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Best Free RSS Reader-Aggregator

 
In a Hurry?
  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
Introduction

Interim notes on migrating from Google Reader:

Google Reader was swept up in "Spring Cleaning" this year at Google. Several feed readers currently use the Reader API to sync subscriptions between computers and portable devices. They will be left high and dry unless another API is made available to fill the gap. You should export your feed subscriptions from Google Reader now if you don't do something else.

NewsBlur makes it dead simple to connect to Google Reader or upload an OPML file to clone your Google Reader subscriptions.

Feedly was already working on their own backend server, and they have now switched over. They are making their API available to other readers.

Update: There are now - 2013.07.02 - 16 apps connected to the Feedly API.

RSSOwl issued a note note about the need to install the an older version - RSSOwl 2.1.6 - before you can import feeds from Google Reader. After the import you can easily update to RSSOwl 2.2 (or later) and continue the migration by selecting Tools > Unsubscribe from Google Reader. I don't know if you can use an OPML file exported from Google Reader as an alternative.

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

WebReader was the desktop companion of a series of mobile-apps for iPad, iPhone, and Kindle Fire. It is closing down due to the demise of Google Reader. It may or may not come back. Be sure to export your WebReader data before July 1.


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. 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.
  4. Feedly is a feed reader for the 21st Century. cool It's available as an extension / add-on for all major browsers, and there are extensions and web-apps for major browsers, Blackberry, Android devices, iPhone and iPad. It has steadily improved since it was announced. Feedly developed their own backend server to replace Google's. See more on these and other readers 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.
  7. Web-apps for smart phones and tablets.

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

FeedDemon splash image.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. Read more at the top in the Introduction.

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.

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.

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

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.
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.
WebReader
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Desktop companion of a series of mobile-apps for iPad, iPhone, and Kindle Fire (so far). Has just the few important options you'd find in a mobile-app. That makes it easy to learn how to use, especially if you're familiar with touch-centric devices. WebReader makes it easy to access web feeds by list, excerpts or full posts, and adds "Previous" / "Next" arrows to navigate with. Read original content at websites/blogs directly in the reading pane.
Does not sync directly with Google Reader, but imports/exports OPML files, which allows you to sync indirectly. Requires Adobe Air.
http://www.getwebreader.com/
0.8.80
1.8 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows, Mac or Linux
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 wpeckham on 17. April 2008 - 21:45  (84)

Try checking out Bottomfeeder at http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/BottomFeeder/ for another great free feed reader.   I have run the windows installer on Vista-pro_x86 version and it works as well as it does on XP 32-bit.  

by Anonymous on 22. April 2008 - 23:52  (236)

Thanks for the suggestion. We're entering a more active editing phase, so I just got around to looking at comments on my categories. I've heard of BottomFeeder, but don't remember anything about it, so I'll go have a look.

by philip on 22. April 2008 - 23:56  (237)

Woops, forgot to log in before commenting. Guess I've gotten rusty. :-)

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by Anonymous on 24. May 2008 - 10:00  (1060)

Abilon is another good choice, it's abandonware though, so I don't know if that qualifies.

http://email.about.com/cs/rssfeedreaders/gr/abilon.htm

Don't let the article fool you, you can easily find it for download.

-Wally G

by philip on 25. May 2008 - 12:49  (1115)

Well, I think the answer is, "It depends." However, there are so many free programs available in this category that I think the best policy here is "No." :-)

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by Anonymous on 31. May 2008 - 20:16  (1444)

There is an abundance of choices in this category. It seems that every reader has its specific pluses and minuses. I've checked out many of them, and none is perfect. If you have a slooooow connection and limited bandwidth like I do, RSS Bandit is the best I've found. RSS Owl and FeedDemon would be a close second.

by Gorm on 5. June 2008 - 19:02  (1630)

Omea Pro and Omea Reader

I recently submitted a small article to be added here on Omea Reader and Omea Pro but it has not shown up yet.
However, it is by far the best News and RSS Feed software available. It has quite recently, after a year of seemingly endless discussions. It is the best that could happen to this very nice product.

I expect many new add-ons to come plus a new version (3.0) that is about to come later this year.

More info:
Omea Pro http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/
Omea Reader http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/reader/index.html

Download links:
Omea Pro http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/download/download.html
Omea Reader http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/download/reader.html

Regards
Gorm Chandler

by Anonymous on 8. June 2008 - 14:18  (1759)

Thanks for the suggestion Gorm. I'll take a look at Omea.

by Anonymous on 17. June 2008 - 15:09  (2262)

I don't use a standalone feed reader. Opera's built-in reader is pretty good.

by Anonymous on 20. June 2008 - 4:08  (2581)

Google reader is definitely the ONE,you don't have to store the rss on your own storage,and what's more ,you can read rss anywhere ,without installing any readers ,and the most important is,it saves you reading history,you know what you have read and not when you open the feeds on other computers.

by leland.w on 20. June 2008 - 23:04  (2739)

A couple of readers I have bookmarked that looked good to me are as follows:

SharpReader http://www.sharpreader.net/

FeedReader http://www.feedreader.com/

Outlook users might like RSS Popper http://rsspopper.blogspot.com/2004/10/home.html

by philip on 22. June 2008 - 0:13  (2845)

Thanks for the suggestions Leland.

