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There are many ways to aggregate and read feeds.
- 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]
- 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.
- Many web-based readers also offer web-apps for smart phones and tablets.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
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.
QuiteRSS is versatile, and offers a full set of options. It uses a classic three-panel layout (feeds/folders, list of posts and browser). QuiteRSS is fast starting, and navigation is quick. Both portable and installed versions are available.
It is is hard to discover some of the QuiteRSS options. For example, it is not obvious how to show/hide the legacy "Menu" bar (|File|View|Feeds|News|...|Help| items).
Menu bar hint: click the tiny icon at the left end of the tabs bar to see and select the "Show Menu Bar" option. Click the "File" menu item in the legacy Menu bar to see and uncheck (hide) the "Show Menu Bar" option)
QuiteRSS has 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 customize > click add > scroll down to the one(s) you want. You can also set keyboard shortcuts for them via the options dialog box.]
QuiteRSS just offers a Users Forum for help, but in spite of customizing challenges, it should be easy for most neophyte users to start using it.
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.
"RSSOwl 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 double-click 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."
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.
Inoreader is the RSS reader that I use now. It is clean, simple and powerful, and displays articles in several formats. Like many modern web-apps, Inoreader offers a full suite of social "sharing" options. It also integrates with many other web-apps, e.g., Pocket, Evernote, and Readability. Inoreader provides Android and iOS apps, plus a mobile site for other small format devices. There are also Inoreader extensions for major browsers.
Blogtrottr is a unique service that accesses web feeds you subscribe to and relays them to your email inbox. It converts the content to a compact, easy-to-read format. Blogtrottr accepts OPML subscription lists too.
Netvibes offers a wide range of "widgets" and apps to access web feeds, tweets and other kinds of dynamic content. For example, there's an app that delivers all the latest news from Google, split up into 8 tabs for World, U.S., Business, Sci/Tech, Sports, Entertainment, Health and Most Popular.
Feedbooster has an impressive array of filters -- date, folder, author, source, etc. It's a different way to access articles. I loaded Feedbooster with a large collection feeds, and it made it easy to find specific feeds and topics. Some users will find it works well for them.
AOL has a simple but complete web reader. In particular, it makes it easy to open items you're interested in a new tab. After you've got the ones you want load, you can shift to reading them, extracting what you want, etc. It imported my large OPML file flawlessly, and I was on my way. (I'm back with FeedDemon for the long term though.)
Browser Add-ons / Extensions
Add-ons / Extensions for browsers and web-apps for smartphones and tablets combine many of the advantages of desktop readers and web-based readers like Google Reader. They have a small footprint and can be "instantly" installed/uninstalled as well. Like web-based readers, an add-on reader creates an efficient browser-centric workspace, with good work flow for feed-based tasks.
Opera has a built-in RSS reader integrated with Opera Mail.
Mozilla maintains a "collection" of popular feed-reader add-ons for Firefox. You can add them to Firefox directly from the collection page.
NewsBlur is an RSS reader that you can "train" (like/dislike) to show you just the kind of posts you want to see from each feed.. See my reply to a fortuitous comment for more information. PCWorld has a more recent article written from the viewpoint of a user. The free version of NewsBlur is limited to 64 feeds, but that is enough for many users. Free iPad/iPhone iOS, Android apps, Windows Phone apps, browser add-ons, and more.
Brief is a Firefox extension: It is powerful and simple at the same time. Brief is an excellent, capable replacement for Google Reader. I follow nearly 500 feeds [crazy I know], and Brief imported all of them flawlessly for my test. NewsFox is another capable add-on that puts a three pane reader (classic email layout) directly in a tab. Both of these Firefox extensions integrate directly with Live Bookmarks. There are also many other feed reader extensions for Firefox.
RSS Subscription Extension adds RSS feed discovery and subscription options to Chrome. The extension comes with 4 feed readers predefined (Google Reader, iGoogle, Bloglines and My Yahoo).
Podcast and Vidcast "readers"
gPodder downloads and manages audio and video content ("podcasts"). Listen directly on your computer or on your mobile devices. Supports RSS, Atom, YouTube, Soundcloud, Vimeo and XSPF feed formats. For Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X and mobile devices like the Nokia N810, N900, N9 and Sailfish OS. A portable version is available from PortableApps.com
Miro is ideally suited for pulling in and managing content from video feeds (vidcasts). It's a powerful open-source video aggregator that opens up a large variety of video "channels". The organization behind Miro is working for a more open and diverse world of online video. [more video programs]
Juice's primary purpose is to pull in and manage audio content (podcasts). Juice supports many media players directly. According to a comment below, Juice appears to be abandon ware, but works fine. FeedDemon also has a podcast utility.
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