Internet Tip - RSS Feed Reader Reviews

Lektora vs. Internet Explorer 7 vs. Pluck vs. Active Web Reader vs. Firefox vs. BlogBot vs. Crysanth NETime Channel vs. GreatNews

By Jeff Baker
November 17, 2008
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Quick Jump
Lektora Review
Internet Explorer 7 Review
Pluck Review
Active Web Reader
Firefox Review
BlogBot Review
Crysanth Review
GreatNews Review
Summary

Maybe you are like me and you are not very impressed with RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication or possibly something else). You may have clicked on an orange and white RSS or XML button and then you were viewing a web page with some useless code instead of actually subscribing to the RSS feed. So I have looked and looked for an RSS Reader or RSS Aggregator that makes subscribing to RSS channel feeds easy. All the RSS Readers reviewed here are free at this time.

Here is what I would like to see: After installing an RSS Reader you should be able to click on an RSS button in your browser and have it pop up with a nice, easy to read page, showing all the current items in the channel you clicked on. Then it should ask you if you would like to subscribe to this RSS feed. All of this should take place in your favorite browser (IE/Firefox), not a seperate program. It sounds simple, but it is very hard to find an RSS Reader that works like this.

RSS Auto-Discovery

I do not like RSS Auto-Discovery. Here is how it works: You go to a web page and before you even read it, an RSS program that auto discovers RSS feeds pop-ups asking you if you want to subscribe to this feed. Well, you don't want to subscribe to the feed yet because you haven't even read the page to see if you would like to see some of their articles in the future. What is worse, half the time a page will have an RSS feed and the auto-discovery feature won't pop up.

Lektora

Lektora seems to be the only RSS Reader that almost has exactly what I want. It installs a toolbar into Internet Explorer and Firefox. This toolbar just has two little icons. One icon takes you to the subscribtion list of your feeds so you can read it in your browser. The other icon searches for an RSS feed on the current page. It only will find the first feed on the page however.

The best thing about Lektora is that it lets you easily click on an RSS feed icon in your browser and it displays a summary of the current items in the feed and asks if you would like to subscribe.

Pros:

1. Easy Click. With Lektora you can easily click on an RSS feed icon and subscribe to the feed.
2. Kind of has Auto-discovery of rss feeds. But you have to click the rss search button in the toolbar. Only finds 1 feed.
3. Does not install a memory resident program that starts every time you start windows.

Cons:

1. Seems a little slow to start looking at your subscriptions.
2. Toolbar. Installs a toolbar into Internet Explorer and Firefox, however the toolbar is small with just two icons. Toolbars can slow down browsers and cause poor perfomance.

Internet Explorer 7

You can download Internet Explorer 7 from here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.mspx
(Note: You must have Service Pack 2 and a validated genuine version of windows to download IE7.)

Internet Explorer has many good RSS features such as Easy Click to subscribe to RSS feed and Auto-Discovery of RSS Feeds. Even so, I have a hard time giving it a good rating because you have to download a bulky browser that asks too many questions after installation, like "Who do you want for your search provider?" and "Do you want to enable phishing scam filter?". Also the Menu Bar is missing until you enable it.

The other reason why I have a hard time giving it a good rating as an RSS Reader, is that even though subscribing to RSS Feeds is easy, finding out how to read them is not as easy. There is no easy button that links to your subscribed RSS feeds. In fact the buttons for Search, Favorites, and History to open up in a side-panel are also missing.

To read the RSS feeds you can go two ways: 1. If you have the "Menu Bar" activated (Hint: Right-click on a blank space on the top toolbars and check "Menu Bar" to activate menu) then you can click on "View" -> "Explorer Bar" -> "Feeds". 2. There is a new item on the toolbars called "Tools". Click on "Tools" -> "Toolbars" -> "Feeds". You can also find the old Favorites and History side-panel buttons in these same two locations.

So even though RSS is built-in to Internet Explorer 7 as you can see from their way of getting to it, it is still a toolbar. Toolbars cause poor performance from browsers.

Pros:

1. Easy Click on RSS or XML buttons to subscribe to the feed.
2. Auto-Discovery of RSS feeds.
3. If you can find the button to read RSS feeds (See above) then it opens up a nice side-panel to read your subscriptions.

