The (Almost) Perfect RSS Feed Reader

I spend far too much time looking for software that works exactly the way I want it too. I'd probably have a lot more time on my hands if I just settled every now and again, but that doesn't seem to work for me. One of my more recent Quests for Perfect Software ™ was for an RSS feed reader.

Many moons ago I latched onto the Outlook plug-in from NewsGator. This add-on seemed to be the perfect solution because it integrated so well with the software I used more often than anything else except for Firefox. However, this integration eventually became a negative as the number of feeds I watched increased in number and load times for Outlook increased to annoying levels. In addition, I really want to have my RSS reader part of my library of portable applications and Outlook is most certainly not portable.

From NewsGator I moved to GreatNews. It has an awkward sounding name, but it turned out to be a big step towards feed reader nirvana. I particularly liked that it was portable so I could use it on a USB drive; it loaded quickly and remained responsive even with hundreds of feeds; and it had a tagging feature that made it easy to make note of particularly interesting posts that I read. Unfortunately, GreatNews had one fatal flaw — it was unable to recognize the difference between a post that had changed versus a completely new posting. The result of this behavior was that posts that I marked as read one day would appear as new again the next. Similarly, I could delete all the entries in a feed and then end up having them re-downloaded. A quick review of the GreatNews forums revealed that I wasn't the only one with this problem and even the latest beta release of this software failed to resolve the problem.

A few searches in Google provided more options to try. I dismissed most after a quick review of their respective websites. And many popular ones were web-based only so I skipped those too. That left me with the appropriately named FeedReader. Like GreatNews, this reader is portable and seems to easily handle my many subscriptions. After a couple of days of testing I've yet to encounter any problems with postings appearing as unread once I've read them.

FeedReader also includes a feature called SmartFeeds, which is a rules-based system for making feeds out of other feeds based on criteria of your choosing. For example, you can specify that you want all postings with the word RSS in the title collected in to their own folder. This program also has a few features I like. Namely, you can work on feeds or feed postings as a group. How so? Well, you can select all your feeds and change the update frequency of them in one shot. Or, you can select all the postings for a particular feed and delete them in one shot. This seemingly simple behavior wasn't available in GreatNews.

Alas, FeedReader isn't perfect. At least not for the way I want to work. My quibble with this software has to do with its support for tags. Although you can tag individual posts like you would expect, the program also includes tags that were specified by the author of the feed. This means that my tag list is hundreds of items long, which slows me down when I want to select one of my custom tags. I wish I could select an option somewhere to ignore externally provided tags.

So for the time being, FeedReader is king in my books. Future versions will hopefully include changes that will make it perfect. But until then, my search will continue…

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  1. The portable aspect is great - I agree. I just downloaded and took a look @ FeedReader and it looks terrific. The Lotus Notes-like multi-plan view (to browse the titles and display the content below) is very nice.

    I only use the FeedDemon web view when away from my own PC (I am not in habit of carrying around USB sticks.) It's handy because my read/unread marks stay sync'd.

    I am going to give FeedReader a shot. My only suggestion to them would be to change the name; it's not so effective to call something the same name as what it is (unless you invented the term).

    Anyway, I have to go watch TV Show. ("TV Show" is actually the name of the TV show.) :)


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    FeedReader has one advantage over FeedDemon -- it's portable. This is useful to me because I often travel with a laptop that I can't install software on. And while it does synchronize with an online version, I generally don't like web-based readers because feel very clunky. The description of FeedDemon does make it sound quite good though.

  3. I actually think FeedDemon is perfect. Does all this + sync's with NewsGator on the web.

    - Matt

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