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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Feed Your Mind with Feedly

If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll notice that I haven’t been posting very often the past few months. The reason for that is that I have a great many things clawing for my attention. Chief among them are work, late-night classes, my two little boys, and my photography hobby. Despite all that, I still like to stay up to speed on new technology news. An awesome tool that helps me sift through all of the electronic noise these days is Feedly, a cloud-based RSS reader that can aggregate a vast number of Internet sources into a beautiful, easy to consume, and customizable view.

RSS readers have been available for more than a decade. The most popular of those, Google Reader, is the reason I’m writing this post. Many online have lamented Google’s recent announcement detailing the death of Reader. I too was annoyed at first. Google is notorious for experimenting, keeping everything in “beta”, and then killing a product you've come to rely on with little notice. In this case though, I’m actually excited. Without the torrent of negative press surrounding Google’s decision, I would never have discovered the awesomeness that is Feedly.

Beautiful Interface. Where Google Reader was basic and text-heavy, Feedly is simply gorgeous. I’m very visual when I’m consuming information quickly. If an article doesn't have an associated image that catches my eye, I’m very likely to miss it. Feedly has a nice selection of image-heavy views that help me rapidly absorb what’s in my feed. In what appears to be a nod to Google Reader converts, they even have a text-only, Reader-esque view available.

My favorite view is the “timeline view.” This takes their popular “magazine view” and sorts all of your feeds by date, rather than sorting by source. I love this because I’m a fan of the blog sites of old that simply present an endless stream of articles, as opposed to the more modern formats used by sites like The Verge.  That’s part of the beauty with Feedly. No matter what sites do with their format to drive me bonkers, I can still consume articles the way I like to.
Note the subscriber numbers

I love the elegant little touches interspersed throughout the site that give Feedly that extra shine. Take for example, the unobtrusive “mark as read” or “save” buttons that appear and disappear when you hover your cursor in the appropriate location (example in the image above). There’s also the neat feature that shows me the number of Feedly subscribers for a given feed under “Add content.” Last but not least, are helpful sections like “Recently Read”, as well as the suggestions that appear on the right-hand side featuring other feeds I might like.

Feedly is highly organized. I love the slick and simple organize feature. It allows me to arrange my feeds into groups such as Tech News or Photography. Moving feeds between groups is made possible with efficient drag-and-drop simplicity. Once organized, I can then see a mix of articles just by group, just for a single source, mixed all together, or even a curated list of top stories for the day. If decide to go directly to a website after viewing a preview of an article, Feedly efficiently opens a new tab for the website, allowing me to click back over to Feedly without losing my place. The team behind Feedly clearly understands how to enable the rapid consumption of content.

Feedly Mini. I only noticed this awesome time saver by accident one day since it was so unobtrusive. Enabled or disabled through the “Preferences” section, Feedly Mini presents itself as a subtle grey icon in the lower-right corner of any webpage. When a page has RSS content, you can click here to add it to your Feedly list. The beauty of it, is that even if a page isn't RSS friendly, you can still use Feedly Mini to save a page for later viewing in Feedly, email it through Gmail, tweet it, or post it to Facebook.  

Feedly mini is grayed out until selected

Quickly add sites to your feed with Feedly Mini

Awesome mobile apps. I can really only speak for the iOS app, but man is it slick. It’s blazingly fast when loading feeds, and has a slick card view that can automatically mark articles as read when I flick through cards. It's also just as beautifully designed as their web-app. This attention to design is seen everywhere from the menu for selecting a feed, to the elegant search option for finding new feeds while on the go.

It even has tight integration with my favorite “read later” site, Instapaper. I love seeing the always instantaneous “Instapapered” confirmation when I mark an article for later viewing (it really is near instant, every time). I also enjoy being able to promote a feed to "Must Read" which becomes its own category in the app. Above all, it’s cloud enabled. Anything I read on my mobile device is marked as read on the Feedly web app (or vice versa).

Search feature on the left, Instapaper integration on the right

Well, enough listening to me ramble on, go check out Feedly now!