Tools I use: A close look at Feedly

A feed reader is a pretty personal thing for a lot of people, including me. It’s one of the main ways that I collect information — along with things like Twitter and FriendFeed and Techmeme and so on — and so I’m pretty particular about what I use, and I’m sure others are too. Some like NetNewsWire or FeedDemon, or they like having feeds in Netvibes.com, or maybe some other homepage portal. I used to be a huge fan of Netvibes, but I don’t use it as my feed reader any more.

Why? I switched to Google Reader about a year and a half ago, and despite some issues with the interface (calling it plain would be a compliment) I got used to it, and came to depend on it — primarily because of the “share” feature, which lets you share items with others and see items that they have shared. It’s like a little mini meme-tracker that makes it easier to find interesting things (my shared items are here).

I still use Google Reader, but I only go to the website every once in a while now, because I’ve been using a new app (a Firefox plugin actually) called Feedly.com more and more — in fact, I’ve become quite addicted to it. It’s effectively a front-end to my Google feeds: it takes them and displays them in a much more pleasant and easy to understand way, and it has all kinds of cool features.

Feedly says it provides a “magazine-like” interface for your feeds, and that’s exactly what it looks like. It has a number of different views, but the main one (the “What’s New” view) is a multi-column layout with some brief items, some lists and then a long center column with some short excerpts. Next to the excerpts from your feeds you can see thumbnails of any images, and when you click on the excerpt or blurb, the entire post drops down right in the page via a cool Ajax-y rolldown. Clicking “minimize” makes it roll back up (videos play right in the page as well).

You can click “mark as read” right underneath the headline, and you can also click “more” and choose to recommend the item (which is the same as sharing it in Google Reader), or you can save it for later, or post it to Twitter, or email it. If you prefer a “river” view of your items, you can choose that from the top menu, or you can go through your folders one by one. There’s also a dashboard view, and a dynamic “screensaver” view, which shows you individual posts vacation-photo style.

The bottom line for me (and others) is that Feedly provides a much nicer view of my feeds, some great layout and presentation features, and also makes it easy to share items and integrate my reading with Twitter, FriendFeed and other networks. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a winner.

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