Earlier this year, we listed several services and apps that'll potentially replace Google Reader. Now that the Reader shut down is imminent, we are taking a second look at some of these services (and a few new ones) to see which companies have scaled up enough to become a true Google Reader replacement. In this next post in the series, we will look at Feedly, a startup RSS platform that stepped in to fill the shoes of Google Reader with a web app, mobile apps and robust third-party apps.
Initial Setup and Impressions
Just like its competitors, Feedly will allow you to login to your Google Reader account and transfer your feeds to the service. All your subscriptions as well as your folders, tags and starred items are imported. Individual RSS subscriptions can be added manually by typing in the site name, RSS URL or topic. If you like to browse for new feeds, Feedly provides a hub of suggested sites. When you add a new site, you are prompted to add it to a category as the Feedly UI emphasizes the use of categories/folders. If you opt not to organize it, the feed will go into an uncategorized category by default.
Unfortunately, you cannot bulk import your feeds via an OPML file, but you can export your feeds from Feedly as an OPML. As pointed out by reader Chris, you can go to the Organize tab and select the "As OPML" option at the top. This will bring you to http://cloud.feedly.com/#opml, where you can copy/paste the text into a local text file that can be saved as an OPML file.
Feedly has a unique UI with a full-width column for your feeds and a collapsible left-side column that provides access to your feeds list, settings and more. There are several views for this center column, including a list, magazine, cards and full article view. The magazine view has a blog feel to it, while the cards view is a series of tiles arranged in a grid-like fashion as shown above. If you want a splash of color, you also can change the theme for Feedly.
Reading your feeds in Feedly is filled with options to make it efficient. You can mark all items in a feed or a category as read. You can even mark as read those articles that are more than a day old or more than a week old. Feedly includes an option to quickly unread an item that was accidentally marked off as read. Unread items are a nice dark black, while read items are grey. To keep your feeds fresh, you can use a filter that shows your unread articles only. Likewise, there is an "oldest first" filter that'll help you clean out those lingering articles from a year ago.
Here's a rundown of the major features of your average RSS reader and information on which ones are supported by Feedly.
Google Reader Import: Yes, automatic by logging into Feedly using your Google account. Tags and starred items are imported. Does not support OPML import. OPML export takes a few steps.
Folder Support: Yes, imported from Google and create your own. Deleting a folder/category removes the folder and the RSS feeds.
Authenticated RSS feeds: No.
Keyboard shortcuts: Yes.
Tags: Yes. Feedly imports Google Reader tags and you can create new ones.
Resizable elements like fonts, columns: The column width is fixed, but you don't need to change it as it takes up most of the screen thanks to a collapsible side column. Header fonts can be changed, link colors can be changed and you can pick a new theme to give Feedly a different look.
Mark all read/unread: You can mark all items in an RSS feed and all items in a folder as read. You can easily unread an item as well. Another option lets you mark as read those articles that are more than a day old or more than a week old.
Search/Sort: There is no RSS search. You can use a filter to sort articles so the newest or the oldest is at top. You can also hide unread articles with a a few quick clicks.
Star/Favorite: Yes, you can mark items as "Saved For Later."
Read Later/Offline: Yes, you can save to Pocket Instapaper, Evernote and Del.icio.us. Pocket and Instapaper for mobile.
Social networks: You can share articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +. Pinning images to Pinterest is supported as well. You can also send via email or schedule your sharing via Buffer.
API/Third-Party: API for developers of third party apps is available now and, judging by the number of third-party apps, is actively in use.
Other features: Feedly has a handy setting that'll let you scroll through a feed to mark it as read. Scroll to read only works in Full Articles View only. There are other cool tweaks like the setting that'll automatically add a postfix to a tweet and the option to select your start page.
Pricing: Feedly is available for free.
Mobile apps are the icing on the cake for Feedly. The native universal app is a great companion to the web client. The native apps are free and include syncing across devices, swipe gesture to move between articles and offline reading via Pocket or Instapaper. If you don't like the official app, you always can find a third-party app. Feedly was preparing its back-end service, Normandy, long before Google said it was shutting down Reader. Consequently, the Feedly team was able to get the service up and running quickly for other developers to use in their third-party apps.
The biggest item missing from Feedly is search. I miss being able to search for an article based on a word or two I remember from a title.
Feedly is one of the top options for folks looking to replace Google Reader. It has a nice web-based client, a universal iOS app and its API is being used by developers in some top-notch third-party apps. The biggest unknown is its financial future. With free apps and a free service, how is the company going to raise the money needed to scale the service for a large number of users and continue active development? With Google shutting down Reader so unexpectedly, it's good to question the potential longevity of the service that you choose for your RSS feeds.