The ultimate Mac RSS Reader roundup

by Milind Alvares

The ultimate Mac RSS Reader roundup

by Milind Alvares on April 15, 2009

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mac-rssRSS and the internet were made for each other. A perfect extension to regularly following your favourite websites, RSS is an indispensable tool for any internet savvy person. Where there’s RSS of course, there’s RSS readers. While RSS as a medium remains the same, the RSS clients are very different in the way they work. This of course is fueled by the market, which demands that an RSS reader should behave in a certain way. That’s why instead of reviewing just one, here’s 7 ways to view RSS on your Mac.

NetNewsWire

One of the most popular RSS readers out there, NetNewsWire has got everything right. For one, it sync with the Newsgator service, which means all your Macs will have the same read/unread status for your articles. It also means that your iPhone using NetNewsWire will have the same unread count synced over.

netnewswire

Using NetNewsWire is fairly straightforward. The three pane user interface (wide or split horizontal) allows you to organise your RSS feeds into folders, smart folders, and make full use of that widescreen display. NNW is also one of the fastest RSS readers I have ever used. Very zippy! Highly recommended if you have a whole lot of feeds. It’s free!

NewsFire

From the stables of David Watanabe, NewsFire feels very much like NNW, but has a better UI (looking and feeling) than the former. Everything from the icon, to unread counts, to the way things move around is slick. Unfortunately, it does not sync with any web service, so it’s great if you generally read your feeds on a single Mac. Also it does not have a three pane UI which I find more satisfying than just two panes.

newsfire

The beta version 1.6 features the brilliant Safari140 plugin built in allowing you to tweet any article. With a smooth user interface, quick as a fox, and a beautiful theme, NewsFire gets an overall 4/5 score, especially since it’s also free!

Eventbox

The latest kid on the block, Eventbox allows you to sync up to Google Reader. I believe it’s the only client to be able to do so. Your feeds are synced to the cloud, so unread counts stay the same on all devices.

eventbox-rss

The best part of Eventbox’s GR support, is that if you’re not on a Mac, you can use the Google Reader interface to view your feeds on the go. The iPhone webapp is particularly nicely done. You can also do this with NewsGator, but I much too much prefer the GR web UI.

I wouldn’t say Eventbox’s RSS reader is recommended for those with hundreds of feeds, as its managing skills are limited to around 25-30 after which it gets difficult. Still, being that it encompasses a great Twitter client, Flickr, Facebook, and Reddit, it’s worth the $15. Get yourself a trial if you haven’t checked it out already.

Headline

Another deviation from the ‘regular’ user interface of RSS readers, Headline features a slick minimalistic user interface. It features a vertical user interface with a list of all your RSS articles. This is where things start to suck. You have no idea, apart from the favicon, where the feed article is sourced from. This disorganised way of reading RSS feeds is what I just can’t stand. You cannot for instance view feeds only of Smoking Apples. Whatever is updated, comes at the top.

headline-rss

If you want to read that particular article, you double click it. Upon which a bubble shows up next to your window. You cannot resize this window and instead have to move through using the scrollbar.

Headline can directly send articles to Mail or iChat and you can favourite articles for reading later. You can also directly preview video and audio podcasts without downloading the full file. I personally use iTunes to manage my podcasts so I couldn’t test this feature.

I think the devs have worked hard on this, as it is definitely a slick app. But the core of the matter is RSS feeds are not meant to be read this way. At $20 for a license, I’m not so impressed. Get the trial if you feel like.

Times

Featuring a totally different user interface from what you’d expect in an RSS reader, Times’ UI is a big white newspaper. You place feeds in several sections of each ‘page’ of your newspaper. For instance, you could have a ‘frontpage’ with some digg stories in the sidebar, a sports headline at the bottom, and a CNN picture in the middle. Keep building pages like ‘Apple’, ‘technology’, and you can effortlessly switch between them using tabs at the top.

times-rss

Did I mention it’s got a lot of core animation built in? Page turns, flipping, everything seems so fluid. The typography is also well done, such that you feel like you’re reading a real newspaper. You can also tweet, facebook or digg any article right from Times.

The best feature of Times, is that it pulls the entire article. If a website gives you just an excerpt, Times will pull the text from the web page itself, so you don’t have to leave the UI.

However, during the time I used this app, it was very buggy and crashy. The dev has recently released the 1.1 update, so I hope it will stand for longer. It’s got poor support and updates are far and in between. Worth the $30? If you like the whiz bang UI, and are a casual RSS user, maybe after the trial.

Vienna

Here’s something I didn’t expect to like. Vienna is an open source browser, with a brilliant user interface and feature set. For one, you can switch between traditional, wide, as well as a ‘unified’ view. In the unified view the second column shows you a very large preview of each article. Sort of feels like reading blog post after blog post.

vienna

The next kicker of Vienna, is the built in browser. If you find a feed is showing you just a preview, or you need to add a comment, just click the headline and it will open it up in the tabbed browser. You can even open up any web location in the tabbed browser window.

The app has an overall fit and finish that you would expect of a good quality Mac application. Loaded with features, and perhaps even the benefits of being Open Source. A free download that I really enjoyed using.

Shrook

I noticed several people recommending Shrook as their RSS reader. Looking at the website, I couldn’t understand why. It’s feature screenshot is an outdated brushed metal, and user interface seems wasteful to say the least. I decided to give the 1.7MB download a shot anyway, to see what it’s like.

Shrook is tied to an online service, which helps you manage your feeds. When you start it up, a very iTunes 4.0 like interface, Shrook loads the feed guide. The user interface however, is the worst I’ve seen in a while! It has four panes!

shrook

However, beneath this ugly carcass lies a beautiful app. It’s got a brilliant system of grabbing new feeds soon after they are published. Unlike other RSS readers which take a while to realise that new article are available, Shrook gets them super fast (not just about refresh rate here). I don’t know how they do it, but it’s amazing.

Rattling off the features list, Shrook has podcast support which automatically syncs the show notes as the lyrics to the file, integrates with spotlight, syncs your feeds using the shrook.com service, and built in browser support. Now if only someone were to step up and make that user interface a little prettier, one could actually use it!

Final thoughts

As you can see, there’s a whole variety of RSS news aggregators to choose from. From every size, to every feature, each of these clients has something to offer. If you’re still using Mail or Safari RSS, it’s time to move to something more robust.

What’s your current news reader and what do you love most about it?

Note: This is an old article, clearly outdated. Comments closed.

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