If you're a Google Reader user, you're probably aware that the service will shut down on July 1st. This means you'll either go back to browsing your favorite news and blog websites the old fashioned way or you'll be looking for an alternative RSS reader. Though I'm not a heavy RSS user, I am curious to find a good alternative to Google Reader. And now that Feed Wrangler has launched, I thought it would be worth checking out.
Feed Wrangler takes a different approach to RSS reading. Of course, you get to add feeds, view all your favorite web content in one place, and sync across multiple devices. But Feed Wrangler is somewhat different to others in that you pay a subscription fee to use the service. The idea being your support allows Feed Wrangler to offer excellent performance, while developing, growing and improving.
While Feed Wrangler is simple to get to grips with for beginners and light users, advanced users have not been forgotten. Smart Streams lets you create custom feeds based on text filters. Very handy if you're looking to keep track of something specific. You can also filter items out by creating a filter with a particular search term, keeping unwanted content away from your feeds.
Other features include full text search of subscribed feeds, starring and integration of read later services Pocket and Instapaper, a welcome feature, indeed!
On the web, Feed Wrangler has a really clean and easy-to-use interface. It puts your content front and center, without any unnecessary distractions or cumbersome features. To add feeds, import from Google Reader, an OPML file or enter URL and RSS addresses manually. Adding feeds while browsing is made easy by clicking on a custom bookmark link to Feed Wrangler from the website you want to add.
At version 1.0.1, the universal, free iOS app offers the same features as the web version as well as sharing options to Mail, Message, Facebook etc. The app interface is also clean and clear cut, though very basic, with everything pointing to content. My only immediate gripe was that there was no option to change the text size, which can be frustrating on mobile devices. But regardless, in no time I had my feeds setup across my devices -- everything syncing up perfectly.
After spending a bit more time with Feed Wrangler, I was pleased to find how stable and speedy it was -- things worked as they should. It was great to be able to set up Smart Streams and filter out content I wasn't interested in, a feature I've not taken advantage of before.
At the end of my time with Feed Wrangler, I found myself wondering if I would miss Google Reader using a service like Feed Wrangler. The conclusion I came to was that I would miss Google Reader, but I think purely for nostalgic reasons. For me, Feed Wrangler did everything I wanted a RSS reader to do.
With time, Feed Wrangler could easily become my go-to RSS reader. It's clear there's still a bit of growing up to do, particularly in terms of design and interaction, but the core functionality is well and truly in place. Would I pay $19 annually to use it? If I were a heavy RSS user looking for solid performance and great features, then yes, I would. And taking into consideration Feed Wrangler's commitment to developing and growing (there's already a Mac client on the way), the $19 price tag makes even more sense.