Using Google Reader and impressed

18 Comments

I first tried Google Reader to handle my 500+ RSS feeds when it first came out last year and I would say the experience left me less than impressed.  OK, it sucked.  There were too many interface deficiencies that made it too clunky for me to use as my main (and only) RSS reader.  I have been using Onfolio for a long time and it has worked like a champ for me, until recently.  As my list of feeds has grown, the ability for Onfolio to handle them has shrunk.  The program now takes forever to bring my feeds in when I first invoke it and hammers the performance of every machine I run it on when I am spinning through my river of news.

Google_reader_2Kevin recently extolled the virtues of Google Reader and I decided while in Vegas for the CES to give it a fresh look, as the changes they have made to the program address most of my earlier complaints.  I installed it and set out to import my feeds (OPML) from Onfolio and immediately hit a major snag.  Google Reader will not import my OPML file from Onfolio, it imports for a while and then terminates with some obscure reference to a file format problem and then stops.  None of my feeds will import into the Reader, making it useless for me.  No way am I going to manually input 500 feeds.  Google really needs to beef up the import process, especially in the error reporting so that the user can get some sort of feel for why it doesn’t like the OPML file coming in.  All of the import help links send you to the Wikipedia of all places, to learn about RSS feeds and OPML.  Give me a break, that’s not a help file Google, that’s a cop out.

Last night I returned to Houston and had a brilliant idea to get my feeds into Google Reader.  I went to Bloglines, where I already have an account, and exported my feeds to another OPML file.  This file imported into Google Reader perfectly, and I’ve been playing with the program since then.  I must say I am really impressed with how well Google Reader runs on my Fujitsu P1610, especially in portrait mode.  This is my favorite way to read my feeds, using my fingertip and UP/DOWN keys on the side of the screen to scroll through the feeds.  The way Google Reader now automatically marks an item as read simply by scrolling through it means I can process hundreds of feed items really fast, which was the only thing locking me into Onfolio with all of its performance problems.  I am really enjoying using GR to process my feeds, tagging items of interest with a Star for later referral, and the current screen layout is nice for portable screens.

I intend to use GR exclusively for a while and see how it holds up long term but for now it’s pretty nice.  It handles screen orientation changes very well so it’s nice to run on Tablet PCs, and UMPCs that will rotate the screen.

18 Comments

Giuseppe

great and helpful stuff. I am also planning to move out of Onfolio (sadly)to get rid of IE (hopefully). But what to do with my old Onfolio collections?

Michael Connick

One of the nicest things about GR is how well it works on my Treo 700p as well as my Electrovaya Tablet PC. It’s great to be able to check feeds on the phone!

eas

I was pretty down on Google Reader, but gave it another try once they went more river of news, and I’ve been using it ever since. They even implemented one of my feature requests (though I doubt it had anything to do with me requesting it).

Now if only they’d start using Google News Algorithms to start grouping related stories, that’d be sweet. It would be even sweeter if I could select the feeds used for finding the related stories.

Josh Bancroft

Welcome to the GReader fanclub, James. :-)

I love GReader on my mobile devices – it works great with my Asus UMPC. The page up/page down hardware buttons next to the screen seem like they were made for it.

Here’s a hot tip – there’s an undocumented keyboard shortcut, “u”, to hide the subscription/folder column on the left, making the content full screen. This is fanTAStic for devices like UMPCs with less than huge screen width.

I usually put my browser (Firefox, natch) in full screen (use the awesome Autohide extension!), click on All Items in Google Reader, hit “u” on the (soft) keyboard, and page my way through efficient RSS feed reading bliss. :-)

Carsten

Yeah, I switched to GR completely as well since they had implemented the new interface. Before I used different offline readers but there’s always the problem to be in sync on different devices (my Q1 and the desktop mainly). I realized as well that I don’t need to use an offline reader as I’m almost always online anyway when I want access my feeds. And the interface is really well done now!

Actually it’s the same with mail for me. Just use GM now and no offline client any longer…

acetuk

Great to see the developers here to get feedback. I tried GR on my Q1 and didn’t like it much but now that I have a P1610 think ill try it again!

jk

Mihai, thanks for reaching out. I have just sent you the file that will not import into GR. Note that this same file has imported successfully into several other readers, Google’s is the only one that has failed.

mihai

I’m glad you’re liking Reader, hopefully your longer term trial will work out too. I’m sorry to hear that you had OPML import problems with your Onfolio subscriptions. If possible, could you send me the file that had problems and we will do our best to investigate? My address is mihai.parparita at gmail.com.

Mihai Parparita
Google Reader Engineer

jk

Kevin, don’t beat yourself up over it. It was my problem and it took me a few days to come up with this silly scheme that Google should be able to address.

Nitin, thanks for the warning, I’ll keep an eye out for that problem. As for the Fujitsu, every single Tablet PC owning person who played with my P1610 was just blown away at how good the Tablet experience was on such a small device.

Mark, it’s not necessarily better than Bloglines just different. I am not a normal RSS feed consumer- I follow so many feeds that one of the most important features to me is how fast I can spin through hundreds (sometimes thousands) of articles. What is important to me about Google Reader (and formerly Onfolio) is how it automatically marks an item as read without me having to do so manually. It may sound like a small thing but when you skim thousands of items a day it becomes a huge deal. The good thing about GR is it’s free so try it for yourself. Export your feeds from Bloglines and try it for a day or two. I find the GR page layout much easier on the eyes, too.

Mark Polino

James, Kevin, someone else with experience,

Sell me on why Google reader is better than Bloglines. I rarely read feeds offline, I have about a 175 feeds I follow and my useage is about 75% on a UMPC and 25% on a Windows Smartphone.

What’s so special that would make try Google Reader?

Mark

Nitin Badjatia

The only thing to watch out for, James, is that Reader suffers some hiccups when you have a feed that slams posts at you (like Engadget). It will cause an error by not marking items as read until you restart your browser.

This is happening less and less for me, but still does occur occasionally.

I’m still on my Toshiba M200 – and growing more envious of your Fujitsu – and I think that GReader is nearly perfect for a tablet environment.

Kevin C. Tofel

Boy do I feel stupid! I remember telling you here in Vegas that I had problems getting my feeds into Google Reader as well. At the time I was using NewsGator Online and I had the exact same brilliant idea: I fed my feeds into Bloglines, exported it and got a readable OPML file for Google. DUH! Must have been the dry air affecting my brain. ;)

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