Sputnik — A Beautifully Designed Cross-Platform RSS Reader

It must be the season again for simple RSS reader apps. There’s the new native Mac-style Dayspring feed reader, and the new Dropbox-powered web app JellyReader. And now, we’ve got another new simple feed reader, this time a node-webkit powered Mac and PC app: Sputnik.

Sputnik’s light on features like the other aforementioned apps, but makes up for it with a beautifully unique UI and a silky-smooth performance that makes it delightful to use. And with a low, low price tag of free, it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Cross-Platform Done Right

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 4.32.46 PM

The best Mac apps are almost always designed exclusively for the Mac. Ported, cross-platform apps typically never exactly feel right — there’s always something a bit off, whether it’s the UI or the scrolling or keyboard shortcuts. And yet, a recent change has made some of the newest cross-platform apps feel native everywhere: they’re powered by web tech. The apps are still fully native apps that run offline without an internet connection, but under the hood, they’re powered by Webkit and much of the same code you’d find in normal web apps.

We’ve seen this with Pagico, the project management app that runs on Windows, Linux, and the Mac, and have also seen it with offline Chrome apps like Caret. Now, the new Sputnik RSS reader has done something similar. Truth be told, though, that doesn’t actually matter — run Sputnik, and you’ll never guess it’s powered by web code. It’s just an app that works great, and happens to run both on your Mac and on Windows PCs.

Sputnik works just like you’d expect, though with a UI that’s a tad surprising at first. You can add feeds individually or import them from an OPML file, then sort them into lists if you’d like. Then, you’ll be able to read all of your feeds in a single page view, an incredibly nice option that’s surprisingly not more common. Articles render beautifully in Sputnik, and you can use the 3-finger tap to define words just as you’d expect in any other Mac app. The only thing that’s any bit odd is that right-clicking jumps to the next article, though you can still select text and use keyboard shortcuts to copy, if you want.

Tip: Sputnik isn’t a signed app, so if you have the default security settings on your Mac, you’ll need to right-click on the app the first time you launch it and select Open. After that, it’ll run the same any other app.

Tags offer a neat yet under-realized plus in Sputnik

Tags offer a neat yet under-realized plus in Sputnik

There’s no social sharing, no reading later services, and no sync to mobile apps — it’s just Mac-native RSS syncing on its own. That much should be expected from the most basic RSS apps. But there’s one extra — and one missing thing — that you’ll find surprising: tags, but no search. You can add tags to any article to make it easy to find again, but there’s no search or simple way to see every tagged article together. Instead, you’ll need to open the All Feeds view and filter by tags to see the stuff you’ve tagged. It’s a nice way to categorize stuff you’ll want to come back to, but needs an option to keep tagged articles indefinitely and an easier way to surface tagged articles to be terribly useful.

Overall, though, for a free RSS reader, Sputnik is very nice. You can download and try it out for free — and if you haven’t found a feed reader you love yet, I’d recommend you do so. Then, if you like it, you can chip in to support its development — a great way to guarantee the app will continue to improve for everyone.

Also: whether it’s Chrome offline web apps or apps like Sputnik that run as standalone apps, we’re excited to see web-powered cross-platform apps taking off. It’s a great thing for Macs and PCs alike, since these new cross-platform apps feel so much more native than their ported counterparts.


Summary

A cross-platform RSS reader that feels smooth and native on the Mac, with a unique UI that's makes RSS reading fun.

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