Google Reader closed its virtual doors on July 2nd, becoming one of the largest Google services to get the axe. In the weeks leading up to its closure, several alternative RSS solutions emerged, hoping to win over the millions of people looking for a new Reader. But with literally dozens of entrants, it’s now much more difficult to find the right solution for your needs.
We've tested all of the top solutions currently available and have selected the four best services for you. These are fully featured solutions, meaning you can manage them both from the Web and from Android or iOS apps. Here are our top four Google Reader alternatives.
Of all the services we've tried, Feedly is the most like Reader in looks and functionality. It has a Web app and browser extensions that can quickly add feeds from your favorite sites, and Android and iOS applications allow you to view and manage the feed on the go.
To set up Feedly, add select RSS feeds to your subscriptions or import your Google Reader data from Google Takeout (provided you downloaded the data file by the July 15th deadline).
The Feedly apps provide a clean, minimalist user interface that puts your content in an easy-to-read format. Whenever you launch the Feedly app, you'll see a scrollable grid of article headlines like you would with Reader, with the article content just a tap away. Your feed takes up the full screen, so you can focus on your content, and a tap on the menu button lets you view your assigned categories, change feeds, add subscription content and access the app's settings.
To add subscriptions manually, use the Feedly Cloud through Google Chrome or Firefox browser extensions, or via Feedly's apps. You can customize your reading pane to view only titles, a cards view, titles with a lead thumbnail image and the magazine view made popular by such apps as Feedly and Pulse. Feedly has robust sharing functionality; you can share articles via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and email, or use such services as Pocket and Instapaper to read the content later.
Feedly isn't perfect, however, as it lacks one of the handiest features of Google Reader: headline search. Feedly lets you search for blogs and RSS feeds directly through the application, but you cannot search through the actual content and headlines like you could with Reader. The company has announced it will add this feature within a few weeks, though this will be part of a paid Feedly Pro upgrade that is not currently available.
Feedly is the best option for most Google Reader users, as it provides a familiar interface alongside an advanced mobile UI. It has a Web interface for when you want to read on the larger screen, and strong apps for Android and iOS.
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Upon learning of the Reader shutdown, the folks at Digg set out to make a replacement. The result, Digg Reader, was released to the public on June 26th, just days ahead of Reader's closing. Recently, Digg added two highly sought-after features: the option to view only unread posts and the ability to mark an article as unread. More enhancements will be coming along the way, though it will likely be some time before Digg Reader can function as a full Reader replacement.
To set up Digg Reader, establish an account. This can be done either from the Web interface or via the Digg iOS app. The application is fairly minimalistic, with your feed displayed on the main screen to let you consume content as desired. Swiping to the left reveals the individual sites you subscribe to. It also gives you access to the settings menu and a location to subscribe to site feeds. You can add site feeds individually by URL, or you can browse through feeds by category, though Digg's selections are mostly limited to major publications.
Reading through feeds is much like what you'd expect from Reader; simply click on a headline of interest in the feed to get a sample of what the article is about, then click View on site to read the entire article. You can bookmark it in Digg, or integrate with your Instapaper and Pocket accounts to read the article later.
Like with Feedly, you can't search through article headlines to more easily find articles of interest. However, this is one of the more simple, yet straightforward RSS apps out there, because it does the basic things exceptionally well.
Where Digg and Feedly simply try to replicate the Google Reader experience, Flipboard feels more like a natural evolution of the RSS feed. The Flipboard app is a news aggregator that builds the daily news into a beautiful, magazine-style layout. Users can create magazines by topic and share either individual stories or personalized magazines with multiple social networks. A Chrome extension and Web-based editor let you create personalized magazines from the comfort of a larger display, and Flipboard's recent update added Web viewing in 11 languages.
Start by creating a Flipboard account and connecting it to your various media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, 500px, Sina Weibo, Renren, SoundCloud, YouTube, New York Times and Financial Times. Content featured on those networks will be pulled into your Flipboard feed. To round out your content, you can add magazines curated by Flipboard in the "Discover More" section, where you'll find a gathering of articles on "Gear and Gadgets," "Apple News," and "The Royal Baby." In the Discover More section, you'll also be able to add your favorite publications to your feed. The company recently launched "Big Ideas," a new category in the Discover More section, which prominently features innovative ideas, great speeches, industry thought leaders and inspirational organizations.
If you've spent a lot of time building up your Google Reader subscription list, the downside of Flipboard is that you'll have to set up your content again. Flipboard allowed you to add a Google Reader account as an option in the past, but the July 2nd shutdown of Reader removed Flipboard's ability to import this content.
That said, once you've gotten used to Flipboard and spent time building up your subscriptions, you likely won't miss Reader. Flipboard's mobile UI makes your feed look and feel as though you're reading a magazine, complete with stunning images and full-length text from your favorite news outlets. Finding new content is a breeze, as well; users can search for topics, magazines, curators and hashtags, so you'll always be able to find what you want to read, when you want to read it.
If you're not looking for a pure Google Reader look-a-like, Flipboard may just be the solution for you. The service organizes your content in a beautiful way for a better consumption experience, and Flipboard's social-sharing features let you interact with topics and your friends. Flipboard is so good that we recently gave it an Editors’ Choice rating.
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Like Flipboard, Pulse is a mobile-first news-consumption app, which creates your news feed in a multimedia-heavy layout. Pulse recently expanded to include a Web-based interface that closely mimics its apps.
Setting up Pulse is fairly straightforward. You can either create an account with your name, email address and password, or you can connect via your Facebook account. From there, you can connect your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to share articles with your friends, as well as your Pocket, Instapaper, Readability and Evernote accounts for articles you'd like to read later.
The app arranges stories by site and topic areas, into an attractive, grid-style interface, which makes it easy to scroll through headlines and get to the news that interests you. To add content to your Pulse Feed, simply tap the "Add content" button within the Android and iOS apps, and browse through Feedly’s 12 curated categories. You can also search for individual sites, RSS feeds or interests via the built-in search feature. Unfortunately, you'll have to set up your old Google Reader subscriptions anew.
Pulse Highlight creates a feed of stories shared by friends on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Stories you've opened via Pulse will automatically be stored locally on your tablet for offline reading, perfect for tablets without an always-on cellular data connection.
Pulse makes quickly catching up on the news a breeze, letting readers catch the gist of an article with a summarized in-app story. Readers who want to dig a little bit deeper into a story can click on the "read on Web" button at the bottom of any article, which takes you to the source's website to read the article in full.
Overall, the Pulse app provides a clean, intuitive user interface that lets you quickly and easily browse through the top headlines of the day, while letting you dig deeper into articles that catch your interest. As long as you're not locked into the standard Google Reader experience, Pulse is a solid replacement for your news consumption needs on phones and tablets.