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A great Google Reader client for WM

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#1
David Strange

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Using Google Reader on a Windows Mobile device has never quite been the walk in the park it should be. The standard layout in most WM browsers is terrible. You can get the groovy iPhone layout, but this requires either fiddling with your browser's user agent or finding a copy of the now-defunct Iris Browser (which pretends to be Safari on an iPhone). I've just found another solution.

SpeeedReader (go here to get it) is a small and fast client for Google Reader. It connects to Google and keeps your rss feeds synchronised between your WM phone and your main computer. The interface is very clear and finger-friendly; very easy to use. I rather like its support to send people news items from your feeds by SMS, email or Twitter (with URL shortening). You can view all items in the form of a reading list or navigate through the directories they are assigned to in your Google Reader settings. Pictures are shown when you read a news item and it is very easy to tell SpeeedReader to open items in your default browser. There are plenty of options which are easy to alter for those who like honing their RSS reader experience to a fine point.

Here are a couple of screenshots:
Posted Image Posted Image

You can apparently download the latest full version (v1.12 build 3659) from the link I gave above (or here) but this will only last for ten days until you have to pay the miniscule amount of $1.99 to register it. $1.99 is such a token amount of money to pay for software that I will use many times each day that I happily stumped up the cash within minutes of using it and realising its power and usefulness. If you don't have this tiny quantity of cash to spend on great software the 0.93 version is free for unlimited use. But pay the man his $1.99, v1.12 is much better and people should be supported for writing great programs like this.

A must-have piece of software for all Windows Mobile users of Google Reader.

Cheers,
David.

Edited by David Strange, 03 February 2010 - 03:03 PM.

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#2
David Strange

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I should perhaps say a few more words about Google Reader in order to convince you of its brilliance and consequently why I think you should be spending $1.99 on a piece of software to access it from your Windows Mobile device.

Out of the myriad RSS readers I've used over the years Google Reader is by far and away the best. It is one of these Ajax-y, Web 2.0-style web applications and it is a damned good example of the genre. You can access just by pointing pretty much any browser on any system to http://reader.google.com/ and logging in with a Google username and password (it is very easy to create a Google account if you are yet to have one).

You'll then be presented with a pretty blank browser window, you need to add your RSS feeds to it. You can either add them manually just by clicking the 'Add a subscription' button in the top left of the window and typing/pasting a feed url in there. If you are moving from a different RSS reader you can also import OPML files from other readers which will have the details of all your feeds. Simple, eh?

In the bottom-left pane in the window there is a link entitled 'Manage subscriptions' which will take you to a list of all your feeds and allow you to classify them into folders. A feed can live in more than one folder.

When it comes to reading the feeds themselves it is terribly easy. Once you've chosen a feed to read from the list of your feeds on the left of the window you can just sit back and press the space bar to scroll through the news items one page at a time. There are plenty more keyboard shotcuts for the mouse-haters. Clicking an article headline will open the full item in your browser. If there is a news item you want to refer back to you can assign a star to it and it'll remain in your 'Starred items' folder until you chose to un-star it. Google Reader includes a simple mechanism for sharing news items with your friends and you can click on little faces next to feed items to say you liked them.

One of its most powerful features is, perhaps unsurprisingly as it is a Google product, the search functionality. Google Reader keeps track of every item in every RSS feed you have ever read and it is simple to search all of these items. You may be looking for an item from a RSS feed you read over a year ago, but it is all stored and so if you know keywords to search for you'll find that old feed item.

My favourite feature? Your up-to-date and synchronised feeds are available anywhere you can find a browser. The information about what items in which feeds you have or have not read is stored centrally by Google, so whatever machine you use wherever you are you will have the most current state of your feed reading accessible. This is one of the major problems of having to use different RSS readers on different systems, they will not synchronise and switching to a different machine with a different RSS reader will have you re-reading posts or even missing some as the subscriptions might not be the same on each system.

Sounds like great stuff, eh? When I first used used it I was bowled over by its transparent functionality that was so easy to use. Google will own us all one day. Or at least all our data.

So, after all of this why use SpeeedReader? Simply put, it is because Google does not want to play nice with Windows Mobile. The standard mobile view for Google Reader is hideous and very difficult to use on a small screen. If you had to rely on this interface for long you'd soon chuck Google Reader out.