Cons:

1. Have to download a new bulky browser that requires a validated genuine Windows XP SP2 or similar product.
2. The RSS tools are integrated into IE7 as a toolbar.
3. Difficult to find the button to read RSS feeds.

Pluck

Here I will be discussing Pluck for Internet Explorer which you can download here: http://www.pluck.com/products/getpluck.html.

Pros:

1. Adds a Pluck icon to your IE toolbar that opens up a side panel to display your RSS channels.
2. Auto-Discovery. An RSS button will light up in the Pluck side panel when there are RSS feeds on that page to subscibe to. You can then click on that button to subscribe to any of the channels.
3. The side panel is wide enough to see what your channel names are and easy to close and open.
4. Drag-n-Drop. You can click on an RSS icon or XML icon and drag it into the bottom of the Pluck side panel to subsribe to that feed.

Cons:

1. No easy click. Does not let you just click on an RSS icon on a webpage and ask you if you want to subscribe to that feed. If you click on an RSS icon you see the gibberish source of the XML document. However if some web pages are formatted a certain way then it does show a confusing screen with a bunch of options to select which rss reader you are adding the channel to.
2. Memory Resident. Loads a memory resident program called "PluckSvr.exe" that starts every time you start windows. It does not let you turn the memory resident program off. It only lets you hide it. Memory resident programs like this waste resources and cause poor computer performance.

Active Web Reader

You can download Active Web Reader here: http://www.deskshare.com/awr.aspx.

Pros:

1. Auto-Discovery. In Internet Explorer a window will pop up displaying all the feeds it detected for that page. The window is a little too small to see what you would be subscribing to but at least you can resize it. However this window is slow to pop up and doesn't seem to always show up.
2. Auto-Discovery. Active Web Reader has it's own browser that displays a white on orange "Feed" button at the bottom of the browser when it detects feeds on the page. You can click on that button and then decide what feeds to subscribe to. The browser uses IE's engine to display the web pages but the rest of the browser is not good.

Cons:

1. No easy click. Does not let you just click on an RSS icon on a webpage and ask you if you want to subscribe to that feed. If you click on an RSS icon you see the gibberish source of the XML document. This happens even in it's own browser.
2. Memory Resident. Loads a memory resident program in the taskbar called "Active Web Reader.exe". At least you can turn it off and choose not to load it with windows, but then you no longer have RSS auto-discovery in IE.
3. No drag-n-drop. You cannot click on an RSS feed icon and then drag it to Active Web Reader and have it ask you if you wish to subscribe to the feed.

Firefox

Firefox 1.5.0.7 has a built-in RSS subscribe feature called "Live Bookmarks". You can download Firefox here: http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/.

Pros:

1. It claims to have Auto-Discovery of RSS feeds but the auto discovery icon in the address field rarely pops up even on sites with RSS feeds. Firefox claims that if it doesn't work it is because the website is not telling firefox it has an RSS feed. Then it gives a way to manually add RSS Live Bookmark subscribtions. It has too many steps: 'add this manually by copying the link address then selecting "Bookmarks -> Manage Bookmarks" from the Toolbar, selecting "File -> New Live Bookmark" then choosing a name and pasting/typing in the link's address.'

Cons:

1. Auto-Discovery does not work 80% of the time.
2. No easy click. Does not let you just click on an RSS icon on a webpage and ask you if you want to subscribe to that feed. If you click on an RSS icon you see the gibberish source of the XML document.
3. No Drag-n-drop. You cannot just click and drag an RSS feed icon to a Live Bookmark icon to subscribe to it.

BlogBot Lite

You can download BlogBot Lite here: http://www.blogbot.com/lite/.

When I first starting using BlogBot I didn't understand it's features so I didn't take advantage of them. After playing with it I finally realize that it is pretty nice.

Pros:

1. Adds a BlogBot icon to your IE toolbar that opens up a side panel to display your RSS channels.
2. Auto-Discovery. BlogBot's side panel shows a "Subscribe" button when there is a RSS feed to subscribe to. The only problem is that if the site has multiple feeds, the subscribe button only shows the first one.
3. The side panel is wide enough to see what your channel names are and easy to close and open.
4. Right click to add. You can right click on a RSS feed icon or link and then click on "Add to BlogBot" to subscribe to a feed.
5. Very small in size! Only 256kb.

