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Google Reader is dead, but Feedly will help you love again

After extended test runs with various Reader competitors we've found the perfect replacement in Feedly.

Earlier this year, Google announced its plans to retire Google Reader on July 1. And, of course, the Internet responded with the same overreaction  it demonstrates whenever it's faced with change.

Once Reader's hardcore devotees adjust to a post-Reader world, however, they may take notice of an important detail: Reader kind of sucked.

Over the past few months, I've taken various RSS-fueled feedcatchers for extended test drives. And I've discovered that better products than Reader are available in the RSS wilderness.

The new Digg Reader (still in beta) is pretty bare-bones, but it has at least one cool feature: a sidebar view that organizes your unread articles by how popular they are on Twitter.

According to the rumor mill, a new Facebook Reader is in the works, but what it might look like is anyone's guess.

Of the news readers I've tried, the hands-down winner is Feedly. Feedly isn't merely a suitable successor to Reader--it's a vast improvement.

Why Feedly is better

In recent years Reader had fallen behind its peers because Google had stopped investing in Reader as it pushed its resources into Google+ and other newer products. Google's lack of interest in Reader becomes clear when you consider what a smaller, singularly focused company behind Feedly accomplished with the same technology.

The dev team behind Feedly placed a welcome emphasis on design and functionality. They built features into Feedly that should have been no-brainers for inclusion in Reader.

Where Feedly is slick and modern, Reader looks like a relic of a bygone digital era. For example, in both its Web and mobile incarnations, Feedly maximizes screen real estate by using hidden menus that disappear when they're not in use. Reader, meanwhile, mucks up the screen with an unretractable sidebar. Hidden menus and other dynamic content are hardly revolutionary, but they constitute fundamental ingredients of modern design--and unfortunately Google never bothered with them in Reader.

Feedly uses image-centric content views that clearly acknowledge the world of touchscreens and tablets. In contrast, Reader's primary focus seems to have been on organizing text, with images and other media treated as an afterthought. In today's Web, of course, images and video are fundamental (and increasingly important) elements of the blogging medium.

Feedly has wisely invested in replicating the things that Google Reader got right. The company recently unveiled new investments in its back-end and API capabilities, thereby setting itself up as a formidable opponent for would-be challengers. Feedly Cloud allows the company to store your feeds and subfolders on its servers for use by third-party developers--including mobile apps such as gReader and Newsify, which previously relied on the Google Reader API.

Moving to Feedly

To be sure, Feedly will feel strange at first if you're accustomed to Reader. But once you've ha time to adjust, you'll wonder why you stuck with that old product for as long as you did.

Feedly makes no secret of wanting to attract former Google Reader users to its product, and its designers have made the Reader-to-Feedly transition process easy.

At cloud.feedly.com (which redirects from www.feedly.com), the site prompts you to log in via the One-click Google Reader Import button or the Login button, both of which seem to set visitors on the same path. Once you give it permission to access your Google Reader account, Feedly will move all of your existing Reader feeds and subfolders into the Feedly ecosystem intact. Bam. Done.

You can use the credentials from an existing Google account to create a new Feedly account, regardless of whether you've used Reader. Actually, you must have a Google account to sign up for Feedly. If you don't have one, Feedly prompts you to create one. A rep from Feedly commented that users will soon be able to sign in with a stand-alone account or via another site such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

(The rep also said that Feedly has no formal relationship with Google, and that Google hasn't endorsed Feedly as a good replacement for Reader. Nevertheless, he said, "Feedly has received support from a lot of groups within Google that helped ease the transition, including the Chrome, Android, Google+, and operation groups.")

In case you find yourself homesick for Reader, Feedly has created a Reader-like 'Title View', which you can access by clicking the four horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner. But once you get settled in your new home, take a moment to explore non-Reader views such as Magazine and Cards, which are particularly useful in the mobile environment.

The Feedly iOS and Android apps help you spread your news-reading experience across the various screens in your life.

Life after Reader

For years, I relied on Reader as the best organizational tool for my favorite Web content (226 feeds at last count). And like most members of #TeamReader, I was upset that Google had decided to toss the product in its latest round of "spring cleaning." Reader and I have been through a lot together: presidential elections, unexpected celebrity deaths, and a vast wasteland of ill-gotten click bait.

But once I began exploring other options, it became clear--as it does after any necessary break-up--that my reliance on Reader had less to do with its inherent qualities than with the inertia of maintaining a comfortable routine.


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