Internet

Google Reader not so great

Over the last few months I've been using various Google applications such as gMail, Google Talk and Google Calendar more and more. To the point, now, where the majority of my online life is spent with at least one of the three open in a window somehwere. So I decided to give Google Reader, the RSS aggregator from Google a try.

I have been using Bloglines for a couple of years now and thought it was time to try one of the competitors to see if they have caught up yet. The first thing to say is that the look of Google Reader is excellent, nicely animated and a good use of the screen real estate. But unfortunately that's where the good stuff ends. It's rare for a Google app to have concentrated on the look and feel at the expense of functionality but it seems that's what's happened here. If you have been reading blogs for a while your blog roll is likely to be quite large, mine is hovering around the 200 feed mark, so I imported my OPML file. Or at least I tried to but Google was unable to interpret the XML. It was pretty easy to identify the problems but, importantly, the file was valid XML. Bad show Google.

After I had managed to import the file, obviously all of the feeds were unread so there were several thousand entries which needed to be marked read to get me up to date. Unbelievably there are no "bulk" operations available. So a quick scan round the internet turned up the Grease Monkey script which will open each entry and mark it read. Leave it chugging for an hour or so and voila, everything is up to date.

I can forgive the problems so far, they will only happen once during setup and ths is a beta product after all. But just normal use is not great either. There are no keyboard shortcuts (that I could find at least) to navigate between entries. There are keyboard shortcuts, but I didn't find them. The actual aggregation is slow (like 6 hours or more behind Bloglines). The AJAX code, although very clever, is perhaps trying to do too much, so that you'll often have to refresh the page to get over JS errors which have been caught but not handled properly.

All in all quite a disappointment from Google. Back to Blogines for me I'm afraid.

Update - Nicholas Baum from the Google Reader development team left a comment that I was wrong about the shortcut keys not being available. I am happy to correct myself. For further details go here.