Sneak Peek of Caffeinated: A Fresh Google Reader App That You’ll Love

Browsing the App Store for a decent RSS app brings you little else than Reeder, which is an amazing app, and its hoard of clones, which tend to be not so amazing. As great as Reeder is, it seems to have given developers a mad case of tunnel vision that they just can’t get over.

For this reason, I’ve been pretty excited about Caffeinated, a soon to be released Google Reader client from Curtis Hard. Though it builds on the advancements of Reeder, it stands on its own as a gorgeous new take on the RSS reader. We recently got our hands on Caffeinated for a review, read on to see it in action.

Meet Caffeinated

Caffeinated uses a familiar three column interface with your subscriptions on the left, the individual items in the middle and the article preview on the right.

screenshot

Caffeinated

At a glance, Caffeinated looks like your typical Mac-style interface. However, once you spend a few seconds with it, you can see that it’s somehow much slicker and more refined. There are subtle gradients and hints of texture that really give Caffeinated a polished feel that you don’t get from other apps.

There’s a sort of layered appeal that makes the interface seem slightly three dimensional without taking skeuomorphic metaphors too far (the preview area is a different story, more on that later).

screenshot

Subscriptions and Article List

Browsing Articles

In the screenshot above, you can see the typical RSS app workflow: you’ve got unread, all articles and starred sitting above the folders that you’ve set up for your subscriptions. In addition, without any articles selected, the main content area shows the super attractive Caffeinated icon with an unread count.

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The Unread Count

There are a lot of little UI touches that make this app great. For instance, if you select an article from the second column, it not only highlights but also rises above the other content and stays fixed while you scroll. This allows you to easily see which article you’ve selected from any point in the list.

screenshot

Your selection stays with you as you scroll

There’s also a search bar at the top of this list that allows you to quickly filter the content. It’s not where you’d expect it to be, but it’s prominent enough that you can’t miss it.

Reading Experience

The real thing that sets Caffeniated apart is the reading experience, which definitely breaks the typical mold.

screenshot

The Caffeinated Reading View

As you can see, this area is super attractive and bursting with custom detail. Here we see the app flirting with some of that faux realism that Apple has decided is its new preferred method of UI design. I’m not too crazy about it in iCal and Address Book, but I think this app implements the same idea in a nicer, more subtle fashion (perhaps a little too much texture on the paper).

Reading articles in Caffeinated is a pleasant experience. The contrast ratio is just about perfect, the images are attractively styled with a thin white border and hint of a shadow and the content column (including both text and images) responds immediately to window size changes while the other columns in the app keep their size.

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Hovering over an image or link brings about this pop-up menu

Customizing the Text

In truth, I found the default text size to be a little small in Caffeinated. Further, every time I see Arial I can’t help but think, “Why not Helvetica?”

To me, a good interface is one that I can make my own and fortunately the developer of Caffeinated seems to agree. Right-clicking on the preview area allows you to customize the text to your liking. Addressing my issues with the font took only seconds.

screenshot

Customizing the Text

Other Goodies

Caffeinated is stocked full of all the features you need and want in a Google Reader client: plenty of sharing options, Read It Later/Instapaper support, control over refreshes and how long to keep old articles, there are even options to turn on and off animations and control the full-screen look.

screenshot

Other Goodies

More to Come

Interestingly enough, the features that I’m most excited about weren’t even ready for me to try yet. Namely, custom theming and third party plugins.

The mere presence of these two items means great things for this little app in the future. As soon as the API is released, you can expect to see a nice influx of new visual options and awesome features. I can’t wait to see how the app evolves with these additions in the future.

Still In Beta

Keep in mind that Caffeinated is still very much under development and not ready for a public release yet. Consequently, I did run into a major issue that led to an extremely lengthy initial launch that maxed out my CPU and pretty much crippled my machine.

However, once I played with the app long enough to get everything loaded and limit the number of unread downloads, everything sped right up and it’s been downright zippy ever since. Other than that, I haven’t experienced any other issues. In fact, the developer promises me that the final release version will contain what he believes to be the fastest Google Reader API ever built!

