Google Reader’s imminent demise has left most of us scrambling to find a new feed reader that hits the spot for us. For developers who were planning new RSS reader apps, it’s been a bigger rush to the market than any of them could have predicted months ago. We’ve gone through tons of RSS apps over the past few weeks in our reviews, many of them brand new apps while others are older services that have matured and added features recently. RSS apps went from a stagnant market dominated by Google to a market of diverse, exciting apps of all shapes and sizes, which if anything is a good side effect for us all.
The latest feed reader on the block is Feed Wrangler, a project that’d already been in the works for several months prior to Google’s announcement and that’s now ready for use. It’s simpler to use than many feed readers, though also more geeky with ways to make your own dynamic feeds from the sites you’re subscribed to. Let’s take a look.
Feed Wrangler isn’t designed as a new way to read your news, or surface the best links from your feeds. It’s not shiny and eye-catching, but rather sports a spartan gray+text UI that’s reminiscent of the bookmarking service Pinboard. And it’s not free, but rather costs $19/year (which works out to around $1.50/month, which is hardly a princely sum).
Feed Wrangler is instead designed to be the best way to subscribe to all of your feeds, with a lightening fast interface and clean fonts that make it easy to browse through the day’s headlines or read articles in full. It’s got deep Read Later integration so you can save the best articles to read later, and full text search through all of your feeds and their article content to find exactly what you’re looking for. Most interesting, it’s got a unique Smart Streams feature that lets you make your own custom feeds based on queries you’ve setup. Plus, it’s got a sustainable business model, so you can bank on the fact that Feed Wrangler will be there when you need it, and won’t meet an untimely death like Google Reader.
Feed Wrangler isn’t a simple clone of Google Reader. Instead it is an alternative take on aggregating RSS that I think makes it much easier to manage.
~David Smith, Feed Wrangler Developer
So far, so good. In fact, it just might be what you’ve been looking for in a feed reader, if you really wanted to replace Google Reader with something that was similar, but then also pushed the bar with unique tools that make feeds more powerful.
If you’re a Google Reader refugee, you couldn’t have it easier with Feed Wrangler. It has a prominent Google Reader import tool that, after a quick authentication with your Google account, will pull all of your feeds and favorites over in seconds. It imported my full Google Reader account and had my latest unread feeds ready to read about 20 seconds after I completed my Google Reader import.
Of course, if you used another RSS reader app, or are just getting started with RSS, Feed Wrangler works great too. You can import your OPML file or add individual feeds directly. Then, going forward, you can use the bookmarklet to subscribe to RSS feeds from sites you visit.
The best thing is, Feed Wrangler brings over everything from Google Reader, including your starred items, something that few Google Reader alternates do. It’ll even bring over articles you starred that aren’t currently in your feed list, so nothing is lost. If you’re moving from Google Reader to Feed Wrangler, you won’t need to worry about importing starred items into Pinboard or something else; there’ll all here in one app.
Time to Settle In
If you wanted a straight-out feed reader, Feed Wrangler has you covered, no questions asked. But it has some features that go beyond that. Most obviously, there’s built-in search that searches the full contents of your feeds, which is very nice but often overlooked. Then, there’s very nice Read Later app support, which will both let you quickly send articles to your favorite service and will also check Instapaper to see if articles are already in your Reading Later list.
Best of all, there’s support for Smart Streams — your own feeds made dynamically from articles in your feeds. You can enter search filters to surface articles with the keywords you want in their text, then set what feeds you want it to include in the Smart Stream. Save it, and you’ll instantly have a set of all articles with those keywords. It’s a simple way to keep up on what’s most important to you in all of your feeds, and will be interesting to see what more you can do with it in the future once the API is released.
Beyond that, Feed Wrangler works much as you’d expect. You can browse through a list of your feeds in order, or just see the unread items. Click on an item to read it in full in the app, or click the read-it-later icon to save it to your reading app of choice. My only frustration was with the lack of keyboard shortcuts, something I hope will be added in the future to make reading sans-mouse easier.
Designed for Apps
There’s more than just the web app, too. Feed Wrangler’s already got its own iOS app for free, that if anything is more polished than the web app. There’s also a promised full-featured Mac app, as well as a complementary iOS Podcasts app, presumably using Feed Wrangler as a way to subscribe to podcasts and listen to them on the go.
But that’s not all. Feed Wrangler is designed with a full 3rd party API, so 3rd party feed reader apps can plug into Feed Wrangler just like they did with Google Reader. The Android app Press has already announced Feed Wrangler support, and hopefully more apps will be coming soon.
When David Smith set out to build Feed Wrangler, he didn’t want to simply clone Google Reader. Instead, he wanted to build a sustainable service that builds on the very idea of feeds, in a way that users would love.
On that goal, Feed Wrangler’s already a great accomplishment. It’s smart feeds go where no other feed readers I’ve ever used have gone, and the lightening-fast app makes checking the news simpler than ever. When more native apps are available, Feed Wrangler will definitely be one of the most attractive options for switching away from Google Reader. If the web app just had keyboard shortcuts, it’d have everything you’d be used to in Google Reader, and more.
Feed Wrangler is a great choice to try out if you haven’t found the perfect feed reader for your needs yet, and it’ll be exciting to see how it improves and takes feeds further going forward.