This post has been sitting in my draft folder FOREVER, as I was never quite happy with the formatting or what I wrote. I decided I’m going to push it through anyway.
I’ve been using Google products for years. Like most people I’m attracted to the ability to save my work server-side as well as being able to export it to my own local hard drive for safe-keeping. Most companies don’t tend to do both because their business model is to lock you into their services usually to ensure constant ad revenue. Google instead relies on innovation and user-friendliness, which hasn’t failed them yet (at least, except maybe Orkut, which I also enjoy…alone), this includes Google Reader.
It all starts off with a pretty simple layout. The right pane is for viewing your feeds/statistics, the left pane is for navigating your feeds and options. The ability to use Google Gears to view your feeds offline also gives you a great option for laptop users who will be traveling without wifi access, as you don’t need to install a local news reader.
The layout for the reading the feeds is the most important feature however, and it doesn’t get much better than this. As you can see, it looks very much like any feed reader out there, very simple, with black text on a white background, all the images are there and easy to see. You can even collapse the navigation pane for a larger viewing window. With all the different viewing options on how the articles will appear, I think everyone can find a view that they like which is really what customization is really about.
Another very cool feature I probably couldn’t live without is Google Reader’s Trends. I’ve always been one to enjoy graphs and statistics (especially when they’re about me; see Review:WhatPulse, Review:RescueTime and DD-WRT Vs Tomato). However I do find this somewhat useful as if I find I’m reading too much junk feeds, or I haven’t read from a particular feed in many many months; I’ll prune the feeds to increase my productivity. This doesn’t always work how I’d like however. In order to get an article to disappear from your ‘new items’ you have to click ‘read’ even though I may just be skipping it as that particular article doesn’t have my interest (Slashdot or Metafilter are two of the big feeds I have trouble with in this regard). I propose having an ‘ignore’ box as well, which will show up on trends showing how many you ignore, so you can also prune away if the numbers get too high.
For the most part I think Google Reader is the best feed reader out there, although I’ve seen some religious wars with Bloglines vs Google Reader. The arguments for both sides aren’t very convincing as Google has/is taking all the good features from Bloglines, and getting rid of the bugs and problems Bloglines has (such as duplicate articles in the feed). It’s all up to you to decide because that’s what the Internet is about; choices.
Here are a few other screenshots of different views, for those interested enough to care, but not yet enough to sign-up.