It seems like there’s been an influx of RSS reader reviews here on AppStorm recently. With great new (and sometimes novel) readers like Pulp or Reeder, we can’t help but get excited about them. However, every now and then an RSS app comes out that doesn’t dabble with novel formats or unique interfaces. They set out to achieve the simple goal of utility, and do it well.
MobileRSS is a Google Reader client that has long been popular on iOS devices, and now comes to Mac. How does the desktop version hold up?
While I mentioned that MobileRSS doesn’t try to reinvent the way we read our news with novel interface features, I won’t hesitate to say that it does look damn good. The interface is graphically sharp and uses great color contrast between the feeds and the viewer in the three-pane layout. This layout choice makes using MobileRSS feel a little like using the iPad iteration of the same app (which was a joy to use, in my opinion).
Unfortunately, we can all tell instantly that the interface isn’t exactly groundbreaking. This appears to be another in the long line of recent Reeder clones.
MobileRSS does a great job of incorporating all of the standard Google Reader features. The sidebar gives access to your feeds, your home list (with all of your noted, shared, liked, and starred content), and a list of feeds from people you follow. The buttons in the upper right corner are article-contextual, and allow you to keep an item as unread, “like” the current article, star the article, or share it to your followers. The last button gives you access to connected services, allowing you to share content via Twitter, Delicious, or any number of other services, as well as opening an article in your browser.
My only interface-related problem with these buttons is that hovering over them doesn’t reveal tool-tips, which can be confusing to people new to Google Reader.
In addition to all of the social and sharing functionality that accompanies Google Reader, MobileRSS includes a few handy readability features. Similar to the Magic Reader in Pulp or the Readability feature in Reeder, MobileRSS allows you to set per-feed preferences on downloading full content for feeds that only publish summaries by default. The “Download Full Post” button can be used to download a single post on the spot, then allowing you to switch between the full post and the summary. The default preference, however, can be set in the Preferences window, forcing that feed to download full posts for all future articles.
The display layout buttons on the right side of the bottom toolbar switch between list view and image view. I found this to be pretty neat in theory, but image view seems to have some inconsistency when pulling images from posts (I’m no programmer, so I concede that the Google Reader API may share some of the blame for this).
The image view layout changes the way that you move between articles, eliminating the list pane and allowing you to move directly to another article from the same feed.
MobileRSS will also keep track of several Google Reader accounts. The Preferences window provides access to account management, as well as allowing you to set an update schedule, full-post download preferences, whether or not to display the Unread Count badge on the dock icon, and a global shortcut for showing/hiding MobileRSS. I find that most of the applications I use in my daily workflow are accessed via global hotkeys (Quicksilver, The Hit List, Twitterrific…) and it’s definitely helpful to have this feature built in. Finally, the Services pane of the Preferences window allows you to configure all of your outlets for sharing content.
Aside from a few minor performance issues, I found MobileRSS for Mac to be a rock solid aggregator without all the bells and whistles of more novel readers. The interface is clean and to-the-point. While I certainly love the format readers like Pulp, I found that simpler reader like MobileRSS did wonders for my productivity.
In the end though, there’s a discussion to be had about where to draw the line with borrowing interface ideas. Reeder itself is extremely similar in many respects to Twitter for Mac but was at least fairly unique among RSS clients. Now we’re seeing RSS apps like this one picking up both Reeder’s form and function on a daily basis. It would definitely be nice to see some more unique entrants into this arena.