I hadn’t touched Google Reader since taking a brief look at its initial launch in October 2005. I’m now using it as my primary reader, having grown tired of Rojo’s poor performance and frequent interface overhauls. There’s a few things that have really improved since that first release. I’ll sum them up briefly here:
- Uncluttered, simple interface. They’ve gone back to basics and mimic a plain desktop application UI. Hardly any superfluous web 2.0 features demand your attention.
- Trends page (I’ve bookmarked a few articles on this); which allows you to look at the feeds you’ve been reading the most but, more importantly, allow you to weed out the ones you never look at or have died. Essential for someone who has over 200 feeds to track.
- Multi-folder organising, not quite free tagging (which is a shame) but still nice for the folksonomically inclined.
- When scrolling through a list of expanded new feed items, Reader automatically marks items you’ve scrolled past as read. Which greatly reduces the excise other web-based readers force on their users when wanting to mark a feed as read.
- Performance is acceptable to good. It’s not as fast as Gmail, but vastly superior to Rojo for instance, despite the considerable use of AJAX.
- There is an unofficial Mac OS X notifier that uses Growl.
Most of these features are not included in one or both of the previous two web-based readers I used for a length of time (Bloglines and Rojo). Google have really come up with something nice here. I wonder when it’ll move out of the lab.
Why am I not using a desktop based reader? I’d like to (NetNewsWire’s great for instance), just as I’d love to use a proper desktop email client, but my multi-platform, multi-machine personal and professional use doesn’t allow me too. I work on at least two separate PCs at work (a desktop and a laptop) and have a cute little iBook that I use at home. This all means I am a real web OS user. Google Reader for RSS, Gmail for email and (until recently) Google Calendar for, well, my calendar. Is it coincidence I seem to prefer Google products for these things? Probably not, Google seems to be doing a very good job at these kind of productivity applications (just as Yahoo! seem to be leading the way in social applications).