Cons:
1. No easy click. Does not let you just click on an RSS icon on a webpage and ask you if you want to subscribe to that feed. If you click on an RSS icon you see the gibberish source of the XML document.
2. No Drag-n-drop You cannot just click and drag an RSS feed icon to a Live Bookmark icon to subscribe to it.

Crysanth NETime channel

When I saw this part of the description for Crysanth, "Alternatively, you can also click on the tiny orange colored RSS or XML buttons on any web page and view the content as a nicely formatted webpage instead of gibberish!", I thought to myself, "This is finally the RSS Reader that will let me subscribe by actually clicking on the RSS icon". But I was wrong. After further investigation I found the reader is not very good. You can download it here: http://www.netimechannel.com/FreeRssReader/.

Pros:

1. Crysanth does let you click on a RSS button as stated above and it does display a nicely itemized page of news items instead of gibberish. But after getting there I could not figure out how to subscribe to the feed. I tried right clicking on the page and selecting "Subscribe this RSS channel", but then the channel would show up in the subscribed channels, but it wouldn't work because the link was bad. I tried clicking on a "New Channel" button and it had the link for the page inside. But it too did not work.
2. Auto-Discovery A white on orange RSS button will show up in Crysanth's IE toolbar when a page has feeds to subscribe to. You can then select which feeds you wish to subscribe to.
3. Right click to add. You can right click on a RSS feed icon or link and then click on "Subscribe this RSS channel" to subscribe to a feed.

Cons:

1. No easy click. You can click on an RSS button and see a nice page of items, but once you are there you cannot subscribe to the feed. You have to go back in the browser and then right click on the feed icon.
2. Memory Resident. Crysanth has two large memory resident programs called "CSNCSubscribtionServer.exe" and "CSNCNewsFeedServer.exe". Memory resident programs like this cause poor computer performance. There seems to be no option to turn these off.
3. Toolbar. Crysanth installs as a Internet Explorer Toolbar. Toolbars cause browsers to run slower and have problems sometimes.

GreatNews

GreatNews is a stand-alone RSS Reader. It does not integrate into Internet Explorer in any way and it does not stay memory resident when you aren't using it. However, it is a nicely organized RSS reader. It can display web pages in its own program using the Internet Explorer engine. You can download it here: http://www.curiostudio.com/

Pros:

1. Auto-Discovery. GreatNews can auto-discover feeds on a web page in its own program. But who wants to use a browser in another program? Also it doesn't always detect feeds. When it does work it displays a RSS icon in the bottom-right corner. You can click on that and subscibe to the feeds.
2. Easy click, but only in its own program. It lets you click on the link to an RSS feed and asks you if you would like to subscribe to that feed.
3. Drag-n-drop. You can click and drag an RSS icon right from Internet Explorer or Firefox and drop it into the GreatNews browser window. Then GreatNews will ask you if you would like to subscribe to that feed.

Cons:

1. No easy click in Internet Explorer or Firefox.
2. No Auto-Discovery in Internet Explorer or Firefox. Also auto-dsicovery in it's own program does not work all the time.
Summary
LektoraIE 7PluckActive WebFirefoxBlogBotCrysanthGreat News
Easy click to add Yes
+3
Yes
+3
Sometimes
+1
No
-1
No
-1
No
-1
AlmostOnly in its own program
+1
Drag-n-drop No. Not needed.No. Not needed.Yes
+1
No
-1
No
-1
No
-1
No
-1
Yes
+1
Right click to add No. Not needed.No. Not needed.No
-1
No
-1
No
-1
Yes
+1
Yes
+1
No
-1
Auto-Discovery Finds first feed.
+1
Yes
+1
Yes
+1
Yes
+1
SometimesFinds first feed
+1
Yes
+1
Sometimes. Only in its own program
Integrates into browser Yes. IE and Firefox
+2
Yes. IE.
+1
Yes. IE and Firefox
+2
Yes. IE
+1
Yes. Firefox
+1
Yes. IE
+1
Yes. IE
+1
No
-1
Installs as Toolbar Yes
-1
Yes
-1
Yes
-1
No
+1
Built-inNo
+1
Yes.
-1
No
+1
Installs memory resident program No
+1
No
+1
Yes
-1
Yes
-1
No
+1
No
+1
Yes
-1
No
+1
Overall score +6+5+2-1-1+30+2

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