You’ve probably been searching for the best free RSS readers ever since Mountain View struck down with the news about not supporting the Google-branded one starting from July 2013. The company may have cited declining usage as one of the reasons for shutting shop on this front, but that was no consolation for people like us who were thrown into panic on hearing about the imminent demise of the service. So if you’re switching from Google’s syndication service or any other similar tool, here are the alternatives in no particular order –
First on our free RSS readers list is a tool which boasts of having won the Apple Design Award and a shout-out from the man himself, Steve Jobs. Sporting an image-oriented interface, it’s one of the simplest and most user-friendly web apps of its type. Pulse allows you to sign up via Facebook if you’d rather not bother with an email ID and separate password. After getting aboard, you will be asked to pick your interests from a range of different topics including News, Technology, Lifestyle, Food and Gaming, with the option to add more later.
Once you’re done, it zooms you to the main page which has the categories you’ve chosen on the left and the stories laid out in colorful tiles on the rest of the screen space. You can tweak this layout to display more tiles or less of them, or simply tiles of different sizes. When you click on a story, it expands and dims down the rest of the tiles in the background. This is where the options to share the tidbit through social networks, bookmark it for perusing later or go to the source come in. Your account can be synced across various devices and the mobile apps in iTunes and Google Play even allow you to send your saved content to Evernote, Instapaper and more.
For people who depend on Mountain View for their dose of web feeds, the developers behind our second pick are already insisting that they have their back. The company is working on a ‘clone’ of the Google utility’s API so that users can smoothly transition to Feedly by July 1. If you’re on a browser, it will appear as an add-on and the first time it kicks into action, you’ll see that it takes a lot of time to load. Don’t be turned off, your patience will pay off. The entire page looks much busier than Pulse’s, but it only makes you feel like you’re getting a better deal with this one.
The main UI gives images and words almost equal focus. On the left side of the page is a column containing Today, Latest, Saved and Add Website sections. The last mentioned is the tab from where you customize the portals you want to subscribe to. Once you’ve added the sites you’d like to get your feeds from, the categories you’ve created appear below the line of sections we’ve mentioned above. Just beneath this are seated the Index, Organize, Change Themes and Preferences options to help you change the appearance of your interface. The rest is pretty much self explanatory; it’s that simple to navigate your way around the add-on which also features a load of sharing choices for compulsive networking buffs.
3. The Old Reader
A stickler for tradition? So is this next utility which asks you to sign in via Facebook or Google. Once you do this, you’ll find yourself transported to the main page that sports a column topped by Add A Subscription and fitted with Home, All Items, Likes, Shared and Trending tabs. You may find the section that lets you pop in a subscription a bit ‘buggy,’ but then it’s only in the beta stage right now.
As you can see from the screenshot posted above, the interface is a very basic one and there’s the option to do away with images through the List View selection on the top right corner of the page. You can also check out what other users are browsing through the Trending section. If there’s one thing missing, it’s the ability to separate subscriptions into categories. Lastly, you can hook up this solution with Pocket in order to arrange, sort and tag stuff you want to go through when you have the time.
When you log into Feedspot, you’ll see the option to import feeds from Google’s tool placed prominently at the top of the page. There are 50 categories covering Technology, Fun, Business, Web Design, Humor, Photography, Quotes and more decorating the left hand side of the screen. Subscribing to websites through this method is as easy as pie. When you click on a category you find interesting, suggestions are brought up with a Follow Site button beside each.
It’s true that the UI is rather bare and strolling your way around the portal takes getting used to, but some of us like it clean. You can click on My Sites in order to find the pages you’ve bookmarked or ‘favorited’ and this is also the section in which the Shared stories are placed. The bare-boned List View should suit anyone who dislikes being distracted by photos, and then there’s the Expanded View choice for those who don’t. Another element worth mentioning is the Friends Activity tab which permits you to check out what people you follow are up to. It feels like more of an informative social network without the frills, than anything else.
Ignore the dry description of this next ‘dashboard intelligence’ solution for social media monitoring, analytics, brand sentiment, reputation management and so on and you have a nice alternative to Google Reader waiting for you. You can start by creating various categories such as Technology, Fashion or Food and you’ll see that each gets its own Dashboard. Depending on the way you wish to access your feeds, you can pick to have everything spread out as widgets or a list, the last being further viewable in mosaic and expanded modes too. We liked the widgets view the most since it makes the page look busier and well stuffed with stories to peruse.
Whatever be your choice, learning to surf through the entire interface smoothly will demand your time and patience. But it’s well worth that. There are 4 ways to load up on the stories you want to discover. This can be done through the Add Content button which is perched on the upper left corner of your page. You may type a search term into the box provided for the same or Browse categories in order to avail of suggestions. Essential widgets proffers you a collection of options such a Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and more so that you can connect to your accounts and share stuff right from your Netvibes page. If that doesn’t taste right, you can also pull in your favorite content via Add a feed.
If you’ve been paying attention to all your favorite websites that were revamped recently, most of them have been redesigned to focus heavily on images. It’s the same case with our last contender which arrived with a cool magazine-like layout to start with. Using the app is as simple as ‘flipping’ through it on the touchscreen the way you’d do on an actual magazine. That’s right, we did say touchscreen; meaning desktop browsers don’t support the software. And after the recent v2.0 update which has hit iTunes, it’s got even cooler.
The application delivers users the ability to make magazines out of the content they browse. This covers news, stories, feeds, audio, videos and more. All items on Flipboard are now accompanied by a + button so that anyone perusing these can easily add them to their own magazines. Such curated content can be made private or public and users can choose to follow stuff put together by others. The other great additions include Etsy integration so you can shop from the website, @ mentions for comments and a Red Ribbon on the upper right hand side. The last mentioned permits convenient access to user generated magazines, subscriptions and notifications.
Okay, here’s another option we’re just throwing out to you – Twitter. Like us, if you’re online at all times and prefer staying right on top of things, there are few better options than the little blue bird. News travels fast, keeps getting updated and (practically) everyone worth following tweets. Admittedly, tweets have a shorter lifespan considering that they don’t stay put in your timeline. So it’d do you good to fall back on one of the best free RSS readers we’ve listed, if keeping aside content for scanning through at a later time is more of your thing.