Bloglines news feed reader

Bloglines news feed readerThe internet is big. As the late Douglas Adams might have said, “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” Of course, those who read a library’s worth of websites every day know how extensive it is, but you don’t have to spend your time leaping from website to website to keep up with all your favourite news and entertainment sources. There are plenty of tools available that can scan your regular online destinations and bring them all to one central location. And since there are even web-based services out there, it’s possible to skip the software download and still get all your goodies appearing directly in your browser. We take a look at six of the best. Check the final page for our winner…

FeedDemon
Official website: www.feeddemon.com

FeedDemon captures the second spot in our group thanks to a very useful bottom left-hand menu. This includes a watch feature that keeps an eye out for keywords you’ve specified and nudges you when someone’s talking about that topic, as well as a collection of articles you’ve clipped to save for later reading.
The software also scores major points for its Popular Topics box, which shows what the writers in your subscribed feeds are currently all wittering on about and means you’re always aware of the most current conversation.
Set-up is fairly easy, as it seeks out feeds by searching or entering a website’s main address. However, it didn’t perform this function as well as Bloglines and sometimes needed an exact feed address.

Features 4/5 
Performance 4/5 
Ease of use 5/5 
Overall 4/5 

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Google Reader
Official website: http://www.google.com/reader

Like Bloglines, the Google reader does all its business in a browser window, so there’s no software to install. The service constantly checks your favourite news sites and blogs for new content so you’re always up to date with what’s happening right now.
What we like best is the ability to quickly add a number of recommended news and sports sites, especially as it’s easy to trim the list to the best picks. However, it’s a little odd that any feeds on your iGoogle homepage don’t automatically appear in Google Reader.

Features 4/5 
Performance 3/5 
Ease of use 5/5 
Overall 4/5 

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Internet Explorer 
Official website: www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/ie/getitnow.mspx

Casual surfers may have missed Internet Explorer’s ability to access news feeds, but it is hidden away in there. And while it won’t set the world alight with its minimalist feature set, the system is well-integrated and fairly easy to use. Pages containing feeds are often recognised so they can be added automatically, or users can turn to the Tools menu to start the search. Feeds are grouped in the left-hand pane usually associated with the History and Favourites, making access practical if uninspiring.

Features 2/5 
Performance 4/5 
Ease of use 4/5 
Overall 3/5 

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RSS Bandit 
Official website: http://rssbandit.org

The RSS Bandit software should win this test. Its ability to download comments as well as news stories is a very welcome bonus that none of the other feed readers on test here can match. Sadly, its additional functionality is spoiled by an extremely basic user interface that is difficult to work. Users also require the latest version of Microsoft’s .Net Framework to install it, which is an annoying extra download if you don’t already have it. This is one to watch for the future, though.

Features 5/5 
Performance 3/5 
Ease of use 2/5 
Overall 3/5 

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Sage-Too
Official website: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/7263

Much like Internet Explorer, the Firefox browser includes a very simple way to access news feeds. However, this 201KB extension is a pint-sized addition to Firefox that adds a lot more functionality. What Sage-Too lacks in size it makes up for in usability, neatly merging your feed subscriptions directly into the browser sidebar and displaying the chosen content in the main window. It’s not stacked with features but it has everything a surfer needs, including the ability to search a web page for possible news feeds and a manual button to search for new content and keep yourself up to date. If you’re a dedicated Firefox user we can recommend giving Sage-Too a try, as it has all the basics covered and is very usable.

Features 3/5 
Performance 5/5 
Ease of use 5/5 
Overall 4/5

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Bloglines
Official website: www.bloglines.com

When it comes to ease of use, Bloglines’ web-based service is the daddy. It’s simple to get to grips with almost every aspect of the interface, as the first page you’re presented with outlines all your options in great detail. For starters, it’s extremely easy to add a feed – simply type the name of a website into the search box and a list of available feeds is displayed. There’s also a comprehensive collection of user-recommended news links to help you find the best bits if you’re just getting started, with guide to the top 1,000 most popular sites.
Our favourite feature, which is not unique to Bloglines, is the ability to expand your current blogroll by finding what you’ll be reading in future. Enter a search term in the box and if a blog entry matches that subject you’ll be notified. Throw in a Favourites button to quickly nab new feeds and the ability to save the best bits for later reading and it has everything you need to stay on top of your net news.

Features 5/5 
Performance 5/5 
Ease of use 5/5 
Overall 5/5

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