Why I’m Switching to Reeder 5

RSS and read-it-later services are near and dear to my heart. We gave coverage to both of these topics last year on the Mac Power Users (MPU 550: The World of RSS) (MPU 554: Read-it-later Services). I remain a believer in the RSS format and use it daily.

Looking at my toolset for managing RSS, it’s getting expensive. I currently use a Feed Wrangler account ($19 per year) to manage my feeds, Unread ($20 per year) to view my threads, and Instapaper ($30 per year) for read-it-later. In addition to being expensive, there is a certain amount of mental overhead that comes with managing data between three services that I would prefer to avoid.

I used Reeder awhile back but moved to the above concoction of apps for many different reasons that I’ll refer to as “nerd-based app creep”. When Reeder released version 5, I decided to give it a try again. With this most recent version, the Reeder developer has included tools to view your RSS feeds (Reeder’s original purpose), manage feeds, and save articles for reading later using your iCloud storage.

As someone who is normally skeptical of all-in-one applications, I like the idea of this update, but I wasn’t so sure about whether it would solve my problems. In short, it does.

This newest version of Reeder does a good job of managing your feeds, displaying your articles, and giving you the ability to set them aside to read later. It does all of this in one application, and in addition to the iPhone and iPad apps, there is also a Mac app. A nice bonus is that Reeder is a one-time purchase. There is no subscription involved. Instead, the developer releases a new version every few years that you buy over, but it is still far less expensive than what I paid for subscriptions. Reeder for iPhone and iPad is $5. On the Mac, it is $10.

If there is one trade-off, Reeder doesn’t display the articles as nicely as my previous RSS reader, Unread. Unread has more options for color schemes and designs for the article view. I thought that might be a deal-breaker, but the convenience of having everything in one app wins in my book. Also, while Reeder doesn’t look as nice as Unread, it looks nice enough, and it has lots of features aimed at making the reading process easier. It is still an attractive app with an opinionated design.

Having used Reeder 5 now for a few months, I’ve got a couple of tips:

Keyboard Navigation on the Mac

On the Mac app, keyboard shortcuts are your friend. I have mapped as follows:

  • j – next

  • k – previous

  • m – read/unread

  • l – read later

  • ; – copy link

Some of these are the built-in shortcuts, and some of them are custom shortcuts I added in the preferences. Either way, I can navigate my RSS feed quickly on the Mac using just one hand on the keyboard.

Swipe Action on iPad and iPhone

Instead of keyboard shortcuts, swipes are the speed move on Reeder for iPhone and iPad. This is made even easier since I’m using Reeder’s own read-it-later service. I can jump to the next article or add to the read later list with a single tap in the article view. In list view, however, the trick is to use swipes. For me, a swipe-right marks as read, and a swipe-left adds to the read later list. I also added the optional swipe-up from the bottom to mark all as read.

As a nerd, it is always fun when I find new, more efficient workflows. Getting all of these activities (RSS management, reading, and read-it-later) combined into a single, quality app has made the whole process more streamlined and enjoyable for me. I’m sold.

The Case for RSS

For several years now, the trend among geeks has been to abandon the RSS format. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way to queue up and serve content from the internet. The MacSparky RSS, for example, gives RSS applications a list of all the articles I post here since you last checked int. It is a great way to read blogs and the backbone of podcast distribution. As social networks took off, a lot of my friends that were previously big RSS fans gave up on the technology and instead relied upon sources like Twitter and Facebook to get their news.

That was never me. The reason I’ve stuck with RSS is the way in which I work. Twitter is the social network that I participate in most and yet sometimes days go by where I don’t load the application. I like to work in focused bursts. If I’m deep into writing a book or a legal client project. I basically ignore everything else. I close my mail application, tell my phone service to take my calls, and I definitely don’t open Twitter. When I finish the job, I can then go back to the Internet. I’ll check in on Twitter, but I won’t be able to get my news from it. That only works if you go into Twitter much more frequently than I do. That’s why RSS is such a great solution for me. If a few days go by, I can open RSS and go through my carefully curated list of websites and get caught back up with the world.

A long time ago, I used Reeder as my primary RSS application. It’s clean, fast, and attractive. Then a few years ago I switched over to Unread, which I found to be slower but a little more delightful. For the last week, I’ve been using Reeder again just for giggles. Their addition of dark mode for iPhone X is great, but ultimately I don’t know where I’ll land between these two great RSS Apps.

If you are thinking about using RSS, I have a little advice. Be wary feed inflation. RSS is so easy to implement that it’s a slippery slope between having RSS feeds for just a few websites and instead of having RSS feeds for hundreds of websites. If you’re not careful, every time you open your RSS reader, there will be 1,000 unread articles waiting for you, which completely defeats the purpose of using RSS. The trick to using RSS is to be brutal with your subscriptions. I think the key is looking for websites with high signal and low noise. Sites that publish one or two articles a day (or even one to two articles a week) but make them good articles are much more valuable and RSS feed than sites that published 30 articles a day.

Reeder Releases on the iPad

I went through about six different Google Reader clients on the iPhone before I discovered Reeder. It was love at first site. The interface is understated, the synchronization is fast, and it includes tools to e-mail, Instapaper, ReadLater, and just about any other service you could ever want from an RSS Feed.

Good news. Reeder is now on the iPad. I’ve been running the beta as my only RSS App on the iPad for several weeks. It is rock solid and just as beaultiful as the iPhone version. A perfect match for Instapaper.