About a year ago I wrote a little entry about Google Reader which was Google’s answer to Bloglines for viewing RSS feeds. The discussion that followed in the comments seemed to come to the consensus that it was no Bloglines killer as it was missing several important features.
My biggest issue with it was that it lumped all your feeds together into one chronological list so you’d have, say, an SEB entry followed by a ***Dave entry followed by a TechCrunch article. That’s fine if you want to look at all your feeds at once, but I don’t tend to do things that way. Instead using Bloglines I click on each blog or website I want to see at that moment and it lists any new articles posted to that one particular site.
What a difference a year makes. As you can see in the image to the right (click for a bigger pic) Google Reader has changed quite a bit and you can now browse your feeds on a site by site basis or, if you actually liked the old Google Reader’s way of lumping it all together, you can click on All Items and see everything as one big feed. You can also toggle between an Expanded View, which shows full entries, and a List View, which shows the title with a small snippet from the entry after it ala Gmail. You can opt to have it only show new entries or all recent entries from the feed and it’s now possible to mark all entries as read, which was one of the big complaints about the original Google Reader.
One thing I really like over Bloglines is how Google Reader handles the New Items count. When you click on a feed with new items in Bloglines the count is zeroed out immediately. Google Reader keeps track of how far down the page you’ve scrolled and it highlights what it considers the “active” entry and as that changes with your scrolling it decrements the New Item count accordingly. That’s pretty nifty. Another nifty feature is the option to only list feeds that have new content and hide all the ones with no activity. This helps to reduce clutter and gives you a quick visual way to tell how much you still have unread because when the new item count on each site hits zero the listing is once again hidden from view.
The ability to mark entries with a Star (again, ala Gmail) is handy for keeping track of entries you want to reference later and you can also tag entries as you wish. Yet another interesting feature is the ability to mark any entry from any of your feeds as “Shared” which puts them on an auto-generated personalized webpage you can share with friends—it even has its own RSS feed—or which you can add to your own website as a “Clip” that lists the items on your shared list like this:
Lastly one of the other interesting new features is the ability to import/export OPML files. This allowed me to export my current feed list from Bloglines (which also supports OMPL import/export) and import it into Google Reader.
Google Reader seems a little slower than Bloglines because of how it’s rendering the page, but it’s come a long way in terms of its usability and is probably a good alternative at this point. I’m intrigued enough by it that I’ll probably use it exclusively for a few days more to see if I prefer it over Bloglines. Definitely worth taking a second look at.