Life after Google Reader

Google killed its Reader and my beloved Reeder for Mac and iPad officially won’t get updated in time. I think to have found an adequate setup to replace both.

Can’t You Just Wait?

No. Not only won’t there be Mac & iPad versions by July 1st, even after that it appears that Silvio’s priority is on the iPad version which makes sense if you look at the millions of iPads out there vs. the handful of Macs. Unfortunately that’s exactly the opposite of what I need.

How I Read RSS

One hears often that RSS is dead and the future is social. I couldn’t disagree more. For me, Twitter is only a mechanism to discover new content and there are feeds where I don’t want to miss a single post.

I’m also absolutely disinterested in some automatic recommendations services: I want to scan everything unread in my feeds and read what I’m interested in. Some feeds I only skim, read a few of the articles, and then mark the rest as read.

In other feeds I want to jump through all articles (ideally by pressing j repeatedly) and at least skim the articles. And when it comes to that, I’m really spoiled by Reeder: It allows me to scan everything quickly using keyboard only and additionally offers three awesome actions when I’m viewing an article: v to fetch the link and show in an in-app browser, b to open the link in the browser and finally g to fetch the article and present it using Readability.

Longer articles, videos etc which I don’t want to consume immediately go straight to Pinboard which I find much more versatile than Instapaper or Readability and it also archives the contents of the links for me in case they die. Plus: Maciej is awesome.

The alternative should allow both “scan” modes and allow me to do it swiftly. That basically rules out web applications – I lack the patience for their lagginess. Additionally, direct Pinboard support is imperative.

I read most of my RSS on my Mac but being able to read them on my iPhone and iPad would be a major plus. To avoid all this drama again, a self-hosted solution is preferable to me over hoping that another service won’t just fold it.

My New Setup

As already indicated, I did find a nice replacement and since I don’t want to waste time with pissing on other people’s work I’ll just go straight to the results.

Backend: Fever

I would’ve been okay with a great desktop app. But having the possibility to sync across devices is still pretty compelling. So I went for something that fulfills all of my requirements and then some: Fever. It’s PHP plus MySQL and thus runs on any basic LAMP-based web hosting (which I get for free for obvious reasons), costing a one time fee of $30. If that’s too much for you, you can skip to my Mac app, because it has native RSS support too.

Fever also has some kind of recommendation engine but I don’t care about that – I just want a solid syncing backend under my control and if I really need to, I can always read my news using its web interface (although its font choice of Helvetica/12 is a severe eye-strain to me).

Mac: ReadKit

I discovered ReadKit through a Tweet by Lynn Root and fell in love immediately. After trying NetNewsWire I approached it anxiously because I expected to not fulfill anything I need. But fortunately, I’ve been proven wrong: it does absolutely everything I need and even integrates my reading list from Pinboard (other read it later services are supported too) which saves me a perma-open tab in my browser!

It also literally copied the g, v and b keys from Reeder and it allows to amazingly fine-tune the typography of the text: typeface, size, justification, line height, article width. I’m very peculiar when it comes to this so ReadKit immediately won over my heart by this alone.

There used to be a quibble mentioning poor keyboard support: that problem has been dealt with since version 2.2 and I haven’t any further complaints about it.

Update 2013-07-05: I’ve been told that the built-in RSS support of ReadKit is rather lacking: there are no folders and no OMPL export. If these features are important to you, check first if they’ve been fixed before you buy it. And then tell me to update this update. :)

Update 2014-08-04: Against my original claims, I went back to Reeder after the Mac 2.0 has been finally released. While ReadKit is really nice, it still has some quirks I can’t really figure out and Reeder is more polished as a whole.

iPhone: Reeder

Reeder for iPhone (free as of version 3.2!) perfectly works with Fever so I don’t really have a reason to experiment.

iPad: Mr. Reader

As suggested by Andreas: the iPad only Mr. Reader syncs with many services including Fever and looks and works really, really well. It’s even better than the iPad version of Reeder I daresay. It’s an extremely usable power-tool you should definitely check out!


So that’s it: Fever as sync backend and web interface, Reeder for Mac, Reeder for iPhone, and Mr. Reader for iPad.

Apocalypse averted.