Which RSS Reader Is Right for You?

(By Ian Mckinnell -- Getty Images)
By Becky Krystal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's fun to play the field online.

Get your mind out of the gutter. We're talking about the wide world of really simple syndication, more pithily known as RSS. With the technology, Web surfers can subscribe to their favorite sites to keep up with recently posted items. On some sites you may choose to be notified of every update, while on others you can limit updates to areas of particular interest to you.

The subscription possibilities are endless -- news, blogs and video, from The Washington Post and ESPN to the Daily Puppy and Knitterella -- but the relationship that really counts is the one you have with your aggregator. That's the software that does the legwork of organizing and collecting the subjects of your Internet whims. Choosing The One you use can be just as daunting as selecting what you want it to aggregate.

We put four aggregators to the test to see how they'd display items from the same six sites. Want to find a perfect match for you? Read on.

Bloglines Beta

Best for: Those who like the initial rush of falling in love.

Get it: http://

The dish: If you're any kind of RSS veteran, Bloglines Beta will really make your heart race. The best part of this aggregator is the three-pane view, which is similar to the preview feature in many e-mail programs. Click on the "site" tab in the preview pane, and you get the same content you'd see if you visited the site directly. Bloglines also gives you a start page, which you can customize with your favorite feeds pulled out into individual windows for fast scanning. And if you click on an item on the start page, a mini-window with its content (or as much as the source site will allow) appears. The reader also gets bonus points for being clear about indicating which items have been read. The promising beta version continues to be tweaked, so time will tell whether this suitor is ready for forever.

Google Reader

Best for: Those looking for a dependable long-term relationship.

Get it:

The dish: Leave it to the Internet giant to create something clean, simple and functional that won't let you down. Feeds are displayed in a manner that will be familiar to users of Google's search. You can toggle the settings to show only new items, but old posts are saved and searchable. Items can be starred for future reference. The reader's Trends feature uses charts to show such data as when most of the items in your feeds are posted and when you read them, the percentage of posts you've read from each feed and how many you've e-mailed. A miniature version of the reader can be embedded in a personalized iGoogle page, which works pretty much the same as the standalone reader if you put it in full-screen mode.

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