01
Apr
image

Update: The update is now live in the Store – find it by hitting the widget at the end of the post.

Last month, Google announced they'd be killing off Google Reader this July. Yes, in just a couple of short months, one of the most beloved RSS resources in existence would be kaput. Google says it decided to pull the plug because of dwindling use numbers. While there were plenty of discussions about Google's real motivation (everything from well-reasoned examinations of the situation to cries of "EVIL!"), there was something more important happening behind the outcry – there were people stepping up to fill the gap in as seamless and timely a fashion as possible.

One group looking to fill the Reader-shaped hole in former users' hearts is Feedly. Feedly, as an app, has been around for a while (we first covered it over two years ago). Popular as it may be, Feedly was just one of many RSS reading solutions until their blog post on March 14 announcing they'd be creating a Feedly clone of the Google Reader API. Since that post, we are told, the service has gained three million new users. Yes, 3,000,000 users have joined since the announcement of Reader's death. They codenamed their project Normandy. Feedly promised that, if users began using the service before Reader got shut down, their transition would be totally seamless, and today they are ready to bring a brand new experience to Android users with version 14.

I've had a little bit of time to play with Feedly 14 (which will be hitting the Play Store today), and thought it may be useful to give readers who may have not tried it out a full hands-on review of the service. Let's dive in.

image

What it Does

In a nutshell, Feedly is a reader. Its functionality is simple in concept, and well-executed. On first run, users can import their entire Google Reader collection by simply choosing a Google account. Of course, that will change when Reader dies this summer, but users who switch before Reader switches off will have no problem. As a side note, Feedly also encourages developers using the Reader API to get in touch, as they'd "love to keep the Google Reader ecosystem alive." That said, let's get back to the app.

Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-47-34 Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-47-40 Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-47-45Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-47-51 Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-47-56 Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-48-02

Feedly 14 is well-made. Its design looks a lot like the app's previous iterations with a few visual tweaks, but it functions nicely, and makes heavy use of very simple swiping gestures to navigate through lists. By the way, there are three list views: List, Magazine, and Cards view. These are essentially what they sound like. List view is the typical dense, line-item configuration. Magazine view is like list and still has a cover image, but has thicker line entries, each with thumbnails from the relevant piece of news. Cards view is just what it sounds like – full-screen cards, one per story, navigated by the same upward swipe motion.

Screenshot_2013-03-29-15-48-31 Screenshot_2013-03-31-19-50-34 Screenshot_2013-03-31-19-51-04

Feedly's interface is somewhat of a strange case. Really, it's very similar to Feedly 13.x, but has a few tweaks and improvements. It generally follows Android guidelines, but the slide-in menu is populated with brightly colored tags for each reading list (plus settings and bookmarks) with animated switches to expand/collapse lists. This isn't a detriment, just an interesting UI element.

The interface, as mentioned earlier, features a lot of swiping. The upward navigation swipe doesn't make a ton of sense for list view (you'll swipe through cards comprised of a handful of headlines), but it works nicely with cards. Another quirk is that there's both a Settings menu and an overflow menu, each with different controls. Again, not a huge nuisance, but worth mentioning.

What is a nuisance, though, is that there's no easy way to change views when reading the "today" list – the overflow menu only appears in subscription lists.

image

Screenshot_2013-03-31-19-55-04 Screenshot_2013-03-31-19-56-57 Screenshot_2013-03-31-20-01-22 Screenshot_2013-03-31-20-01-46

Actually navigating stories – besides a counter-intuitive swiping list view – is quite easy, and stories can be closed quickly by swiping up and releasing. Want to mark an item read? Just swipe to the left over its title.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Feedly has a handy new sharing panel for spreading links to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pocket, and Instapaper, and the ability to quickly and easily share articles via email.

A new functionality that Feedly boasts is enhanced discovery. The app has a super fast search function in which users can find topics, URLs or titles. The feature also suggests topics and can automatically call up predictions based on what you're typing.

