The search for a companion to my heavily used Google Reader has been a long, tedious search. However, my search could be at an end since NewsBlur has almost all of the elements needed for a better RSS browsing. NewsBlur has multiple levels that improves the RSS experience, making it more visual and enjoyable than Google Reader. The visual component can not be underestimated. Users are quickly able to read articles and learn interesting tidbits that would not have occurred in the past. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting feed reader.
NewsBlur gives users three options to read any feed they have subscribed to:
- Original – This view is how the article looks on the actual website (ads included). Users interact with the specific website from within NewsBlur. Keep in mind that if you click through and leave a comment or use the search bar, you only have to click on the “Return to Original” option at the bottom of the pane and you’ll return to NewsBlur with the feeds continuing to update.
- Feed – This display looks similar to feeds in Google Reader. There is an option to retweet from this view as long as the source has the option available.. Hopefully there is a way to reweet from Twitter on a new tab or window and not have to retweet and then load your feeds back up again. During my time using Newsblur, I was unable to find one.
- Story – This view gives users the entire story so they can read and move on.
There is a preview screen below where you can see the last 15 posts from a particular news source which can be helpful. There is also a “mark as read” button which allows you to read and keep the number of pending items under control.
The main issue with the original view is there’s no option to “star” a specific article, or mark it for reading later. This is crucial when you have numerous feeds coming into your feed reader. After mentioning this issue to Samuel Clay (the creator) on Twitter, he responded that he will add Instapaper support soon with “starring” taking a few more weeks because of how complicated it is to properly integrate. I was very impressed with the response time from Samuel which potentially spells good things for NewsBlur.
The second level which can turn NewsBlur into a serious contender is the ability for the program to learn what subjects, feeds, authors and even keywords you like and provide new sources that cover items you might not be subscribed to. Called the “Intelligence Trainer,” it will walk users through a few steps that will determine what the user likes and dislikes. After this process, there will be color-coded items that pop in from new sources that the “Intelligence Trainer” has predicted the user will like which is a pretty cool feature.
Take a test drive through NewsBlur and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.