Google are happy to give iPhone users a decent UI for Reader, but for we WM types it requires jiggery-pokery to access this. If you know how to edit the user agent of your browser so it pretends to be an iPhone running Safari then you could access the iPhone interface. This is pretty much what the now defunct Iris browser did, its user agent identified it as a webkit-based browser (like Safari) and so you'd get the better version of Reader. Since Iris has vanished and changing user agents is a drag at best and impossibly technical for some users we seem stuck.

Enter SpeeedReader. It is quite a small, simple, fast program which connects to Google and gathers your new RSS feed items from there. It tells Google which items you have and haven't read, so much like accessing Reader through a desktop browser, SpeeedReader keeps your feeds synchronised with no danger of having to re-read posts or miss out on some feeds because your subscriptions are different on different machines. It supports the full set of Google Reader features, so you can read your starred items or share posts with your followers on Google.

It does more. You can share RSS items via email, SMS and Twitter, the Twitter support extending to shrinking URLs. Additionally, it is possible to browse your feeds in a variety of ways. For example, you could access each feed item by navigating to the folder/tag where the items from the feed you want to read are just read that particular feed. If you just want to read all new items in one go, or all new items under a particular folder, you can just open up a reading list which shows a list of articles from the criteria you want to display, it could be all items or just those under the a particular category.

The options give you enough to modify about SpeeedReader's behaviour and appearance. For example, you can set the maximum number of articles to show in a page of a reading list, how many articles to pre-load and cache, where you want to put the cache (storage card or system memory), how big you want fonts, whether to connect to the internet when roaming and much more. All of these options are easy to access and change; indeed, 'easy' seems to be the theme of the SpeeedReader experience. It is very finger friendly and all its functions are transparently easy to access.

Google Reader is a brilliant piece of software which I cannot recommend highly enough; by using it your feeds are but an internet connection away. If you want to access Reader from your WM device and so have the ability to read your synchronised, current feeds anywhere with mobile phone coverage you should be spending that $1.99 and getting this really great piece of software.

That was rather long-winded, eh?

Cheers,
David.

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#3
kennyboy

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Does it have image caching support or does it need an active connection to download images from feeds?

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#4
David Strange

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Does it have image caching support or does it need an active connection to download images from feeds?

I'm told by the faq that it doesn't support image caching at this time.

Cheers,
David.

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#5
kennyboy

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Ah....that's bad. I prefer my reading to be with images. ;)

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#6
taz5176

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tried the software, seems snappy but would prefer image caching <- that would make the software more complete
if image has to be viewed thru browser, i do not see the reason to use your browser to view readers.google.com
really hope the developer could do something abt it


EDIT:
it also don't support swiping to next article, have back & then select the next article
not sure why have to key username & password everytime i use, although i set to auto login

Edited by taz5176, 04 February 2010 - 09:04 AM.

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#7
David Strange

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In SpeeedReader you are not obliged to use your default browser to read RSS items; unless you've checked the 'Always use default browser' box under Settings > Behaviour you can read articles (with pictures) from within the Reader client and should you want to still have the option to open full articles in the default browser on your device.

As I pointed out, the other reason to use a good-looking, highly functional and simple to operate Google Reader client for WM rather than access it through your device's browser is that the mobile interface for Google on non-iPhones is so poor it is hardly functional. I'll show you. Here is the Google Reader mobile view in Opera 10 beta 2u on my TG01:
Posted Image
Really ugly, unclear and fiddly to use, eh?

Now here is what SpeeedReader looks like with a few items to read:
Posted Image
Much friendlier on the eyes and easier on the fingers when navigating around your feed contents. Not having to squint to see and stab my finger at tiny text links seems like an improvement.

Perhaps if people try and like this software they can give the developer some feedback that image caching would be generally appreciated: I will do so.

Cheers,
David.

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#8
taz5176

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yup i definitely agree it is much neater & nicer to view on speed reader than the browser
& yes, i too would love image cache

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#9
alekhkhanna

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Have been using this useful piece of software for quite a while now.. and i totally <3 it !!.. :D ..
Image caching would be nice, though i am happy with the current software also..!!
All-in-all, really good work..!! ;)

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#10
leland_jr

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+1 on the images. But great to have regardless.

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#11
lopex

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Good research and gathering of the info. Totally agree with yours very flexible job and opportunities and possibilities are endless..Thanks for forwarding this useful information.

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