Reader X: RSS Innovation

The most popular RSS feed aggregator has become Google Reader. With the release of the App Store, Google Reader clients have started to become a common sight. There are a few popular ones that stick out including Reeder, NetNewsWire, and Mr. Reader.
While all of these are very good clients, they have a lot similarities. Most clients, such as Mr. Reader and NetNewsWire, take the approach of putting your feeds in a vertical scrolling list. Most also feature a feed column that allows the user to group items by feeds. But where is the innovation?

Reader X is the first (in a while) RSS client that takes a new approach to consuming RSS feeds. Instead of seeing feeds vertically they are placed in a horizontal list. Items are color coded based upon age and scrolling is fluid. Read on if a new take on RSS consumption seems interesting to you.


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Layout

As previously mentioned Reader X utilizes a horizontal layout for your feeds. Individual feeds and folders will list out vertically and the items will load horizontally. The item listing is scrollable and it’s easy to tell how old an item is since the items are color coded based upon age. All unread items will have a shade of blue. The newer an item is the darker the shade of blue. Starred items will have a yellow color and read items are greyed out.

Grid Layout

Items are color coded based upon status.

The user has the preference on how long and item will keep its dark blue appearance at the top of the app. The choices are :

  • 1 hour
  • 6 hours
  • 12 hours
  • 24 hours
  • 48 hours

In line with every feed is a corresponding number with how many unread items there are. Tapping the number will mark the items of that feed as read. A mark all as read choice is available at the top right of the app.

Viewing Content

Also in the settings of the app, the user has the preference on how big the squares are for content. The squares can increase or decrease in width and length, which will directly affect the number of items that are viewable on the screen.

If you decide to view an item just tap on the box to reveal the item. The selected item will glow when previewing an article.

RSS Feed Preview

The RSS item loads in a preview window for reading or sending the item to a read later service.

The feed will determine if just a preview is shown or if a full text RSS feed is available. The grid font sizes and font choice are adjustable. They are :

  • Hoefler
  • Trebuchet
  • Helvetica Neue
  • Helvetica
  • GillSans-Light
  • GillSans

My personal choice for the grid view font is GillSans-Light.

Three font choices are available for the article preview that loads. They are:

  • Hoefler
  • Helvetica
  • Trebuchet

Article previews load with a menu bar across the top. The menu bar includes options to keep an item as unread, star an item, view using a mobilizer, action button, and a website view. Reader X supports using the three most popular mobilizer services including Readability, Instapaper, and Read it Later(Pocket). Under the action button lies options to save content to three previously mentioned read later services, share the item through email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinboard, Tumblr, the ability to copy the item and open in Safari.

Web View

The web view will automatically load in the background so there is no wait to view the original item.

An option in the settings, which is automatically turned on, is to load the webpage in the background. This is a great feature because if you choose to visit the webpage you will not have to wait for the page to load. It’s also a reminder why you use RSS to stay up to date on some websites, to avoid the times when you visit their website and it’s covered with a full page ad.

Items to Note

There are two things I noticed when testing the app. The first item I noticed was that a subscribed shared feed was not showing in the feed listing. The actual feed is a link to items that are popular on Google Reader. The feed does not really have a name but in other feed readers the items are just dumped in the general unread items. Reader X would recognize that a feed was there since all my items would individually be marked as read but I would still show a small number at the marked all as read button, but the items would not appear in the feed listing.

The second item I noticed is the app would not remember the last position the user was on when loading content, whether it was all, unread, or starred. Most of the time I am on the unread position.

Unread Grid Layout

I would like the app to remember that I was on the unread section instead of automatically loading all items. Luckily this behavior will be fixed in the next update.

When the app is no longer active and has not been used in a while it will be “turned off” in the multitasking bar, just like any other app. When this happens the app defaults to loading all items instead of remembering I was at the unread section. While this is not that big of a deal it could be for users on a 3G connection. Loading all items is using more data than if the user really just cared about seeing the latest unread updates.

The good news about these items? They are both getting fixed. The developer was very receptive and could duplicate the problem with the shared feed. The developer assured me that both items would be fixed in the next update.

Conclusion

Reader X takes a new approach to consuming RSS feeds. The items are presented in a grid format so the items can be consumed quickly and efficiently. Color coded items quickly let the reader know the read status of the item and marking a feed or all items read is easy. Some users might prefer a more intimate reading experience such as with Reeder but I think Reader X deserves recognition as one of the better Google Reader clients on the App Store.


Summary

Reader X innovates on the Google Reader experience by putting all of your feeds in a grid and color coding the items to quickly communicate the read status to the user.

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