So Google has decided to shut down Google Reader on July 1st (aargh!), the most popular RSS news reader in existence. This is a terrible decision for many reasons, since many people use Reader to browse sites that would otherwise be unavailable (e.g. if you’re in Iran). But don’t panic, we may have a cunning plan. We think we can help you make an easy transition to a better alternative, hopefully in just a few clicks.
If you access the Red Ferret via Google Reader, may we suggest that you do the following as soon as possible. Don’t delay because you’ll forget, do the steps NOW!
1. Go here and sign the petition to Save Google Reader. It may not work, but at least we’re letting them know how we feel about this heinous decision.
2. Go here and click the link to download your Google Reader data [direct link] from Google Reader in zip form.
Once you sign on to your Google account again, you just have to click on the Create Archive button and the service will start downloading your data in a zip file. You can opt to have an email sent to you when it’s finished, if you have a very large Google Reader database.
3. Extract the data file/s from the zip file and remember where it’s stored.
4. Choose a suitable replacement reader which you feel comfortable with. We have listed our choice of the best 5 replacements below to help you shortcut the process.
5. Use our guide to import your Google Reader data and enjoy reading your feeds in the new service or software. Doing in import like this is also a great way to audition a replacement service, since you can see quickly which one will deliver the kind of experience you’re looking for.
This is my personal favorite and the one I use every day to track website news around the globe. I like the fact that adding RSS feeds is incredibly easy, the infinitely customizable settings and the way you can scan a huge amount of headline information in seconds. And it’s free of charge.
To import the Reader data you downloaded and extracted, click on the green Add Content button top left – Add A Feed and select OPML: Import and browse to the .XML file containing your Reader data. Click on the Import button and the RSS feeds will all be imported and arranged in tabbed groups in Netvibes ready to use. Very fast, very elegant, very easy.
The only one of our recommendations that offers both an online and a downloadable desktop feed reader, which offers added flexibility if you’re one of those uncertain types. The desktop version offers a superb feature set and flexibility, while the online version gives you all-computer access via a web browser.
We have to say, we’d probably choose the downloadable free version, if only because it’s got a very nice interface and cool functionality like Smart Feeds, which hunts for news based on your choice of keywords, and automatically sucks those into your list for you to check out. There’s also a very simple Google Reader import function on the desktop version. Click on File – Import OPML, select your .XML file and then Select All and you’re done. All nicely imported and ready to go in seconds.
A real bonus of this tool is the Offline Mode, which lets you download a set quantity of articles and then automatically go into offline mode so you’re not using bandwidth. Great for tablet warriors or those who travel to places with dodgy Net connections a lot. A great free product!
A free and paid online service which offers some nice features. The interface could take a little getting used to, especially the somewhat strange handling of the reader windows, but it has some nice features like ‘Train’ which lets you tell the service which stories you like and dislike so it can highlight more appropriate material over time.
The free version allows up to 12 sites and one daily update, while for $1 a month, you get unlimited sites and 10x a day updates. Unfortunately I could find no way to import a Google Reader XML data file.
If you absolutely must stick with the familiar Google Reader interface, then we suggest you check out this free online RSS feed reader. It is nicely free of bloat, and offers up two simple views, a river of news and an image based stream. There’s also a nice big Add A Subscription button at the top of the page, which is exactly what you need when you’re a Google Refugee.
Even better is the Google sign-in and automatic Google Reader data import feature, which unfortunately we couldn’t test because it has buckled under the heavy user load at the moment (wonder why?). A single click import function should be an awesome way to win friends right now though, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this free service if you’re still undecided about which way to go.
Rather like Netvibes, this is a widget based start page which focuses on easily integrating and organizing your RSS feeds via a number of tabs. The interface comes with an impressive number of customization options, but we were a bit disappointed to find that you can’t easily configure how you access the actual website from a headline click, nor it is easy to cycle back through older posts.
Again, like Netvibes, you can import your Google Reader data by clicking on the Add Widgets button top right, then Import OPML, but crazily there’s no automatic way to set out the feeds in widgets, you’re expected to manually drag each feed onto a tab yourself. Not a lot of fun if you have over 100 feeds to import.
So there you have it, our set of recommended replacements for Google Reader and how to do a data export/import to ensure you don’t lose track of your precious website feeds. And if you’re one of those who’s never used an RSS feed reader before, what are you waiting for? It’s an absolutely great way to keep up to date with all of your favorite sites without having to laboriously log on to them. Just remember to add the good ole Red Ferret to your list, won’t you?
When I was using Windows my favorite was GreatNews by Curio Studio (http://www.curiostudio.com/). Now that I use a Mac, my favorite is Vienna (http://www.vienna-rss.org/), although I go to View, then Layout and select the “Unified” view, and under Style I select “Broadsheet Clipping”. That is the easiest layout for me to deal with, since I want to get to the actual content with a minimum of clicking. Vienna has many other options so Mac users should be able to find a display format that suits them, and Vienna is free!