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Summary:

Feed reading is arguably one of the primary uses of the iPad, so making a good RSS client for it very important. Here’s a run-down of the five feed readers available now for the iPad.

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NetNewsWire first came out in 2002, and back then, it was the only application of its kind. RSS was just beginning to pick up steam, Google Reader wasn’t even conceived of yet, and most people got their news by visiting a series of bookmarks. Fast-forward to 2010, and the once unique NetNewsWire has started an entire genre of applications dedicated to consuming feeds. NetNewsWire now has three versions, the original OS X app, an iPhone app, and now an iPad app.

NetNewsWire is still the best OS X feed reader available for the Mac, but competition on iOS is stiff. Feed reading is arguably one of the primary uses of the iPad, so making a good RSS client for it very important.

Here’s a run-down of the top feed readers available now for the iPad.

Reeder ($4.99)
Reeder is a beautifully crafted and well thought out piece of software. The buttons for moving to next and previous articles are in the perfect spot to use when holding the iPad in portrait mode, which is how I use it most of the time. In both landscape and portrait mode, if you tap on an article to go to the website, the browser doesn’t just take the place of the article, it takes the entire screen over using an animation so smooth that it seems absolutely natural. Initially, when reading reviews of Reeder I was dismissive of it, until I actually used it. Reeder has set the bar high for RSS readers on the iPad.

NewsRack ($4.99)
My previous favorite, NewsRack is solid, exactly what I expect; where Reeder is revolutionary, NewsRack is evolutionary. What I found about NewsRack was that it was best read in landscape mode, which would put the list of articles on the left, and was easier to access. In portrait mode, the controls for moving between articles are on the top, which makes for an awkward motion to move your hand, cover the screen, and tap the button to go back to holding it on the side again. Repeating that motion several hundred times makes it get annoying fast. NewsRack is fast, and has all of the features I use on a daily basis, so overall it’s a great app.

The Early Edition ($4.99)
Early Edition takes a different approach than most feed readers. The most common approach is to mimic the user interface of iPad’s Mail app in both landscape and portrait mode. Early Edition instead builds a personal newspaper from articles in your list of feeds. Reading on Early Edition is enjoyable, but unlike the other feed readers on the list, Early Edition does not sync with Google Reader.

Feeddler ($4.99 and Free)
Another strong contender, Feeddler comes in both a free and pro version. Feeddler places the navigation controls at the bottom of the screen in both landscape and portrait mode. Feeddler makes a few questionable design choices for displaying the content of feeds. Instead of showing the feeds in a pop-over window, Feeddler shows the feed sources, and then uses the entire iPad window to show the individual feed items. Tapping on an item slides up a new window from the bottom to show the feed content. This works well for portrait mode, but in landscape mode I expect to be able to use the extra screen space to split the screen and browse feeds on one side and content in the other. Feeddler uses the entire screen in both modes. Surprisingly, there is an option in the settings pane to disable using the full screen in landscape, but instead of using only the right hand pane, it shows a smaller window that overlaps the feeds…effectively taking up the entire screen anyway.

NetNewsWire ($9.99)
The first RSS app on the desktop was also the first RSS app on the iPad. NetNewsWire for the iPad was available on day one, syncs with Google Reader, and integrates with Instapaper and Twitter. The windows for sending an article to either service are gorgeous works of art, and show the kind of attention to detail that NetNewsWire is known for.

Honorable Mention: Google Reader
Google Reader is the standard for web-based feed readers, leapfrogging Bloglines several years ago. Google has created a mobile version of Reader that works well as a web app on the home screen of the iPad. Google even gave it a nice icon. It works well as far as web apps go, but I still prefer native apps with better integration.

There are several other RSS readers available in the App Store, and chances are we may not have mentioned your favorite here. If you’ve got more recommendations, share them in the comments!

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  1. Reeder is the be-all end-all Google Reader interface for me. I simply cannot stop singing its praises. Must buy!

  2. I was a ByLine user on the iPhone until I bought my iPad. My initial comparison of RSS readers lead me to NewsRack. I’m a convert. It’s a great app, especially for the Google Reader folk.

