FeedWrangler reviewed: why I picked it


I wrote recently about the four options I was considering as replacements for Google Reader. I don’t plan on going in-depth on the wealth of other options that are out there. Plenty of smart people are already on the case.

Anyway, 5 days before the deadline I’ve already jumped ship. In the end, despite its (as-of-yet) lack of support by Reeder, I decided on FeedWrangler. I gave a couple of other options pretty fair chances to win my heart… but it swept me off my feet.

The FeedWrangler interfaces on the web and in the free iOS app, to put it succinctly, are almost more like wireframes than anything else. They’re simple and not overburdened with features.

The web interface looks like this, and there really isn’t a lot more to it:

The corresponding iPhone app looks like this:

In the last screen you can see the “Wrangle” feature at work, which allows you to quickly perform bulk actions on a selection of feed items.1 Here’s a quick run-down of the features FeedWrangler offers in addition to, you know, pulling your feeds and showing them to you:

Smart Streams

This is a way of grouping feeds which has a slight variation on the “folder” functionality that you’re presumably acquainted with. You can pick which of your feeds this view includes, and whether you want to show all items, or just those you’ve unread. So, for example, I have a Smart Stream called “Steak” which shows me all the unread items from feeds that I really want to keep up on (generally not feeds that publish more than once or twice a day). It’s important to me to be able to quickly go in and read some presumably quality content without having to skim a bunch of titles.

Filters

Filters let you automatically mark items matching a particular search term as read. Perfect for pruning a noisy feed down to only what you are interested in. (That’s exactly what it says on the website, and that’s good enough for me!

Read Later

FeedWrangler lets you specify either Instapaper, Pocket or Pinboard as your Read Later service, and once you’ve done that you can send things with one tap to that, so you can leave them there for a few days and then decide not to read them.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Anything that lets me quickly set up my PowerMate to use when reading feeds I’m a fan of. FeedWrangler doesn’t disappoint, covering the basics: J:Next K:Previous L:Star M:(Un)Read I:Read Later O:Open Link

Sharing

The iPhone app has some options for sharing via the iOS share sheet, depending on what apps you have installed.

And… that’s about it. So why would I opt for a service that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that others ooze from their shiny-pixellated mouths? The developer, David Smith, has a while to go before he can sit back and relax.2

Here’s why: FeedWrangler is far from a polished product, but it’s begun with exactly the right elements. It’s way faster than any other service I’ve tried — really, it beats the pants off them. It was even fast when, right after I signed up, it had a day of technical problems behind the scenes, and now that those appear to be squashed it’s blisteringly fast for me. On the web interface, flipping to the next article happens instantaneously, as fast as Google Reader on a good day, and a lot better than Feedly or FeedBin with their perceptible load times.

It’s made me realize how little I needed a lot of the other features that came on other services. It has all the basics already. Sure a lick of paint wouldn’t hurt - maybe a little more attention to kerning, that sort of thing. But right now, out of the box, it gets out of the way and just serves up RSS feeds. If I want to share something or read it later, it’s even easier to do that now that there aren’t a million other options crowding the screen.

Simple, no fuss. I already have a lot of trust in this product.

Goodbye Google Reader, you won’t be missed. After all that angst it feels good to be able to forget about RSS readers again, and get back to just reading.


  1. That’s the “send to Pinboard” action, in case you’re wondering. 

  2. Although some of the work should be done for him by third-party developers, as he’s created a public API for FeedWrangler. I’m confident Reeder will support syncing via FeedWrangler, but I’d be ecstatic if the newly beta-released NetNewsWire ended up supporting it.