn’t really cheap. I bought them one by one gradually, so I didn’t feel like spending so much money on Reeder, but $12.97 + tax sounds a lot for a RSS reader.
If you decide to give a shot to Reeder, I recommend either the iPhone app or the Mac one. Why? Despite the price tag of $ 4.99, the iPad version is least functional. While the other two let you add new feed subscriptions on them, you can’t do that on iPad. Instead, you have to go to Google Reader to add new ones. The iPad version came out last, so I’m hoping the upcoming updates will add this function to the app, though.
5. Conclusion: Reeder merges functionality with great design
We have so many choices for RSS readers, and I can’t say that Reeder is the best app in the market since I’ve never tried that many apps (and can’t afford to purchase them just to try them). As a long-time Mac user, however, I can say that Reeder is up to the Mac standard: functionality with great interfaces. If you have never tried to use RSS, I highly recommend you to give it a shot: it can potentially save your time to go through all the latest updates.
Do you use RSS readers? If so, what apps do you use? What kinds of feeds do you receive?
About today’s Guest Lecturer: Masaki Kondo (twitter) is a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University. His academic research is in the field of experimental cinema with a particular emphasis on its theoretical integration into film theory. You can read more about his research interests and the educational use of technology on his blog Unruled Eyes.
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