The Reader to Watch in 2012

The wait is nearly over for the official launch of the app, but in the mean time, anyone can participate in the public beta at GeekyGoodness. Go try it out and be sure to follow @caffeinatedapp for the latest news and updates regarding the app.

The slick UI, awesome attention to detail, buttery smooth functionality and upcoming extendability will make this a major contender for Google Reader fans in the year to come. I’ll hold off on scoring this one for now just because it’s undergoing so many changes at the moment. When it’s released we’ll have an updated review for you to check out. In the mean time let us know what you think in the comment section below.


  • Denis

    I want that one for iOS

  • Ed

    Looks promising. I seem to be one of the last people on Earth who can’t get on with the desktop version of Reeder (love it on iOS), so I’m looking forward to giving this a spin.

  • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

    I don’t understand, this looks pretty much exactly like Reeder. Sure the UI is a little different, elements in different places, but from what is being shown off in this preview. It’s a functional clone of Reeder.

    @Ed, what’s the problem with the Mac version of Reeder that you don’t seem to like. I absolutely adore the app. It’s the only way I look at my RSS feeds. I even choose to use it over my iPad version.

    • Curtis Hard

      Caffeinated was being developed about 1 year before reeder for OSX hit beta, if anything, Reeder is a clone of Caffeinated.

      • Ryan

        An hour in and I’ve already found the silliest comment of the day, well done sir.

      • Ryan

        Just to add to that, I remember seeing your app in 2010 and it looked more like NetNewsWire than Reeder app.

        You’re not getting off to a good start claiming the dev of a very popular app has cloned your own unreleased app.

      • Curtis Hard

        Its matter of opinion – how are you finding it anyway?, be honest.

        • Paulyboy

          Looks really good so far but there’s two things I [d need to see before purchasing this:

          (1) The ability to resize the text in the middle column as well. It’s pretty tiny on a 27″ screen set to its default resolution.

          (2) Customizable toolbar. I’d like to put buttons up there like “Mark all as read”, “Open in browser”, “Next thread”, “Previous thread”, etc..

          It wouldn’t hurt to have a “Show icons and text” option for toolbar buttons as well.

          With those changes I’d be more than willing to replace the aging NetNewsWIre.

      • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

        OMG… You have got to be kidding me!

        Are you actually trying to claim that Reeder stole it’s look and feel from Caffeinated? Reeder, which was released back in Sept. 2009 has clearly been around for well over 2 years, and was in development for who knows how long before that.

        Reeder for OS X has the exact same UI as it’s iOS iPad brother so, you can’t get away with saying that your app was ripped off by the Reeder developers.

        Either you are the worlds slowest developer, having had a working UI back in early 2009 and for some reason been sitting on it until now, or you are not being very truthful.

        I was actually going to give Caffeinated a look when it went into public beta or was released. Now, I’m going to stay as far away from it as possible.

        • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

          Really, the whole Caffeinated developer claiming to have created the UI that Reeder uses comments are censored? Along with my response to his claims… (The comment is now awaiting moderation) when it was public last night…

          I have run a blog for quite sometime; mind you, I don’t get the daily hits that this site gets. However, I have *NEVER* censored a comment that I have received. No matter how bat s**t crazy they were. To be fair, I have only had one commenter rant about something that she probably had a reason to rant about.

          Still, don’t you feel your readers have the right to know all the facts, good or bad, about the developer of Caffeinated?

          I personally learned something reading the comments before the were censored and will not bother to look at Caffeinated when it is released. I might have before those comments. Not now.

        • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

          Not censorship so much as honoring a request. When a reader/commenter/ requests that we pull one of their comments, we do. In this case I knocked out the thread as a result. As you can see above, we’re not censoring negative comments out, not now or ever. Thanks for the concern though, you have a right to call us out on it!

        • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

          OK, I see what is going on then. The comment I made specifically to the developers post about his program being the first to come up with the UI that Reeder uses is “being held for moderation” when in reality it’s just removed from view due to the thread being removed. It wouldn’t make sense if it were still visible but the post it was a comment of was removed.

          I can see why Mr. Hard would want to take back the comment. I would want the same thing if I made a comment that I later wanted to take back.