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by oblivion on 25. June 2008 - 9:14  (3065)

I've been using GreatNews for a week or two, mostly because it cheerfully runs portably. Might be worth a look.

http://www.curiostudio.com/index.html

Tim

by philip on 25. June 2008 - 11:51  (3070)

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the tip. I'll take a look.

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by vihar on 27. June 2008 - 17:27  (3206)

RSS syndication is becoming increasingly popular as it brings the web to you rather than you having to go to the web for updated pages.

In addition to the stand-alone and web-based RSS readers that you have discussed, I suggest that you should also include a section for add-on RSS readers (as you've only mentioned about them and not included any reviews). In this category, I strongly recommend Brief (Firefox extension) to users of Firefox. It's extremely usable and customisably with all the basic features and requires little or no knowledge of RSS for getting started. It's the best overall RSS solution. I strongly recommend it.
Web: http://brief.mozdev.org/

Hope this helps.

Regards.

by philip on 29. June 2008 - 19:00  (3314)

Thanks,
As you see, I've added Brief, and reorganized things a bit. In the process, I realized that a more comprehensive browser add-on might rival the browser-centric advantages that Google Reader gives me. Something for me to try. :-)

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by Anonymous on 29. June 2008 - 19:43  (3316)

I prefer NewsFox

by Snork on 7. July 2008 - 13:11  (3740)

Nice find Wally! Finally an application that just checks for new content and alerts me when it finds some. It lets me open the content in my favourite browser and doesn't depend on a parade of bloated code to be pre-installed. Booyeah!

by Anonymous on 7. July 2008 - 16:00  (3754)

Opera has excellent built-in RSS Reader

by philip on 8. July 2008 - 14:30  (3810)

After a quick trial, NewsFox appears to me to be a capable 3-pane feed reader that is well integrated with Firefox. I could be happy using it for a modest number of feeds.

One obvious limitation is the lack of a true 2-pane mode. Yes, you can maximize the reading pane, but you must go back to 3-pane to read the next item. Update: From a comment below, if you want to move to the next item while in 2 pane mode, use the built in shortcut keys. You can open items in a new tab from the item list though, which is nice.

There's also a trap for the neophyte user: There is no obvious way to close Newsfox in the default configuration of Firefox. There are solutions, e.g. just navigate to a website, change the Tab options to "Always show the tab bar", etc.

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 14:54  (3812)

I suggested Newsfox because I'm using it for a while and I have never experienced any issue. You don't have to read a manual to use it, I find it very user friendly.

Personaly I prefer 3 pane because I don't want feeds to be mixed with bookmarks. That's why I said I prefer it to Brief. Besides, with a wide screen format this is realy no problem.

At this moment I have +1900 feeds organized in 12 categories and no problem. What do you consider a "modest number"?

I don't think a lot of users navigate with just 1 tab: Newsfox always open's and closes as any tab, that's not a big deal... IMHO.

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 18:01  (3824)

Opera is excellent in many ways, 9.5 is better than ever - from a Firefox user. I would use it if it had an integrated calendar and if I had widgets that replace my favorite extensions.

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 19:10  (3832)

BTW, I think Newsfox, Wizz RSS (Lite), Brief, Feed Sidebar are very much the same in terms of features. That's a matter of personal taste. If you want a more complete RSS manager that integrates FF, I would suggest infoRSS, which integrates the context menu and displays updated feeds in the status menu (mine is so crowded nowadays). But you do have a bigger learning curve, some users reported it doesn't keep the settings...

http://inforss.mozdev.org/index.html

infoRSS 1.1.3 features:

