Reeder: A Google Reader iPad App That Beats the Original

As (both) regular readers of this blog are aware, I took the plunge and bought an iPad a few months ago. Like so many others, I’ve found the device to be ideal for reading just about anything, from 300-word blog posts to entire books.

Indeed, since the day I brought the device home and started playing with it, one of the four icons locked in the bottom of my iPad’s home screen was a link to the mobile-optimized version of Google Reader, which has a decent UI more or less consistent with the desktop experience.

Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered an app called Reeder, which swiftly bumped the official Google Reader mobile Web app from that coveted home screen slot.

Catch Up On Reading Offline

I was lucky enough to discover Reeder about 12 hours before I got on a 7-hour, WiFi-less flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Unlike Google Reader itself, Reeder loads all of your unread items and stores them locally so you can read them offline later, something that really comes in handy when you’re travelling sans WiFi.

Of course, you’ll still have to save for later any partial feed items (ie, ones that require you to click back to the original site to read the entire post), but any content included in each RSS feed items is accessible offline. Reeder also supports offline starring, sharing and marking as read/unread, and will sync with your Google Reader account the next time your iPad connects to the Internet.

A Clean, Well-Designed User Interface

Reeder is one of those applications whose developers clearly put particular effort into designing an exceptional, engaging user experience. I never had a major problem with Google Reader’s native UI, but having been spoiled by Reeder’s I’m going to have a hard time going back to the original.

Reeder’s design reminds me a bit of Instapaper, but with a more fluid, swipe-and-slide-style interface. It has a paper-like feel, with clean typography and adjustable font sizes.

Most of the core functionality of Google Reader is supported, including sharing items, adding notes, marking as read/unread and starring items. Additionally, Reeder lets you post items to Delicious, Instapaper and ReadItLater, as well as copy the original article’s URL so you can share it on your own terms.

Navigating through unread items feels more natural in Reeder. When you first open the app, you’re presented with what resembles stacks of papers in an array (each stack representing a feed or folder of feed from your Google Reader account). Tapping a stack opens it with a slick animation.

From there, you can either browse through unread items in a list not unlike the original Google Reader or page through them by scrolling down to the bottom of each item, holding and releasing.

In horizontal mode, the app lists feed items on the left and displays the body of the current item on the right. For a more magazine-like experience, you can turn the iPad into portrait position to hide the left-hand navigation and focus on the content.

What You Can’t Do

There’s very little you can’t do with Reeder, compared to the native Google Reader interface. One limitation is that you can’t view Google Reader’s recommend items from the app, for whatever reason. That’s probably not a deal-killer for most, but I actually enjoy browsing the recommendations from time to time, and tend to discover some pretty good stuff there.

Of course, power users of Google Reader on the desktop who are accustomed to using keyboard shortcuts are going to be somewhat disappointed with just about any mobile adaptation of the service.

The only other notable limitation is the inability to subscribe to new feeds from within the app, but that’s not something that’s typically done via mobile devices anyway.

The application is also available for iPhone and a desktop application for Macs is coming any day now.

Reeder for iPad is available from the app store for $4.99. Totally worth it.

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