Best Free RSS Reader-Aggregator

 
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Introduction

There are many ways to aggregate and read feeds.

  1. Desktop readers: [Wikipedia] Many users prefer these desktop programs, which couple an integral browser (usually the IE engine) with feed management. The result is a complete, reader-centric workspace, which can be quite powerful. [why use a desktop reader]
  2. Web-based readers: Web-based feed readers compete on a par with desktop feed readers. A good one produces a powerful browser-centric workspace, which I find gives me better work flow than a desktop reader.
  3. Many web-based readers also offer web-apps for smart phones and tablets.
  4. All major browsers, Including Opera, and many email clients, for example Thunderbird and Windows Live Mail, now have built-in feed reading. There are also many add-ons/extensions which enhance their native capability. See more on them in Related Products and Links below.
  5. Some people just want a simple notifier to let them know when a new post has arrived. Feed Notifier is a nice example that you can use for some or all of the feeds you're following.
  6. Some feeds include audio or video attachments and work best with podcast and vidcast readers.

The "best" feed reader is a matter of individual preference, or even personal taste. laugh There are many good ones. Most of them, including the best, are free like browsers. The one that matches the way you want to work is best for you. :-)

No matter which reader you choose, it should give you some way to back up your feeds, preferably as an OPML file. You may also be able to use your OPML file to move to another reader, although the formats may not be compatible.

Discussion

QuiteRSS is a relatively-new, open-source, cross-platform RSS/Atom news reader. It has been under active development since 2012. It's a clean, up-to-date implementation of an email-style feed reader.

QuietRSS is versatile, and offers a full set of options.  It uses a classic three-panel layout (feeds/folders, list of posts and browser). QuietRSS is fast starting, and navigation is quick. Both portable and installed versions are available.

It takes some intuition to discover some of the options. For example, it is not obvious how to show/hide the legacy "Menu" bar (File/View/Feeds/News/.../Help), but it is. (Hint: click the tiny main navigation button at the left end of the tabs bar to see the Show option. Use the File sub-menu in the Menu bar to uncheck the Show option.)

And while there is a rich set of social sharing options (Email/Twitter/Facebook/.../Pocket/Etc). But is not easy to discover them. (Hint: right-click the main toolbar > chose customise > click add > scroll down to the one(s) you want. You can also set keyboard shortcuts for them via the options dialog box.)

There is no help file or online help at this point, but in spite of the customizing challenges, it should be easy for most neophyte users to start using QuietRSS.

QuietRSS has some nice security functions: I spotted Adblock, Click to Flash (block flash until clicked), and the option to disable Javascript.

FeedDemon splash image.FeedDemon:  A powerful, time-proven program with a well thought out user interface. It can be intimidating to new RSS users, but most are able learn to use FeedDemon fairly quickly, and it has an excellent help facility. FeedDemon integrates seamlessly with Google Reader, so you have great synchronism between devices, as well as access to the best of desktop and web-based readers.

You can  subscribe to audio podcasts and play them directly from FeedDemon as well. FeedDemon also handles secure feeds (those that require a username and password). You may still be able to create a portable version of FeedDemon.

Update: Nick Bradbury has released a last, free version of FeedDemon Pro, which no linger links to Google Reader.

"FeedDemon requires Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, with Internet Explorer 7 or later installed." It's been running fine for me on Windows 8 as well.

RSSOwl: Compares very favorably with FeedDemon. They both have powerful ways to manage feeds, and several viewing options. RSSOwl's options seem more versatile. It's not obvious how to find and set up just the combination of options you want for either one though. I like to view just a list of feed posts in the reader, and open the ones that catch my eye directly in Firefox. That combination is not easy to set up, but it's possible to get just what I want in both. I like the resulting view in RSSOwl a little better, but there are many other viewing modes that I haven't evaluated. RSSOwl easily imports existing feeds from other readers.

"RSS Owl is a powerful application to organize, search and read your news feeds in a comfortable way. It runs cross platform on Windows, Linux and Mac and can also be installed into Eclipse. RSS Owl is translated into the popular languages of the world.

"Some of the unique highlights are google reader synchronization, tabbed reading, powerful searches that can be saved, news filters with automated actions, embedded browser and newspaper layout, tray notifications, clean-up wizard and powerful user customization.

"RSSOwl requires no installation (but it does require Java) Simply start it with a doubleclick and find a large list of sample feeds already provided. For your convenience, an installer is provided on Windows. On Linux, you can obtain RSSOwl from the online repository (http://www.rssowl.org)."

