Reeder for Mac, the desktop version of the popular RSS reader application for iOS devices, has officially entered public beta. We ran the free Draft 1 version of Reeder through its paces to see how it ranks as a means of aggregating your RSS world.
Remember that Reeder for Mac is tied directly to your Google Reader account, just like its iOS counterparts, so you’ll have to have an account there to use it. At startup, it asks you for your credentials, and as of this release, it doesn’t clue you in to the fact that it’s your Google Reader info it’s looking for, something which might confuse users who’ve never tried Reeder before. So why not just use Google Reader in your browser and skip the download? Three reasons: look, usability, and sharing. I’ll touch on each below.
Reeder for Mac already looks quite polished for a first beta release. The user interface is reminiscent of its iOS predecessors, from the lightly speckled, paper-like, background textures, to the story list on the left, content on the right, columnar navigation breakdown, which looks just like how the iPad app works in landscape view.
Of course, unlike the iPad app, Reeder for Mac has no shortage of screen real estate, you can see all elements at once, including the source tray on the left, where you can choose either all your unread feeds, or select one of your subcategories. You can drill down further using the little arrow icon in the box with four squares that represents each category, which will reveal the specific feeds you subscribe to within each subgroup. Your categories and sources are drawn directly from your Google Reader account, and can’t currently be changed from within the app. While there are “Add Subscription…” and “Manage Subscription…” menu items in the beta, they don’t seem to be active yet.
Switching between your starred (or favorited) items, your unread feed, and all items is a snap thanks to the three buttons at the top of the story list column. Scrolling through your stories can either be done with the arrow keys on your keyboard, which automatically loads them in the reading pane and marks them as read, or by scrolling using multi-touch gestures or your mouse wheel and clicking ones that catch your eye. A checkmark icon at the bottom of the story list lets you mark all stories as read.
The reading pane presents stories from your feeds in a simple, easy-to-read layout, complete with date, title, source and author, and any images that may be included with the feed. I find Reeder’s formatting a lot more visually pleasing than many blogs out there.
An easy-to-use interface and nicely formatted reading view are all well and good, but Reeder’s killer features are its various sharing and export options. You can, with either a right-click in the story list. or by clicking the sharing icon above the reading pane, copy the link, post a note to the story in Google Reader, send it to Instapaper or ReadItLater, save to Pinboard, Deliciousor Zootool, post to Twitter and more.
I like Reeder because it makes the web more readable, and it has various sharing features. Without the social aspect, I’d probably just stick to using Google Reader in a browser window, or even forget about RSS altogether and just go directly to the source. Reeder for the Mac, even at this early stage, makes it incredibly easy to show others what it is you’re currently checking out, and to shuffle off longer pieces to services like Instapaper. Even without a design and UI as great as the one Reeder boasts, this app would be a permanent fixture in the dock of each of my Macs.
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