    My only gripe with NewsRack is that there is not a one-click solution for opening articles in Safari. Instead, the only option is to “Copy URL.” Then you must close the app (that’s a button push), open Safari (a tap), and copy the URL into the address field (at least 4 more taps), and tap “Go.” I would rather just have the option (like in Tweetie) to “Open in Safari.”

    Alternatively, I could save all of the “stuff” I’d like to read later to InstaPaper, but I’ve still not really gotten used to that flow.

  3. Brian Williford Thursday, July 15, 2010

    My favorite is the Pulse Reader, but oddly not mentioned here. :(
    It uses UIScrollViews with thumbs for multi-feed display

  4. Tim Verpoorten Thursday, July 15, 2010

    OK, so I use Vienna on my Mac with the configuration file in my Dropbox so that all my Macs are synced to my new feeds. Is there a similar solution I can use with the iPad and Dropbox to grab my feeds list and keep it updated? Thanks

    1. Sorry, Tim, as far as I know there’s no way to do that.

      1. I was in the same position with Vienna, but found the only solution to be a Google RSS subscription… I really want Vienna to produce an iPad version along with an xMarks function… would solve all of my worries!! :)

  5. I suppose I should get round to trying some of the new flavors; but, frankly, I always end up sticking with the RSS functionality built into Safari.

    I didn’t have to get an RSS aggregator for my iPad. All I did was import my Safari bookmarks. Voila!

    Still does everything it was intended to do.

  6. I’d say MobileRSS is the most feature complete google reader client, but Reeder is much more visually pleasing, plus I love the pinch gestures for opening/closing feeds and folders.

  7. Marc Schwartz Thursday, July 15, 2010

    I would also reference MobileRSS as my reader of choice. I replaced NetNewsWire with MobileRSS earlier this year and have not looked back.

    I would also point out TwitBird from the same company, which is my favorite Twitter client, after trying quite a few others.

    Their web site at:

    http://www.nibirutech.com/

    seems a bit slow at the moment, but that may be just me.

  8. I want to point out a couple of things for the record. #1There is a difference in reviewing apps and living with them long-term. #2 Aesthetic details that are not backed up with good software and support.

    Reeder is one of the best, and most used apps on my iPad. ( I am scanning nearly 1K items a day. ) Reeder has an intutive interface, software build is solid, and it is fast. Add the price to that, and it is one heck of a deal. I am in this app constantly throughout the day. In contrast, I bought NetNewsWire in early April. For $10. At the time, it was the best looking reader around. Unfortunately, it did not run as well as it looked. Within a couple of weeks, it was taking forever to download new feeds and could take up to 10 seconds. Add the occasional crashes to this, and it becam unusable. Switched to Reeder about a month ago and it is still as good (and fast) as the day I bought it.

    You mentioned how nice the NetNewsWire splash screens are when you initially setup the app. Agreed. The shine wears off of this feature when a person has to live with an app that does not work well. I went to the support page and noticed that there are many others complaining about similar performance issues. In one response, the developer even goes so far as to say that his policy is to get a piece of software out early, even if it is not the best he can produce, and then fix it later. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t been fixed.

    I used NetNewsWire for two months, and would not recommend that anyone spend the $10 on this app if they have a lot of work to do with it.

    I have used Reeder for well over a month and have recommended it to LOTS of people for the past couple of weeks. It is definitely a great app and fairly priced at $5.

  9. I was just made aware of Byline for the iPhone and I love it. I use it as my default RSS reader now. I am hoping for a Byline for the iPad.

    I used to use Net News Wire and Feedller but Byline blows both of these out the water.

  10. Just wanted to mention that The Early Edition actually does sync with Google Reader.

    1. Well… sort of… Not in the same way that the other feed readers do. What The Early Edition does is more like an import of the Google Reader feeds than a true sync. If I read a feed and mark it as read in my browser, or delete it from Google Reader entirely, The Early Edition has no knowledge of that.

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