In two days, Google Reader will fetch its last feed and, with little ceremony, fade into memory. Having used Reader almost every day for the last five and half years, it will be a sad day for me. But, in the midst of this sadness, there is joy; for, much as I said three and a half months ago, the death of Reader has opened up the market for an explosion of development in RSS clients. Since Google’s announcement, Feedly has been iterating like crazy, Digg launched their own reader, rumours have been swirling that Facebook is going to release a reader any day now, and even AOL has launched a reader. AOL! And after working on it for a year an a half, Francis Cleary has finally launched Hive.
Frankly, the hints of a Facebook reader don’t interest me terribly much, as a Reader at Facebook will live under the same Damoclean Sword that Reader did at Google; its host company, so large, and with so many diverse interests, will hesitate little in cutting a service that they feel is under-performing. Facebook, of course, has never shown any qualms when it comes to cutting services or redesigning their interface. By contrast, Digg and AOL are both media companies. News-reading is actually a core component of their business. Feedly and Hive, as companies that are focused *only* on running an RSS reader, are even safer bets in that regard.
Feedly, in particular, excites me. In the last three months they have added countless features, including one that addresses one of the issues that kept them from being my top pick last time: you can now use Feedly without installing a browser extension. Additionally, the ability to share articles directly with other Feedly users is coming soon. They also have the best mobile application out there, and recently launched their API, which works with a number of desktop and mobile apps. And they have demonstrated repeatedly that they are responsive to customer feedback, and working hard to improve their product. It is for these reasons that Feedly is now my number 1 choice of Google Reader replacement.
2nd place is a tie between Digg Reader and The Old Reader. The Old Reader is more feature-complete, offering essentially everything Google Reader does/did, including the internal sharing that Google axed 20 months ago. Digg Reader lacks certain features – most notably a “mark as unread” button, though this is apparently coming soon. Digg currently only has an iOS app, The Old Reader lacks mobile apps entirely, though both offer mobile websites, and Digg are apparently working on a mobile app for Android. The Old Reader has also launched a mobile API that will allow other mobile RSS readers to connect to it, though that is apparently currently limited to Feedler on iOS.
3rd place is also a tie, this time between AOL and Hive. Both are currently in invite-only beta at the moment, so I would recommend that you sign up for them, but it’s doubtful that you’ll get an invite before the 1st of July. I know it seems crazy that I would recommend a reader built by AOL, which is practically a byword for technical obsolescence, but it looks pretty good, and they are apparently working on building all the features that I think are important (in particular, mobile apps and internal sharing) and it has the benefit of AOL’s significant resources behind it. It is a bit sad that Hive only makes 3rd place on this list; I’ve not used it much, but it is a very nice reader; however it is also the work of just one man. Francis has done a very good job, and Hive has a good feature-set, but it seems doubtful to me that it will grow and improve at the same rate as the other, better-resourced readers. In particular, I don’t see mobile apps happening for it any time soon.
My recommendations then, are as follows:
- Sign up for *at least* Feedly, Digg and The Old Reader, and use their import functions to import your Google Reader accounts automatically. This is a very quick and easy process, and will ensure that your feeds are functioning on several good readers that you can try out.
- Download your Google Reader data through Google Takeout, in case you end up picking a different Reader later on.
- Work your way through the five stages as quickly as possible
One more thing…
One of the nifty features of Google Reader was that it actually cached all the posts from the feeds you were subscribed to. Presumably they did this for bandwidth and speed reasons, but the useful thing about it is that it means that all the posts of all the blogs you’ve read, even ones which have subsequently shut down, should still be in your Reader account. Sadly, when Reader shuts down, all those posts will be lost, like tears in the rain. However, I wrote an AppleScript that will work its way through those posts, printing them all to PDF. So, if there’s a blog you followed that no longer exists, this script will allow you to save a copy of it.
How it works: you’ll need a Mac, and Chrome
- Open Chrome, go Google Reader, and open the feed you wish to save. (This will work with any feed, or folder, or your Starred items)
- Make sure the feed is set to Expanded View
- Click on the first item in the feed.
- Hit Command+P to open the print dialogue
- In the Destination field, make sure Save as PDF is selected
- Click Save and save the PDF to wherever you want your PDFs to go. (This sets the save location that is then used for all subsequent prints)
- Open the script.
- Change the saveName variable to whatever you want your PDFs to be called – just make sure you don’t delete the quotation marks around it.
- On the line repeat until postCounter = 200, set the number to however many posts you think there may be.
- Click Run.
At this point, you should probably go get a cup of tea or something. It takes about 4.6 seconds per post, so if you have a lot of them to save, it’ll take quite a while. Additionally, you can’t use your computer while it’s running. Note that you *can* try to speed it up a little by making the defaultDelay variable smaller, but if the delays are too small, it will end up stuffing up – the script basically has to wait for Chrome to do each step, and unfortunately has no way of knowing if Chrome has done it, so it just has to wait. However, I wouldn’t recommend messing with this variable; if the delays are too small, you’ll find that it ends up skipping posts or naming them improperly.