* RSS feed including RSS Gmail notifier (with https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom)
* ATOM feed
* NNTP feed
* HTML feed (in fact any text document on internet: RDF, txt, HTML...). Extraction with regular expression
* Support for SSL feed (HTTPS)
* Customized refresh time per feed
* Automatic or manual refresh
* Customized number of headlines to display per feed
* Customized number of character to display per feed (status bar is a limited area...)
* Customized favicon per feed or group
* Customized filter per feed : filter on title, subject, headline number, published date, received date, ...
* Enable/Disable filter
* Group of feeds
* Customized filter per group : filter for the group or combination with feed's filter and group
* Full associated HTML article in a simple clic on the headline
* Customized style sheet for headlines : font family, font size, background color, foreground color
* Display headlines in the status bar or in a separate bar (top or bottom)
* Manual resize of the status bar area
* Automatic size adjustment with the window width
* Skip headline
* Automatic scrolling feeds in the headline area
* Manual scrolling feeds in the headline area with scroll mouse
* Manual scrolling by pixel or by headline
* Right to left or left to right scrolling direction
* Customized scrolling speed
* Fade in/out headlines
* All headlines in the main menu as a submenu
* Automatic cycling between feed or group or within feed of a group
* Skip empty feed in cycling mode
* Popup when new headlines are published
* Customized icon bar beside the headline bar
* Mark all headlines as read
* View all headlines at once
* Flashing icon when refreshing
* Read article in tooltip, a new tab or a new window
* Tooltip on headline to see the full title, begin of article, all info or full article without opening a new tab
* Tooltip in HTML mode for rich description
* Tooltip that supports multimedia in ENCLOSURE tag : images are displayed beside the description, and audio and video files are played (podcasting, try feed http://inforss.mozdev.org/inforss.xml) with the firefox embedded multimedia plugin
* Size and type of the enclosure in the tooltip on the enclosure icon
* Tooltip on main icon to display the number of hedline / unread headline
* Option to play/mute podcast
* Display icon near headline in case of enclosure tag
* Persistence of viewed and banned headline even after the session
* Remote synchronization with FTP or WebDav server
* OPML import and export from a local file or a distant ressource (on internet)
* Export the repository in the bookmark hierarchy
* Display the repository on screen
* Display the RSS file in the browser by dragging the feed in the menu on the browser
* Detect RSS feed in the current page and add an item in the menu
* Contextual menu in Firefox to add a feed in the extension repository
* Add any URL in the clipboard to the menu to simply add it to the repository
* Detete a feed in the menu with drag and drop on the trash bin
* Add a feed in a group with drag and drop on the group icon in the menu
* Link to the main web page in one click
* Customized FF add feed menu (orange radar icon) to add feed in infoRSS
* Global activity switch
* Activity switch at the feed/group level
* Collapse headline bar if no headline
* Thumbnail image of the main URL in the option dialog
* Quick filter icon to filter in one click all displayed headlines
* Auto or manual decoding in the HTML feed

P.S. In Newsfox, if you want to move to the next item in 2 pane mode, use the built in shortcut keys (I forgot this one in the previous post).

Cheers

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 20:37  (3835)

Please say what extensions?

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 21:18  (3838)

Quick test on Feed Sidebar:
- no import/export (basic)
- cannot save feed search
- preview pane is too small and the info cropped
- cannot add tags (basic)
- cannot create custom groups (basic)
- no shortcuts

Quick test on infoRSS:
- slow interface
- uses too much bandwidt
- freezes at times
- outline needs to be much improved (the worst outline I found)
- the GUI is confusing

I think Feed Sidebar doesn't have the basic features I expect to find in a RSS reader, and I didn't like infoRSS. I'm keeping Newsfox, still the better FF extension IMHO.

by philip on 4. August 2008 - 4:04  (5494)

Feed Sidebar has been updated with new features and bug fixes.

http://www.chrisfinke.com/2008/08/03/feed-sidebar-update/

Cheers ~ Philip Spohn

by Anonymous on 4. August 2008 - 11:54  (5515)

New Features

* Added an option to always have new items open in tabs
* Added a button to the search bar to quickly show all items, both read and unread
* Removed "Mark All as Read" and "Mark All as Unread" from feed and item context menus

Bug Fixes

* Sidebar now shows the name you gave the feed, not the feed's default title.
* Marking a feed (or all items) as read is now much faster. In my tests, it only took about 5% of the time it used to.
* Clicking on a feed name in the preview pane now opens the homepage, not a useless blank page.

That's nothing!

by vihar on 12. August 2008 - 15:56  (5971)

That's brilliant philip, thanks for adding the new group.

When I started my search for a feed-reader, there's one thing I didn't realise. I must have asked myself the question When do I read my feeds? While I'm browsing the net? While I'm reading my e-mail? When I sit down for a dedicated feed-reading session? Or from several computers?

Depending on the answer, one might need a browser-centric feed-reader, an email-integrated feed reader, a stand-alone reader, or a web-based reader.

Also, I wonder why most Firefox users prefer Sage over Brief?

Another quick-tip: If you use Brief, try using FoxMarks and you'll have your feeds backed up automatically with the rest of your life's worth of collected bookmarks.

Regards.

by Anonymous on 4. September 2008 - 8:07  (7330)

Check out Juice, which is multi-platform, open-source standalone RSS aggregator:

http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/

by philip on 5. September 2008 - 13:40  (7379)

So what is Juice?

"Want to listen to internet audio programs but can't when they are scheduled? This program lets you create your own custom online audio anytime, anywhere. Really."

This podcast aggregator (reader) has a bright cheery web site. :-) Juice is interesting. I'm going to need to take a look at how to fit programs like this into the format here.

Cheers