After Google announced that Google Reader will no longer be in operation from 1st July, many Google Reader alternatives start to spruce up like wildfire. Services like The Old Reader and Feedly are getting much attention these days, but they are far from your only options. If you’re looking for something to keep Google Reader alive and continue the experience you’ve grown accustomed to, CommaFeed could be the one for you.
CommaFeed is an open source project that can be used on the Web, as well as through extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. It can also be deployed on your own home server, though that will require a bit of geekery and technical knowledge on your side.
You can grab any of the browser extensions or get the server install file, as well as instructions, by heading over to Github. If you are installing on your own server, you will have to install Maven 3.x and Java JDK as well.
The CommaFeed Interface
The interface is perhaps the most important part of any software or Web app. It must be intuitive and easy to use. For those arriving from Google Reader, the transition should come with relative ease.
Let us take it right from the top, quite literally. The menu across the upper section of the screen provides options. These include viewing either All posts, or just Unread, Refresh, Mark All as Read, Sort by Date, Title or Expanded View, Settings and finally Search.
The left column provides the list of feeds, and they can be organized into categories, just as with many other similar programs. The main panel displays the stories. None of this is a radical departure from rival services.
Grab and Organize Feeds
Far from the most difficult task, adding and organizing feeds is carried out right from the top of the feed column on the left of the screen.
The large “Subscribe” button is difficult to miss. The arrow to its right produces a dropdown menu with two options – Import and New Category. Import is obviously the important feature here for those making the transition to the service. If you are arriving from Google Reader, then you will be off to a running start, as the service offers easy export through Google Take Out. However, if you are transitioning from Feedly, then I am afraid life will be much more difficult – the service shockingly has no way of grabbing your XML file.
Get Set and Go
Like the rest of CommaFeed, the Settings are sparse, with two tabs on the left side – General and Appearance. Of these, General is the section you will be most interested in. It contains options for how the app displays feeds, social sharing and expanded feeds. By default, all of these are enabled. You can also choose from a growing number of languages.
Appearance is for those of you who wish to write your own CSS code to create a new Theme for CommaFeed. If you wish, you can also submit the theme to share with the community.
The Final Verdict
CommaFeed is one option in an ever-growing market that seeks to replace a business that Google strangely decided to jump out of. For those who want to replace the basic look and functionality of Google Reader, then it is an excellent option.
What’s your choice of Google Reader alternatives?
Photo Credit: KPJAS
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