I’ve been using RSS for years as I’m a voracious consumers of newsfeeds. I probably spend more time reading stories of all kinds using RSS than any other task when I’m online, and I also share a lot of them, mainly on Twitter, Google Reader Shared Items and my own Links page. So choosing the right application to do this has been something I’ve put a lot of thought into, and I’ve never hesitated to change my setup when a better alternative became available.
This is what has just happened, as a byproduct of the recent iPad hullaballoo. After using Google Reader to sync my subscriptions across several client devices, most recently Reeder for iPhone, Zurich-based Silvio Rizzi’s excellent RSS application for the iPhone, since the end of last year, I switched to Shaun Inman’s Fever in early 2010.
Unlike Reeder, Fever uses a database installed on your own server, rather than Google Reader, to sync your feeds. This, to my mind, was a big disadvantage: although an iPad app, Ashes, is expected to released at some point soon, there are currently no clients for Fever; you have to read your feeds on your server. So switching to Fever is an all-or-nothing solution: you use Fever for everything or you don’t use it at all.
This was something I could live with before the iPad. Although I liked the convenience of being able to read my feeds on my iPhone when stuck in a traffic jam or in the subway, I basically used my Mac to read my RSS 95 per cent of the time. The iPad turned all this upside down: I wasn’t convinced about the device’s utility for many things people were raving about (photography or music, in particular), but for reading RSS, it was the ideal size and format. The only problem, until yesterday, was that there wasn’t a single good RSS app for the iPad: Pulse, an app that was raved about by Mr Jobs at WWDC, then briefly pulled from the App Store [ii] is limited to twenty feeds. It can be set up to pull your list of subscriptions from Google Reader, but it doesn’t actually sync with Google Reader subsequently, something the developers don’t make clear in the App Store presentation and didn’t respond to clearly when I sent them a support request about it. So that ruled out using the admittedly very pretty Pulse.
Fever was unusable on the iPad: Shaun Inman adapted it for the iPad in his latest version to add a custom webclip icon, but because you use Fever in Safari, any news stories you click on open in a separate window, which I find make the application very user-unfriendly.
So since getting an iPad I’ve switched back to Google Reader after just two months of using Fever. And I’ve hardly ever used either my iPhone or my Mac to read feeds: while waiting for Reeder to be available, I used G-Whizz, a rather rudimentary app that basically does little more than provide a frame for the web version of various Google services. When Reeder finally was approved yesterday, I installed it immediately and have so far found it to be exactly what I wanted. It has all the features of its iPhone kid brother, but has been adapted from the ground up to use all of the iPad’s additional real estate:
Navigation, in particular, is incredibly easy as summaries, grouped by subscription and folder, appear in the left column, while the story you are reading is in the right. If you need to open it, the inbuilt browser will allow you to easily share on Twitter or Google Reader Shared Items, save it to Instapaper, email the story or a link and even optimise it using Mobilizer (although the latter, which was essential on the tiny iPhone, is hardly warranted on an iPad).
I haven’t tested the app long enough to warrant whether it’s stable (it did crash on me once, but that’s a far better record than its competitors!). Also, whether it functions properly under iOS4 remains to be seen. On another prospective note, I think Silvio would do well to take inspiration from one Pulse feature that, if it synced to Google Reader and weren’t limited to twenty feeds, would make an absolute killer app: its ability to swap between text and web views of a news story, while staying within the main app window and keeping the left navigation column in sight at all times:
The same setup could be easily implemented in the next version of Reeder (possibly as an option that you can turn on or off) and would make navigation much easier. Just a suggestion to the developer of what is unquestionably the best RSS app for the iPad and iPhone at present._______________