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Switching from NetNewsWire to Google Reader

David Chartier

I'm not typically one for the web 2.0 movement. I'm a huge fan of the power and flexibility of Mac OS X, and I usually find most web services no match for their desktop counterparts with maybe a few syncing services thrown in to even the odds (.Mac, Google Browser Sync, etc.). This all changed, however, when Google dropped a quintessential upgrade bomb on Google Reader, their web-based RSS reader a la BlogLines and NewsGator. If you're curious as to what the new gReader is all about, I wrote up a walkthrough for Download Squad, but in a nutshell: it's awesome. So awesome, in fact, that after spending a serious week with it for all my personal and blogging needs, I feel confident in cutting my ties (yes, again) to NetNewsWire. Just like Gina over at Lifehacker, the plethora of new and well-polished features in this updated to Google Reader are an absolute dream in the category of web-based readers, and a number of factors clicked to make this my go-to reader of choice.

The most appealing, of course, is the sheer power of the new Google Reader; it truly feels like an application. It's fast, responsive, and behaves like a desktop app. It features a typical expanded view, where all articles are listed in their full form on the right, but I prefer the List View which I have pictured here, with its unique way of expanding only the article you select in-line with the rest of the headlines. Another wonderful new addition to gReader's tool belt are lots and lots of new keyboard shortcuts; it is now possible to navigate everything in Google Reader - the feed list on the left (even expanding folders), headlines, articles, everything - from the keyboard. I'm not saying NetNewsWire can't do this - I'm simply impressed at how well gReader, a web app, pulls it off.

I have over 300 feeds covering topics for personal, freelancing and blogging purposes (yes, you guys), and Google Reader offers some great ways of bookmarking, sharing and tagging both feeds and individual headlines. The first and easiest method of saving important headlines is, of course, the typical Google UI of the 'star' - marking a star next to a headline, just like starring messages in Gmail, is just like flagging headlines in any other reader. Google Reader goes farther, however. Much farther. Headlines can also be individually tagged, and those tags can have their own RSS feeds, allowing me to easily tag and organize articles for TUAW and for my personal blog. At the tail end of organization, gReader also features a 'Share' button (and keyboard shortcut) for headlines, which creates an actual public webpage with a list of shared (and styled) headlines, that can also be inserted easily into something like a blog sidebar. You can think of it as a quickie-linked list. While certainly not all RSS users need all these fine-toothed filing and sharing features, they're a blessing for my various lines of work, and it's great to have all this under the umbrella of a powerful web app.

I get around. I bus it to downtown Denver for classes, and I'm constantly running around town doing a lot of errands my wife can't because she works 20 hours a day as a high school English teacher. Being able to fill those few minutes of waiting at the grocery store or the dentist's office by accessing my Google Reader feeds online with my mobile phone is a very handy thing. This feature didn't seem to receive any major upgrades with the new gReader (c'mon, it's mobile web - how great can it be?), but not having to sync my feeds or OPML files between a few newsreaders is a very nice burden to have off my back.

No hard feelings
I'm not writing this post to bash NetNewsWire; while I have a few gripes with it, that app has served me well for years, and I'll still keep it around for emergency purposes, for sure. I also think Ranchero NewsGator still has one of the best darn readers on the market, even the free Lite version. On the flip side, Google Reader still isn't without its shortcomings; while it can handle tons of feeds and massive numbers of headlines with skill and grace, it still doesn't feature a search option (I know: a Google product lacking a search - what the?), and it can't handle authenticated feeds, which means I just have to give Mr. Gruber and The Deck a few more page hits a week (hey, it's a Labs product - not even beta. Give 'em some credit). Fortunately, those missing features weren't mortal for my needs, so I wanted to help get the word out on a great RSS reading product that might work as well for others as it does for me. If you haven't looked at Google Reader in a while, it's had a heckuva facelift and feature upgrade. Check out Google's announcement post of the update, or dive in and get your RSS on.

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