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Google Reader replacements: on the desktop

It’s time to pick a Google Reader replacement. My feed-reading setup for the past few years has been the Google Reader Web UI on desktop and iPad; NetNewsWire on iPhone. On the desktop, I currently read entirely from the keyboard and in Google Reader’s full-screen mode, which hides the sidebar, and in “list” (vs expanded) view. The result looks like this. Keyboard commands I use frequently are:

  • space/shift-space to scroll, or check for new articles at the end of the list
  • return to toggle expansion
  • j/k to move between articles
  • m to mark read/unread
  • v to open article in new tab
  • =/ to change text magnification for only the current article (example, very useful).
  • e to email an item
  • ⌘4 (on my Safari bookmarks bar) to add to Instapaper

For anyone else who has put off their choice as long as I have, here are some notes on the services I’ve tried. They’re all pretty good, which probably says something about the influence of Reader.

The Old Reader:

  • Very responsive.
  • Nice UI layout — buttons look like buttons but aren’t too prominent; color is used intelligently.
  • Good keyboard support, though some inconsistencies with Google Reader (toggle expansion with x rather than return).
  • b to open in background tab (Chrome, Safari, Opera) is useful.
  • Can’t hide the sidebar.
  • Unread indicator is only a green vertical bar and the article title doesn’t change to/from bold, though I think I could get used to this.
  • My favorite article display (example) — adequate width for text, no excessive whitespace or button clutter.
  • Only Pocket support (which I don’t use), no Instapaper or Pinboard.
  • Search support.

Feed Wrangler:

  • Mediocre keyboard support — doesn’t intercept return or space.
  • Items remain expanded once you’ve read and moved off them.
  • Can’t hide the sidebar or wide margins — not well suited for full-text feeds (example).
  • Slow and unresponsive at times.
  • Instapaper and Pinboard support.
  • Search support.


  • Clean UI gets out of your way (if a bit lower density than I would prefer); apes Google Reader most obviously of any of these options.
  • Response time is OK but somewhat inconsistent and variable.
  • Buttons at the top right of the page are not terribly obvious and require you wait for the tooltips to appear.
  • Wide left margin when reading articles; not great for full-text feeds (example).
  • Can’t start reading from the keyboard via return or space. j works, though.
  • Good keyboard support, including toggling expansion via return key.
  • No obvious response to hitting the m key (mark as unread) when an article is expanded, other than updating the unread count.
  • No search support.

At the moment, I think I will go with Feedly. The Old Reader has relatively little to do (hiding the sidebar) for me to switch to it. I discuss mobile support for these readers in another post

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