Screenshot_2013-03-31-14-59-14 Screenshot_2013-03-31-21-42-13

Did I mention Feedly is tablet compatible? As most users would expect from any well-made app, Feedly will adapt to the big(ger) screen just fine.

Interestingly, choosing to read more of a long article (past the snippet provided by Feedly on initial click) will open up a full view of the webpage, with the option to "remove clutter," which returns the story to Feedly's clean, centered environment with just text and relevant images.

s3

s2 s1 s4

In the end, much of the app's user experience is reliant on what you put in, and the headlining feature of Feedly 14 is Normandy – Feedly's effort to clone their own version of the Reader API. The number and density of your lists will determine how much information you find here, while the interface just provides a nice structure in which to "crunch through" your sources.

Power Users

The question that's probably on most readers' mind is "will this work as a solution for former Reader power users?" The answer is yes and no. Will the app alone take care of your entire Reader workflow? Probably not. The interface, while great for normal users, may get in the way of people who want to buzz through thousands of stories in short order.

That said, the Feedly app isn't necessarily intended to work alone. On its website, Feedly gives a great set of beginning tips in migrating your Reader workflow to its service including tagging, starring, preferences, and keyboard shortcuts that will make your PC experience just about as rich as you could hope for. Feedly's web interface, by the way, is really nice. I would recommend any Reader devotee desperately searching for refuge to check it out.

In Brief

To pare this entire review down into a few words, Feedly 14 is great. It's a well-built app that does what it sets out to do, and promises to keep doing it even after Reader is finally dead and buried this summer. Whether you're already a Feedly fan or a refugee from Google Reader looking for a great app to take up the mantle, you should try Feedly 14.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

    What app DO you suggest for power users of Reader? I think of myself as one, since I don't like the overly bloated and flashy UI that Feedly has. I'm looking for something Holo themed and something that doesn't get in the way of me reading my articles. Any suggestions?

    • John

      tt-rss (self hosted RSS feed aggregator) is pretty nice for us power users. I'm not having any issues so far if you're into doing that sort of thing. Just backup your subscriptions.xml online somewhere - JUST in case. Setting it up is a cinch too.

      • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

        Interesting, thanks! I'll check it out now :)

        • Rich

          Absolutely check out "Reader (HD)" it's THE best I've found.

      • Peacen1k

        This looks promising! Thanks!

  • Sqube

    The Feedly app is incredibly pretty, but I feel like it's trying to compete with Flipboard (NTTAWWT). It's very pretty, and the web interface can be made useful for power users with little effort, but all that swiping... man, I'm trying to look through chunks of articles and find the diamonds in the rough. It feels like the Feedly app only really works if you're looking to click (or at least think about clicking) most of the links in there.

    The search continues...

  • TOMMMMMM

    So there is no way to swipe by individual stories in list view, they are still grouping 3-4 stories at a time as you swipe past them? That bothered me a lot in the previous version I used.

    • http://twitter.com/Grrbrrr Grrbrr

      I think you've always been able to open, for example the first news item to full screen and continue swiping from there.

      Edit: Ah, sorry. Missed the list view part when reading. That is only in the desktop version.

  • ron hudson

    feedly isn't doing it for me, it doesn't compare to greader pro. I wish someone else would step up

  • Aleksey_US

    It almost seems like the person at @ Google making decision to shut down GReader has some $ invested at Feedly...

  • http://twitter.com/navjotbatra Navjot

    ha watch google buy feedly in a couple of years.

  • Rich

    I find Feedly's UI to be rather terrible. The BEST RSS reader I've found is "Reader (HD). Love the UI and how the items are presented on screen - it also allows me to read downloaded posts offline as well as I have it to auto-download. Love it.

  • rap

    I'm adjusting to Feedly although I still favor the simple Google reader approach. I'm not really into the magazine and graphical views but they can have their places. Feedly is making improvements and must be going crazy trying to do the migration, handle all the new users and all the new enhancements requested by new users. One feature it has that is really important to me is the ability to use it on the desktop via the chrome extension and ones for other browsers.

  • IncCo

    I think Feedly is great, best thing thats happened since google shutting down google reader.

