Comparing Three Linux RSS Feed Readers

If you a web user and don’t already love RSS/Atom type feeds, you’re missing out. Not only can you have all your favorite news sites and blogs pipe into one location for easy browsing, you can even get updates on discounted shopping, or be notified when a new Simpsons episode lands on Hulu. Feeds are among the best features of the modern web, and many tools and sites have sprung up to give you incredible control over how you can access all this information. Here at MTE we’ve already covered some useful desktop feed readers for Windows and Mac, so now seems like a good time to check out what Linux has to offer.

Note for those new to feeds: Most blogs and other sites that regularly update content provide an RSS or Atom feed. This is an address you can paste into a feed reader such as the ones described here. In the upper right of this page, for example, you’ll see an orange icon similar to the one being held by Tux in the intro image. Right clicking that icon will allow you to select Copy Link Address or something along those lines, depending on your browser. Pasting the address into any of these feed readers will subscribe you to that feed, and all new updates from that site will be sent there.

Liferea

Liferea (Linux Feed Reader) is one of the more popular feed readers for Linux. It’s got all the basic functionality – easy adding and removing of subscriptions, folder support, and key-based controls.

linuxreaders-liferea

One of the more interesting aspects of Liferea is its built-in Lua scripting support. Users can create their own scripts based on certain events in Liferea (startup, new items arrived, etc). The bad news is that this feature appears to be slated for removal in future versions.

Liferea also provides good Gnome integration by allowing you to reduce the program to a panel app. New and unread items will show directly on your panel, which can be clicked to restore the full UI.

If you’re new to feeds, or just want basic functionality in your reader, Liferea is a great choice.

aKregator

There are, of course, options for KDE/Qt in the world of feed readers. Among the best is aKregator. It continues the KDE habit of high functionality, and includes some great configuration options.

linuxreaders-akregator

One of aKregator’s best features is that it lets you edit the settings of each feed individually. This means that you can do things like set update intervals for different times on different sites. Make Tech Easier typically updates twice a day, so it could be set to a 12 hour interval, whereas it may be more appropriate for a news feed to be set to a much smaller interval. This decreases wasted bandwidth for all, and is less likely to cause your Internet line to “hiccup” while many feeds update at once.

aKregator also integrates with the Gnome and KDE panels, displaying unread counts and allowing access to the program’s configuration.

BlogBridge

As a Java application, BlogBridge is not specifically tailored for Gnome, KDE, or any other desktop environment. BlogBridge calls itself “the ultimate info-junkie system”. In addition to the normal feed subscription options found in all feed aggregators, a free account from the BlogBridge website gives you online sync of your feeds and access to the BlogBridge Expert Guides. These are collections of feeds reportedly put together by experts in various fields. Everything from politics to programming to Vanity Fair can be found in the guides section. This alone may make BlogBridge worth mentioning, but the application itself is a fully capable feed reader.

linuxreaders-blogbridge

The dotted graph next to each feed name indicates the amount of traffic coming from that feed. In the above screenshot, you can see that BorgBlog hasn’t been updating lately, and that Mike Lynch doesn’t work on weekends.

Instead of organizing feeds by folders, you create your own Guides, which are once again just a collection of feeds. This can be done by browsing through BlogBridge’s fairly extensive library or by adding your own feed addresses manually.

Finally, if you’d like to find out if you’re one of the “info junkies” they’re talking about, you can pull up statistics from Tools > Statistics to see just how much time you spend on your feeds.

linuxreaders-blogbridge-chart

Honorable Mentions

Bottom Feeder and RSSOwl are two other popular options for Linux feed readers, however neither would run properly on the Ubuntu 64 bit test machine, so they were considered unsuitable for review. If none of the above options meets your needs, one of those two might be what you’re looking for.

Have you found any Linux feed aggregators better than the ones listed here? If so, let us know in the comments.

8 comments

  1. Lifeera is so slow, and tends to “Not Responding” when updating my feeds from almost 30 websites “Not much”, I have sued Akregator and i think it is way better than Lifeera

  2. Google Reader is great, but the subject of this article was local desktop applications, whereas Reader is a web app.

  3. Thunderbird can do feed reading. I find it much better than any of the above, and it's cross platform and has a large number of extensions available for it (Adblock Plus anyone?). It even managed to read in my list of feeds exported from Google reader.

  4. I actually looked into Thunderbird while researching the article, and in my experience it would hang indefinitely from the moment I clicked Manage Subscriptions. After about a half hour of wrestling with it I was forced to move on.

    It's a shame, as I was looking forward to seeing how it compared to the others.

  5. I've been using Liferea for a couple of years now and really like it. It's installed on my desktop box (KDE – Slackware) and on a netbook (XFCE – Crunchbang), both running the same 'feedlist' (29 feeds), and I haven't had a problem with either one. Only very rarely get an instance where one feed might not update, almost always just a temporary issue on the source side.

    I have my same feedlist in Google Reader and use it only occasionally. Can't really find anything wrong with using Google Reader but I just prefer Liferea's interface more.

  6. I wish someone could make a program like “FeedDaemon” for windows with a nice interface , syncronization and full integration with google reader

  7. What I would like is someway of easily syncing my feeds between computers, so i know which i've read and havn't read wherever I am. if Liferea or Thunderbird could sync with Google Reader maybe, that would work well.

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