          Thanks for your explanation. It’s rare when a blog goes out of it’s way to attempt to make all it’s readers happy. Most times they don’t even bother to comment at all. (very annoying! :) )

          Thanks again and keep up the great work!

      • Curtis Hard

        Im not saying its a clone ( in the context of how I was saying what I said, its not a direct statement ), but when you suggest Caffeinated is a clone of Reeder – how do you think I feel, I know for sure the concept was out way before hand – and the year lapse I rewrote the whole thing =]. Just clearing that one up.

    • Ed

      @Dave, Good question, I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s strange, because as I say I love the iOS versions. Maybe it’s because I’m using it on a 27″ iMac and it gets lost a little, perhaps it’s more suited to smaller screens.

      I find the font size and contrast between the different posts difficult, despite being able to change them. Again, this is no issue on the iOS versions.

      I tried it on two separate occasions, for a week each time, and seemed to find I spent more time trying to set up the format and trackpad settings to my liking then I did actually reading content.

      It bugs me, because clearly the majority of people think it’s great and I feel like I’m missing out, but no matter what I do, I just can’t bring myself to love it.

      For now I’ve gone back to Google Reader in a Fluid app, which is visually hideous thanks to Google’s complete meltdown in UI design recently. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for alternatives, so look forward to being able to try Caffeinated out.

      • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave M.

        Kind of a weird reason for not liking Reeder, but hey, I’ve disliked apps for less. :)

        I just like the ease looking through my feeds. I have a bunch of feeds from AppShopper.com. A couple of those feeds have lists of apps from all categories. Thanks to Reeder, I can filter the list of apps down to just Games, or Utilities, etc… Makes looking through those feeds a bunch easier.

        I also love the keyboard shortcuts. Makes moving through the feeds a breeze, and since they are the same as what Google uses, it’s a snap to remember them.

        I don’t know what Mr. Hard is smoking to feel that his app is being ripped off by the developers of Reeder, but I sure hope you take that kind of slander into account when making your decision of an RSS reeder for OS X.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Here are some interesting thoughts on this whole Reeder clone debate: http://mac.appstorm.net/general/app-news/new-ui-patterns-in-app-design-a-blessing-or-a-curse/

  • http://appcrunch.co.uk Josh

    Not surprised to hear this at all. I have been beta testing Caffeinated for quite a long time and have to say the last few releases have drastically improved the performance speed, its gone from being obviously beta to stable and very usable. The dev is also very responsive to feedback which is nice.

    I actually prefer different RSS readers on all of my devices. I have Reeder for all but its only my preferred app on my iPhone.

    Mac: Caffeinated
    iPad: Perfect RSS/Flipboard
    iPhone: Reeder/Flipboard

  • http://www.mymacjournal.com/ David Chin

    Because some of my favorite sites only serve up partial RSS content, I stick to NetNewsWire on the Mac for the ability to open items in separate tabs in the background simply by pressing the right arrow key on keyboard on each item.

    • http://appcrunch.co.uk Josh

      You could use a service that gets the full feed instead like wizardrss.com

  • http://stucel.com Felix Widjaja

    I love the UI. Need beta tester?

    • http://wpgrafie.de/ Dominik

      Everybody can be a beta tester, just follow the Twitter account @caffeinatedapp.

  • http://michaelq.com.au Michael Quinn

    Just let us know when it’s actually out and we can go buy the thing.

    So many times I read great reviews of apps that are coming, then forget all about them.

  • Eric C

    Please please please tell me this will allow you to actually add tags to stories! No 3rd party apps (that I’ve found) allow you to do this which is my primary reason for sticking with the webapp as my interface…

  • sher

    Other than the 3 columns, I don’t think it looks like a Reeder knockoff. I thought Reeder was a tweetie/sparrow knockoff with the icon sidebar thingy, granted I haven’t used Reeder for Mac since it was in beta. I’ve been using Caffeinated for a while though, so maybe I’m biased.

    • sher

      Oh. I googled and now realize that the icon sidebar thing is optional, but still, I’m pretty sure Reeder’s devs didn’t invent columns.

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  • http://notalotofwords.com Joost van der Ree

    Here my review Caffeinated vs. Reeder:

    tmblr.co/Zin50yH6NPH0

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