Best Free RSS Reader-Aggregator

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Introduction

The "best" feed reader is largely a matter of individual preference. 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.

This article reviews several feed readers in these categories:

Desktop Readers

QuiteRSS  

A clean, up-to-date implementation of an email-style feed reader.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Open source)
Open-source and cross-platform; versatile and has a full set of options; has a rich set of social sharing options (Email/Twitter/Facebook/.../Pocket/Etc); fast starting and navigation is quick. Both portable and installed versions are available.
The main toolbar can be customized with a rich selection of elements -- Print, Evernote, Zoom out/in, etc. -- but the way to reach them is hard to discover.
Read full review...

FeedReader  

A simple and straightforward program easily handles a large number of feeds.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

FeedDemon  

A powerful, time-proven program with a well thought out user interface.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
A power-user's dream, but it's intuitive enough for intermediate level users. Handles feeds with attachments, like podcasts, very well too. Also handles secure feeds (those that require a username and password). No longer integrates with Google Reader.
Perhaps a bit complex for a neophyte user. Development ceased in 2013, which leads to a lower rating here even though it's a powerful RSS reader.
Read full review...

RSSOwl  

A powerful cross-platform application to organize, search and read your news feeds in a comfortable way.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Open source)
A powerful, classic RSS reader, along the lines of FeedDemon. Many filtering, viewing, tagging and organizing options. RSSOwl allows nested folders.
Requires Java.
Read full review...

Honourable Mentions

  • 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. It 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.

 

Web-based/Web-app Readers

  • The Old Reader was one of the web-based readers that emerged after the demise of Google Reader. It is a simple, straightforward reader that is easy to set up. You can send posts to email, Facebook and Twitter.

  • Feedly is similar to Inoreader. It also displays the latest updates for sites like Facebook and Twitter. Feedly integrates with many other apps and services as well.

  • G2Reader and The Old Reader are similar to Feedly and Inoreader. According to their websites, the free versions  can accommodate up to 100 feeds. That's enough for many (most?) RSS users.

  • Winds [download] is an emerging entry in the web-based/web-app category. It is a responsive reader that fits well in the current idiom for multi-device "apps". Winds offers many ways to discover feeds and podcasts. There are still some rough edges, but it is relatively easy to use.

  • NewsTab is a new web-based reader for browsers and Android now and iOS soon. Sync between devices is next. NewsTab presents content not just from conventional RSS feeds, but via a large array of pre-selected Sections,  your Twitter and Google accounts, Google searches, and a large number of publications, including many local ones.

    I was impressed by the way NewsTab responds quickly to commands and selections. The presentation is flexible, well thought out, and attractive as well. It is easy to set up NewsTab and try it out on your device.

  • 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.

  • 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 connect the feeds you want to follow, you can shift to reading them, extracting what you need, 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 Built-ins / 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.

  • Inoreader is my RSS reader of choice. It is clean, simple and powerful, and displays articles in several formats. You can use it with podcasts and also create pseudo-feeds from the Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Like many modern web-apps, Inoreader offers a full suite of social "sharing" options — not that I use them.  It also integrates with email, Pocket, OneNote and Dropbox. Inoreader provides Android and iOS apps, plus a mobile site for other small format devices. There are Inoreader extensions for major browsers.

  • Opera has a built-in RSS reader integrated with Opera Mail.

  • Feed Readers Add-ons for Firefox is a collection of popular feed-reader add-ons maintained by Mozilla. You can add them to Firefox directly from the collection page. Both Brief and Newsfox integrate directly with Live Bookmarks.

    • Brief, powerful and simple at the same time, 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.

  • NewsBlur, an RSS reader that you can "train" (like/dislike) to show you just the kind of posts you want to see from each feed. 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • BitsCast, FireANT, VLC Media Player and Media Monkey are some more media aggregators that might be just what you're looking for.

 

Related links

Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor philip. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or suggestions they might have by clicking here.

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Comments

Another minor annoyance in Inoreader is that the "Recommended Sources" feature doesn't seem to know whether or not you're already subsribed to a feed.

Thus it will recommend feeds that you already have and, it will let you subscribe to them too so that you can easily end up with duplicate subscriptions.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I had RSSOwl running happily as a portable prog just by putting Java in it's root folder (instead of installing Java I mean).

I think I might have had to change a couple of paths in some ini or other, but it worked very well.

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...

Thanks snakyjake. That's a unique feature. I'll make a note in the description.
Currently I'm using InoReader and it serves me quite well. http://www.inoreader.com/
That's an interesting web-app/browser extension Jojo.

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.

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

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

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.
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.

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.

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

"coming soon...."

*** 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!

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

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.

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

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

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

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).

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