FeedReader is a simple, straightforward program that easily handles a large number of feeds. FeedReader is not as powerful as FeedDemon but it has most of the important options, and not a lot of confusing ones. It does not require Java either (many readers do for some reason). FeedReader provides the important option to open links in an external browser (but not the post itself as FeedDemon does).  It does not sync with Google Reader, but imports or exports OPML files that are compatible with Google Reader.

"Feedreader provides cutting-edge features in an intuitive, user-friendly environment. Even non-technical users can view comprehensive, consolidated information from across the Internet – faster and easier than ever before."

BlogBridge is targeted at power users who subscribe to many feeds, but don't let that scare you off. It's designed to make it easy to discover feeds you'll be interested in. BlogBridge gives you access to "Guides", which are written by experts in many different feed categories.  You can upload a list of  your feeds to a free "BlogBridge Service" account to synchronize your feeds across multiple computers.

Omea Reader combines Web browsing, feed reading and newsgroups in one capable application. Omea Pro (also free) adds email, ICQ and Miranda (multi-protocol IM) to create an integrated information workspace. Integrated with Microsoft Outlook for email.

RSS Bandit and Awasu are comparable to FeedDemon, but they're a bit less capable and complex. That means their learning curves are not as formidable. Even so, they are elegant full-featured readers. RSS Bandit is now an Open Source program. It was launched by Dare Obasanjo -- programmer, avid feed reader and active blogger. Awasu is widely used by business users.

Thunderbird has built-in support for aggregating RSS feeds. Thunderbird allows you to view RSS feeds the same way you view your email. I is convenient to have feeds available without opening another program. It's simple - but a little obscure the first time - to subscribe to RSS feeds with Thunderbird. The mollizaZine knowledge base has the information you need to get started subscribing to RSS feeds with Thunderbird.

Quick Selection Guide

Notice: Google announced that Google Reader was swept up in their 2013 "Spring Cleaning." Many feed readers currently use the Reader API to sync subscriptions and post read status between computers and also portable devices. They will all be left high and dry unless another API is made available by some as yet unknown entity that leaps in to fill the gap.

QuiteRSS
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
QuiteRSS is a relatively-new, open-source, cross-platform RSS/Atom news reader. It is versatile, and has a full set of options. QuietRSS has a rich set of social sharing options (Email/Twitter/Facebook/.../Pocket/Etc). QuietRSS is fast starting, and navigation is quick. Both portable and installed versions are available.
Does not have one of my "essential" functions (a way to open posts directly in an external without first opening them in the internal reading pane). I know that's not the way most users read feeds though. ;)
http://quiterss.org/en
0.16.2 as of 8/18/2014
12.6MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Linux, Windows 7 & 8,
FeedDemon
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
FeedDemon is a power-user's dream, but it's intuitive enough for intermediate level users. It no longer integrates with Google Reader. FeedDemon handles feeds with attachments, like podcasts, very well too. It also handles secure feeds (those that require a username and password).
Perhaps a bit complex for a neophyte user.
http://www.feeddemon.com/
http://www.feeddemon.com/
4.5
4 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows XP, Vista or 7, with IE 7 or later installed (also runs fine on Windows 8).

You may still be able to create a portable version of FeedDemon - see the Discussion.

FeedReader
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple, straightforward feed reader that easily handles a (very) large number of feeds. Has the essential options, and not a lot of confusing ones. Does not require Java (many other readers do for some reason). Import or export OPML files. Option to open links in an external browser.
Not as many options as FeedDemon (but simpler to use). Does not sync with Google Reader.
http://feedreader.com/
3.14
6.2 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP, 7 & 8
BlogBridge
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Runs on Mac, Windows AND Linux. Targeted at power users who subscribe to many feeds. Designed to make it easy to discover feeds you'll be interested in. Gives you access to "Guides", which are written by experts in many different feed categories. Upload a list of your feeds to a free "BlogBridge Service" account to synchronize your feeds across multiple computers.
Requires Java.
http://www.blogbridge.com/
6.7
5.1 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows, Mac and Linux. Requires Java.
RSSOwl
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
A powerful, classic RSS reader, along the lines of FeedDemon. Many filtering, viewing, tagging and organizing options. RSSOwl allows nested folders.
Requires Java.
http://www.rssowl.org/
2.2
5 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows, Mac and Linux. Requires Java.

NOTE: See the comment at - http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-rss-reader-aggregator.htm#comm... - about freeze problems.