  • Google User

    i will miss Google Reader, Nothing will fill the gap for me :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/marshall.ladd Marshall Ladd

    Press is the best solution I've found so far. They are also claiming to have a reader api clone if I remember correctly.

  • duse

    I'm sorry, but recommending feedly without mentioning its awful use of a Chrome plugin with the ridiculous, broad permission request of "all data on all websites" is doing people a disservice. Why in the world should I need a plugin to read news? And why in the world should I permit a plugin to access "all data on all websites I visit" just to read news? The only answer for this question feedly has ever provided is that the plugin is necessary to add a widget to every webpage you visit to let you add its RSS feed to your account. Sorry, not buying it. I believe their business model probably depends on collecting this information. For this reason I cannot trust them or use their service. Not to mention the web UI is actually awful and overly complicated, as is the Android app.

    • Floss

      Tin foil hat power!

      • duse

        Yes it is a bit tin foil hat, but can you explain why a plugin should be necessary to access what is otherwise a normal website? I know of no other web service that operates like that. I'm sure the widget on pages to add its RSS feed is a feature everyone could do without.

        • Floss

          I would bet you my life savings it was pure laziness. It's easier to get all permissions then figure out which exact ones you need to not have it crash whenever a user tries to do something unexpected with it. That has been the constant problem with all permission based app systems in last few years, and there is always some retard claiming they are being used to spy on them.

          • duse

            The question wasn't about permissions, it was why does it need a plugin at all. It's a website to read news, that's it. For that privilege feedly is requesting your public Google profile, your gender, your birthdate, and access to all data on every website you visit. In no sane world is that a reasonable exchange. As I said, their ONLY provided reason for the entire plugin is so that they can add a little icon to every website you visit to let you add the page's RSS feed. I'm betting that's a feature no one even wants, and it could obviously easily be its own plugin with the main news-reading portion being just a website.

            Would you be pleased if every news website you visited required its own Chrome plugin to operate? That is exactly how feedly operates.

          • Floss

            Ah, I see your confusion. Feedly wants to be able to easily add a RSS feed from the site itself, instead of requiring you to copy paste the url into Feedly yourself. You say that no one wants it? Actually most people would prefer that to needing to copy paste the url. Don't want it? Don't use the plugin. Is that difficult? It either provides a service you want, or it doesn't. Why you feel the need to go on a crusade because you don't want it is ridiculous.

            Not only that but there are tons of other plugins which provide similar functionality. I know there is one that requires broad permission as well that makes it so when I click a torrent link it automatically sends it to whatever remote torrent provider I use. There are dozens of plugins like this that need to be able to see everything to know what they want to scrape for you into their service.

          • duse

            The problem is not that they produced a plugin that lets you add RSS feeds that requires these permissions - the problem is that the plugin is REQUIRED to use feedly at all. I would 100% agree with you if the plugin was just some optional component that you needed only if you wanted to use that feature, but that is not the case. So if all you want to do is read news, you are required to fork over these permissions to feedly and use their plugin. There is simply no logical reason for requiring the plugin to read news. If the widget to add feeds was truly the only reason for the plugin as they state, it could easily be broken out as an optional component. To just read news, nothing more should be required than visiting the website. This also prevents using the service from computers where you can't install plugins, and even prevents using it from IE!! Now why in the world would feedly want to prevent the world's most used browser from accessing their website, they must have a pretty good reason.

          • fritish

            Hey, I just want to say that both of you managed to have a civilized conversation on the internet. Stayed on topic. Didn't insult each other. I was happily surprised and pleased to read it!

            Related: Do either of you know if there is a feedly FAQ or anywhere that they may have addressed this? I'd be curious to know why they'd prevent IE from using it.

          • duse

            They've explained somewhere on their blog and in the feedback area about requiring the plugin so that you can add feeds from other websites. They never talk about IE specifically, but it's this reason that you can't use the service with IE, since it requires a plugin and they don't make one for it.

  • Evgeny Kosakovich

    Great news!