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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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 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.



I love vienna, I find it hard to use any other RSS reader after using it for a while. That being said, I would love (LOVE!) if there was a vienna like reader out there that synced with google reader. The only reason I need this because i use Byline on the iphone, which is great, except I end up getting 1000′s of new articles, because I only use it when away from the computer for an extended period of time.

Danny Nemer

My favorite RSS reader is EventBox simply because it syncs with Google Reader and I use Byline on my iPhone, which also syncs with Google Reader, so everything has the same unread/read count.

Michael Ramm

My favorite news reader is my Google Reader in a Fluid app [] instance with the Helvetireader userstyle [] applied to it.

It also syncs to Google Reader because, well, it IS Google Reader.

Milind Alvares

Ooh that’s a nice suggestion Michael. I remember seeing Helvetireader script some time back but I wasn’t using GR then. Might try it out to see how it goes.


I started out using NNW, then moved to Headline, then back again once it became apparent that the developers were concentrating on iPhone apps, instead of sorting the issues ( the main being the one mentioned in the article, which wasn’t evident in the betas ). Which is a shame, as the ability to send to iChat/mail was most useful, and the size of the UI meant it was ideal for my iBook. I’ve seen tweets from the devs that they’re looking at coding Headline v2. Think I’ll probably steer clear.

For now, it’s NNW with Newsgator for syncing between Macs/Windows. It has been mentioned that FeedDemon ( NNW Windows counterpart ) is going to support syncing with Google Reader in a near release, hopefully NNW will follow suit, which would mean my Mac/iPhone matched, as I find GR for the iPhone to be better than NNW iPhone.

Rene Koller

I have the same setup as Danny Nemer, and in school i use google reader’s webinterface with the helvetireader script :)


Which of these will make my Mac snappier? ;)

Currently using NNW but might switch to Vienna.

Brian M Oldham

I used NNW until I found EventBox.

What I like about EventBox is that it is also a twitter client,
and shows me my facebooks friends statuses, etc.
So, I’m using one app instead of three.


I use NNW on my Mac and iPhone, but desperately need access to my Clippings on the iPhone. What’s the point of clipping if I can’t read my clipped articles!! Also, I’d like NNW to add Twitter. NNW is showing its age. I’ll probably switch to Newsfire when the iPhone app launches. Third choice is GR via EventBox with Byline on the iPhone, but I don’t like that EB doesn’t show me my Starred items. Let me know if I’m just not discovering some features or settings please!


Great reviews. Never heard of any of these other than NNW and Times. Like the way Vienna handles the tabbed view.


I love EB and Times, but I’m torn. EB has google reader support, but Times has the interface. So for now, I’m sticking with Times, because I only read my news in one place.


Come on now, where’s Newsfire? By far the best reader on Mac, I tried NNW but didn’t like the fact that it sucks for keyboard only navigation. Newsfire has the most elegant interface and one perfectly suited to keyboard navigation, it’s a win-win. It’s also free and the developer is busy working on an iPhone version – as such I’d say it’s a safe bet that Google Reader integration is coming. Ditch all the others if you only have one Mac.

Milind Alvares

Uh… haven’t I included NewsFire in the roundup? Not sure what you’re getting at.


I’m finding that desktop RSS Readers are simply not the way to go. I do use EventBox, but more and more I find myself using Feedly (a Firefox extension) for my RSS since my browser is open most of the time anyway.

Feedly offers several viewing options, one of which is a newspaper-style layout much like the Times reader. Because it integrates with Google Reader, it’s perfect for my needs.


I prefer NNW because it allows me to sync my feeds online and I can view the same feeds both on my Mac and the office laptop (PC).


Err, please tell me you added Newsfire later? I could swear it wasn’t listed when I first looked – and later commented? My sanity is on the line here but it’s good to see it up there. Going to retire to a dark corner now and question what else I may have overlooked…

Milind Alvares

@tags: For your sanity’s sake, I added it after you commented, but ask anyone else and it was already there. :)

@Edwin: Haven’t heard of Feedly before, looks interesting, but it appears to be a browser based service. This roundup was native cocoa clients for the Mac, so Feedly is definitely out. :)

Daniel Folsom

I’ve never gotten the appeal of RSS or Atom, and I’m a fairly prolific internet browser. I guess it’s because I’m into unique UIs, but while I kinda dig the newspaper one, overall I much prefer just having a handful of sites bookmarked and then browsing them using their user interface. Then again, maybe it’s also because I’ve only ever even glanced at RSS feeds through Safari …


I tried Eventbox and liked the all in one concept and Google Reader sync but it’s still a raw program, I’ll try it again in future.
Times is nice but not very comfortable to read, especially if you have a lot of feeds. And have no sync capabilities and can’t change the visual font.
Newsfire have no sync to online services too, uses a 2 pane interface (I prefer 3 panes) and can’t change the font it uses.
I’ll try NetNewsWire and Vienna but I think I’ll stay with Google Reader.

p.s. why don’t you do an article about scripts and optimizations for Google Reader?

Milind Alvares

Okay guys, I understand that Google Reader + Scripts is awesome, but they are not Mac apps. That would be a good article for something like Lifehacker or something, which is more platform independent. That is not to say we won’t check out the browser based RSS readers and possibly do a roundup of that.

@Daniel: I was the same as you. I used to have my feeds in Safari, but mainly just visited the site. Nowadays, I have so many sites I need to check, that I cannot do it the old school way. RSS allows you to see what updates are there on a site, so you can then check out the site for yourself. For instance, there’s no point in visiting a site if there aren’t any new articles now is there? Used to happen all the time.

Now I not only know what articles are there, but I can see if those articles interest me. Engadget/Gizmodo for instance is loaded with crap. I just visit when there’s a nice writeup somewhere…


I tried all of those desktop readers. None of them compares to Feedly, a Firefox extension. It syncs with Google Reader and has the smartest and best looking interface. Feedly is the reason I use Firefox. Otherwise I’d use Safari. Hopefully there will be a Safari version and an iPhone version.


Like several posters, I am also using EventBox on my MacBook and Byline on my iPhone (both syncing with Google Reader obviously) and have found this to be the perfect solution for me. Happily purchased EventBox this morning after using the demo for a few days. Love it.


I really like Fever, it’s beautiful design and function mixed.


i might be the most stupid guy around… but why do you prefer a stand alone application, instead of using for your rss? probably i’m missing something really important here…


I’m looking for two RSS readers that both sync with Google Reader. I have used NetNewWire for a long time and have always believed it is the best available and still is. I sync it with my personal feeds. I also need a second reader that also syncs with Google and that is for my business feeds. I have tried keeping them all in one but it has not worked so good. Thest I’ve found so far, apart from NNW, is Gruml and that’s not that good yet.

GreenTent Web Design

Thanks for the great list. I have been using shrook for some time but thought I would do a search this evening for something new that would help me organize my feeds a lot better and sync up with my iphone. I am downloading NNW and NF to try them out right after you am done thanking you for the nice list!


I use Vienna and NewsFire. No need for anything else…


Reeder for Mac / iPad / iPhone is easly… EASILY the best Google Reader client out there.

Desktop Version is in Beta and can be found here…

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