To set up the mode I prefer (a simple list of posts in the reader, and open the ones of interest in Firefox) use the following preferences. 1) View > Layout > pick "Classic" > move divider to the bottom of the list panel. 2) Tools > Preferences > Browser > pick "Use the standard external browser (Mozilla Firefox)"

Omea Reader
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/
2.1.2
5 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000/XP/2003, requires Microsoft .NET.
RSS Bandit
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Elegant, full featured open-source program. Nice balance between capable and complex. Ties in with IE7 feed subscriptions through the Windows RSS Platform.
Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. While the latest update was 2013-02-13, the project is not active, and there has been no response to the loss of sync with Google Reader.
http://www.rssbandit.org/
1.9.0
8.2 MB
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000/XP/2003 Server. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
Awasu
2
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Elegant, full featured. Nice balance between capable and complex. Widely used by business users.
The file size is relatively large (but Awasu doesn't require .NET or Java).
http://www.awasu.com/
3.0
38 MB
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98/XP/Vista/7

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Comments

by Funcy-dcm on 26. January 2013 - 14:28  (104838)

Hello.
What do you think about QuiteRSS version 0.12.0?

by runbei on 14. March 2013 - 0:29  (106227)

Google Reader is going away. What will Feedly do? I'm having no luck finding an acceptable Web-based replacement for Google Reader.

by philip on 14. March 2013 - 15:11  (106242)

Feedly may be in the best position to fill the vacuum that Google Reader will leave. They are already working on their own backend server, and have stated that there will be a seamless switchover when the lights go out at Google Reader.

Feedly itself looks much improved to me since the last time I tried it. It looks good enough to replace FeedDemon, which has been my favorite reader (but will no longer sync without Google Reader).

by RushArt on 15. March 2013 - 10:11  (106259)

With the inevitalble death of Google Reader, this page is more relevant than ever.

Also, the creator of FeedDemon also decided not to develop his software anymore which is caused by Google Reader soon demise.

Link: http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2013/03/the-end-of-feeddemon.html

by datajanne on 12. April 2013 - 22:13  (107030)

*** gPodder *** The best pod aggregator i know and used for years is gPodder (open source). I use it every week to downloand mp3-radio programs (+30 feeds) and have tried at least 20 rss aggregators but this one is "da shit" for that purpose imho :) Try to prove me wrong :) It should be in this list!

by philip on 12. April 2013 - 22:51  (107032)

Thanks datajanne. Yes, another good podcast aggregator. I've added it in that section. It's available as a portable version from PortableApps too.

by rhiannon on 22. May 2013 - 21:55  (107971)
by rhiannon on 22. May 2013 - 22:35  (107973)

Update from Nick, Feed Demon developer:
I'll release a new version of FeedDemon which no longer syncs with Google Reader. This version will be free, won't contain any ads, and will have all of the features of the Pro version. You can use it free of charge for as long as you like - but it will be the last version of FeedDemon.

Nick Bradbury: My Plan for FeedDemon

by elastic-pad on 26. May 2013 - 21:26  (108047)

try out elastic-pad (web based for desktop and mobile):
http://www.elastic-pad.com

by philip on 26. May 2013 - 23:54  (108049)

"coming soon...."

by F13-Reboot on 14. June 2013 - 10:00  (108522)

FeedDemon has problems with a large database (5-8.000) of news, sometimes it hangs. Much better is GreatNews. http://www.curiostudio.com/

by philip on 14. June 2013 - 12:14  (108529)

GreatNews is still stuck in Beta. Judging by the GreatNews forum, and by the fact that the blog is not reachable, there is not much development. It looks interesting and suited to intrepid users, but it doesn't appear ready yet for broad recommendation or serious review.

by philip on 23. June 2013 - 15:58  (108680)

Nick Bradbury has released a last, free version of FeedDemon Pro, which no linger links to Google Reader.

by sicknero on 24. June 2013 - 8:59  (108697)

I wouldn't call myself an especially intrepid user but this one is still my favourite RSS reader.

My version (1.0.0.386 portable) has no beta tag and the developer last posted in the forum just a month ago so he's still interested I guess, although the version I have is two years old.

Anyway all that being said, out of the available off-line readers/aggregators that I've tried so far, I find this one easily the most stable and least demanding on resources, and the interface/layout is pleasing too.

by sicknero on 24. June 2013 - 9:09  (108698)

I've been trying gpodder for about a month now, the PAF portable version. I really really like it - the layout, the GUI, the way it accepts video podcasts, the way it handles incomplete downloads.

However I don't know if it's just me but when I run it, it maxes out my CPU for ages, takes forever to load, and often has to be restarted for the downloads to work.

On balance I don't really mind this too much - I've been happy to run it when I'm on my way out or whatever a couple of times a week, so I can just leave it to it, even though I sometimes return to my PC and find that the downloads have "stuck" so I have to try it again later.

