An RSS Reader A Week: In Search of a Google Reader Replacement

30 May

This post is a bit of an experiment, but I’ll get to that in a minute. As you probably know, Google Reader will be shutting down on July 1st. Like many people, I still use RSS to get information from trusted sources, and I’m looking for alternatives. So, I’m going to try a new RSS reader each week and write about my experiences here. I’ll be writing the post as I go, updating it every Thursday, so that I can get alternatives into your hands as I test them. As I update, the newest week will be pushed to the top.

Get Your Data Out Now!

First things first – don’t find yourself on July 2nd realizing that Google Reader is gone and you have to completely recreate your entire list of feeds. Here’s what you do – open Google Reader and click on the gear icon in the upper-right. Select “Reader Settings” and you’ll see a screen like this:

Google Reader export, step 1

Click on the “Import/Export” tab, and you’ll see “Export your information” at the bottom. That link takes you to Google Takeout, which allows you to download your data from Google products. You could also just jump straight to Takeout. You’ll need to log in with your Google account. Once you’re logged in, click on the “Choose services” tab (to just download Reader data):

Google Reader export, step 2

Select “Reader” from your list, and you’ll see something like this:

Google Reader export, step 3

Click on “Create Archive” and then be prepared to wait a couple of minutes. You can opt to have Google email you when they’re done. Eventually, you’ll see this:

Google Reader export, step 4

Don’t forget to click “Download”, or you’re going to be really sad later. You’ll get back a zipped archive with more data than you really need, but drill down until you find a file called “subscriptions.xml” – that’s the one you’ll need later to import into other readers. Some import automatically, but that option may not be available after July 1st, so I highly recommend backing up your data while you still can.

Week 1 – Feedly (

FEATURES: 5 stars
USABILITY: 5 stars
IMPORTING: 4 stars

I almost regret starting with Feedly, because it’s honestly such a good tool that I’m not sure I want to try much else. Feedly isn’t technically a web-based app, but it integrates with Chrome and Firefox and has apps for iOS, Android, and Kindle. I’m using the Chrome version, which has all the bells and whistles. Feedly defaults to a “Today” page, which is pretty handy:

Feedly's Today page

I’m old and easily frightened, so I can be a bit squeamish about too many new features, but it doesn’t take much time at all to figure out Feedly, and it’s easy to default to a more familiar view and dive right into your own feeds:

Feedly category pages

The giant “Mark as read” button may be one of my favorite features of Feedly, and the category-based view will be very familiar to anyone used to Google Reader. The Chrome version of Feedly also installs an extension to allow you to easily save or share any page for later. It appears as an icon in the lower-right, which expands into a full-featured toolbar (I’ve added the text labels):

Feedly Toolbar

Importing data from Google Reader into Feedly is basically automatic (no export/import required). The only reason I marked Feedly down is that currently they connect directly to the Google Reader API. Once the API goes away, it’s unclear how people will migrate. Feedly has made it clear that they are building their own data back-end, and hopefully there will be no service interruption. That uncertainty is the only question mark on an otherwise impressive and easy-to-use offering.



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