Review: Bloglines

Posted October 16th, 2006 by kyle

Blogs (RSS feeds) are all the rage these days. I’ve found that while there is some good information to be gleaned from blogs, the signal-to-noise ratio tends to be quite low. And manually monitoring dozens of feeds quickly becomes very wearisome. RSS reader applications were invented to monitor your feeds for you, allowing you to quickly scan newly published articles. So I evaluated the available RSS readers to find something that could assist me with keeping up-to-date on blogs I’m interested in.

I looked at many online and Windows desktop solutions. Since I’m a keyboard freak, I expected that I would end up choosing a thick-client Windows program, but to my surprise I found Bloglines, an online feed reader, to be the best option.

Bloglines provides a simple, easy-to-use two-pane interface with a subscribed blogs list (categorized into folders) on the left and unread feeds on the right. Subscriptions can easily be imported or exported to OPML format, and subscribing to new feed is as simple as selecting a ‘Sub with Bloglines’ favorite in the browser.

Bloglines periodically checks each subscribed blog for new articles, and when viewing your My Feeds page, it highlights all blogs with new articles. All new articles for a subscription or folder are aggregated in the right pane for easy scanning or reading (from the keyboard via Spacebar). Pressing ‘s’ marks all articles for the current subscription as read and advances to the next subscription with unread articles. Pressing ‘f’ does the same on a folder-by-folder basis. Pressing ‘m’ shows or hides the left pane.

This is very efficient, reducing the time I have to spend scanning newly published articles to just a few minutes once or twice a day. When I do come across an article that I’d like to archive for future reference, I can simply right-click the article link and choose ‘Send to Ultra Recall (copy)’ to store a copy of the article in Ultra Recall for safekeeping on my computer. If I’ve been offline for a while and don’t want to scan all articles that were published, all feeds can be marked as read with a single click.

FeedDemon is one of the better choices for Windows desktop readers, but ironically, I found that Bloglines provided much better keyboard accessibility (and the other Windows apps I looked at fared worse than FeedDemon in this category). Another advantage of an online reader is that a web server, not your computer, is responsible for monitoring and maintaining all the article updates and content. Only information that is important to you needs to be stored offline.

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