To be fair my desktop PC is rather elderly which might be the problem. I'll give gpodder a whirl on my laptop to see if it's any better, but meanwhile I just learnt in this thread that Media Monkey handles podcasts so I'll try that out as a possible alternative.

Which in turn has reminded me that Winamp does too, so I'll add that to my list of possibles.

by sicknero on 24. June 2013 - 9:11  (108699)

Very nice, but maxes out my CPU for quite a while when updating. (v 0.13)

by philip on 24. June 2013 - 13:39  (108702)

You can use the "Cleanup Wizard" under Tools in the menu to limit how many and how long to retain old posts that you've already read. I also find that it helps to use the Manage Cache utility under File in the menu to compress the cache and check it for errors.

by Faziri on 2. August 2014 - 1:28  (117691)

QuiteRSS has matured a lot since it was last considered (from what I can see) and I've been using it with great satisfaction for the last year and a bit. Could it be reconsidered? I tried a lot of different clients of all kinds and eventually settled on QuiteRSS because it's the only one with all the features I wanted: desktop program, lightweight, no skinning, folder structures, default settings + feed+specific settings, filters, notifications and a tray icon with a counter. All other clients lack something, usually folders, or they have a non-native appearance.

by philip on 2. August 2014 - 18:13  (117706)

Thanks for the reminder Faziri. It's been a while since I looked at QuiteRSS for inclusion in this category. I discovered that there is a PortableApps.com version, and I have that running on Windows 8, which is a good sign that development is still active. I'll be using it for a while to see what I think.

by Jojo Yee on 3. August 2014 - 1:33  (117713)

Currently I'm using InoReader and it serves me quite well.
http://www.inoreader.com/

by philip on 3. August 2014 - 13:19  (117719)

That's an interesting web-app/browser extension Jojo.

by snakyjake on 19. August 2014 - 20:41  (118070)

A feature that I require are nested folders. Most of the readers I've tried only allow one folder.

RSSOwl allows for nested subfolders.

I'll try some others...

by philip on 19. August 2014 - 21:11  (118072)

Thanks snakyjake. That's a unique feature. I'll make a note in the description.

by snakyjake on 19. August 2014 - 22:39  (118075)

QuiteRSS:
+Portable.
+Open source.
-No SOCKS proxy support. This kills it for me.

Thunderbird:
+Like the idea of mail+RSS feeds in one place.
-Managing subscriptions is not well thought out. For example: Can't create a new folder in "Managing Subscriptions". There's also some funk stuff it does when moving folders. There's a lot of steps involved to do other tasks.

RSSOwl:
+Subfolders.
+Excellent feed and folder management.
+Discontinued feeds are displayed with an X.
+Fast.
+No problems with Java.
+Open source.

by philip on 19. August 2014 - 23:38  (118076)

Interesting snakyjake. By "+No problems with Java." do you mean Java is no longer required, or do you mean that Java causes no problems for RSSOwl? I have purged Java from my devices forever because of the endless security holes it reveals.

by snakyjake on 22. August 2014 - 16:18  (118152)

QuiteRSS has SOCKS proxy support in v0.16.2 (18.08.2014)Revision 3378, which is in beta right now.

QuiteRSS is very fast and light weight.

I'm running a portable version.

QuiteRSS has some RSS formatting issues that I'm trying to work out. Right now it strips out the formatting while other RSS readers will show me the RSS feed's posting with full format. There is an option to see the feed post as a complete webpage, but that's the entire full framed webpage. Other readers do a better job. But this may be an option I can't find, a bug, or a future enhancement.

by snakyjake on 22. August 2014 - 16:41  (118153)

RSSOwl does require the Java runtime. But it does appear RSSOwl runs binaries, hence the .EXE as I see in my folder.

What I meant by "no Java problems" is that I haven't noticed any Java performance issues. I know nothing regarding potential Java security issues.

The advantage is the OS portability. I can run RSSOwl on my Windows machine as well as my Linux machine. There's also OSX, or running with Eclipse. There's also a non-installed/portable version if you want to run without installing.

I critically depend on RSS feed readers, and RSSOwl is my top choice (SOCKS, open source, features). Though QuiteRSS might replace it if it can properly format a feed. I like my RSS feeds with my Thunderbird email, but the RSS management is miserable. Additionally, it might be better to keep the email/rss separate so I can have the freedom to choose which ever application is best at what it does.

by Funcy-dcm on 22. August 2014 - 17:04  (118154)

"Does not have one of my "essential" functions (a way to open posts directly in an external without first opening them in the internal reading pane). I know that's not the way most users read feeds though. ;)"

Use the middle mouse button to open the news in an external browser.

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