App review: Reeder for iPad

I already mentioned Reeder in the top 5 apps of 2010, but it definitely deserves a dedicated review. Reeder is a no-nonsense RSS reader for the iPad that is designed completely around Google Reader, the most used RSS service out there at the moment. It gives you a clear picture of what’s going on and the ability to go through feeds fast, unlike some of the other RSS readers out there that focus more on laid-back, casual RSS users.

Reeder [$4.99] is known by many as the no-nonsense alternative to apps like Pulse [Free], Flipboard [Free] and The Early Edition [$4.99]. These three use a lot of animations, fancy layouts and pictures to present RSS feeds in a way that makes it more like reading a magazine, a laid-back experience that you do for pure enjoyment. Reeder on the other hand is designed for those who wake up to several hundred news stories each morning and need to get through them fast to see what’s new and important. Reeder’s main screen does use site logo thumbnails to present the feeds like how the photo album shows thumbnails and you can even pinch these thumbnails open to view the content, but that’s as far as the fanciness goes with Reeder. Once you’re viewing a feed (or all of them) you get a list of articles and a window displaying them.

In portrait mode, the window displaying feeds puts itself on top of the list of articles, so you have to go back in order to view the article list. However in landscape mode, the added horizontal screen real-estate makes room for having the list of feeds and the currently viewed article in the same frame. This is basically exactly how the iPad’s email app works in landscapa and portrait, so it should be familiar to any iPad user. I would say that the landscape view is by far the most useful if you want to go through a lot of feeds as you can hold the tablet up and scroll the list using your left thumb and scroll the article using your right- no hunting and pecking to navigate. You can even mark single articles as read/unread or starred/unstarred by sliding the entry in the article list left or right respectively. This two hand, two thumb style of navigating is excellent and is part of what makes Reeder so quick and easy to use when you have a lot of feed to go through.

If you do need more controls, those are located at the top of the article frame. You can adjust font size, star/unstar, share/unshare (Google Reader feature), mark as read/unread, enter readability mode (basically removes pictures) or open a menu with more options. There are 14 different options in this menu, including adding a note, copy link, open in Safari, mail link/article and use the article with an external service; Delicious, Pinboard, Zootool, Instapapaer, ReadItLater, twitter, Facebook and Mobilizer are all supported. That’s an impressive array of services and very useful to have.

You can also open the URLs of the articles in an internal web browser, which is faster than switching between reeder and Safari. Many sites don’t show you the whole content in the RSS feed, in which case you often have to use this feature to be able to view anything at all. This is something sites do to make sure you visit the site and see the ads and that is perfectly understandable, but the result is that often you skip those articles and hope it’s on another site instead, since normal websites are a lot more bloated and heavy to load than the RSS of the article. The built in browser works fine though but no tabs means that if you start “running off” (following links etc) from the article when using this web browser you quickly notice it’s not Safari.

Reeder is definitely not the most visually stunning app out there, but for RSS addicts it can be a life saver. In fact it’s so popular that someone ripped off the app design completely, duplicating it to every single detail and releasing as a new app. That sort of behavior is of course not tolerated and I won’t even say the name of the app, and it was even blocked from a few major services that Reeder support because of this. Reeder is definitely worth the $5 they’re asking for it if you go through a lot of feed, especially if you already have a Google Reader account (which is required). If you just like to check the occasional feed, you might want to try one of the free readers.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.