CyberNotes
Web Browser Wednesday

Firefox Feed Reader One thing that the Firefox developers have stayed clear of thus far is implementing a full RSS feed reader into the browser. Firefox does have a built in system called Live Bookmarks that are supposed to compensate for needing a feed reader in the browser, but as many of you know it falls short.

When it comes to browsers having an integrated feed reader many of them leave users wanting more. Almost all of them lack the power, design, and usability that I love so much, except for one of them. Hands down Flock has the best built-in feed reader, and it far surpasses what any other browser has. You can quickly customize how you’re viewing the feeds, organize them with the intuitive sidebar, and much more.

Today we want to demonstrate the best feed readers for Firefox that don’t require any online services. Some of them are simple, and some of them are rather impressive. What it really boils down to, however, is how usable they are.

The first three listed below are more of the full featured readers, while the last three are toolbar marquees and scrollers. With each extension we provide a screenshot so that you can see what it looks like while being used, and you can click on the thumbnails for a full-size view.

Note: At the end I’ll announce the “winners”

–Beatnik (Homepage)–

Beatnik Firefox Feed Reader Overview: If you’re looking for something that you can configure this is not your feed reader. It is a light weight feed reader that requires absolutely no additional work if you’re already using the built-in Firefox Live Bookmarks.

The Good:

  • The feed reader itself does not utilize the browser’s sidebar, which means you can still have your bookmarks sidebar open while viewing feeds
  • Automatically pulls in feeds from your Live Bookmarks making it an easy upgrade for all Live Bookmark users
  • Sidebar is resizable
  • Expandable/contractible feed items

The Bad:

  • Has absolutely no options to configure
  • Can’t organize feeds into folders
  • The only way to add feeds is by making a Live Bookmark
  • Can’t import feeds form an OPML file


–Wizz RSS Reader (Homepage)–

Wizz RSS Reader Overview: A slightly more extravagant feed reader that has many advanced management features. It doesn’t let you read the entire feed item from the reader though.

The Good:

  • Can import feeds from Live Bookmarks and OPML file
  • The reader can be put in the sidebar or popped out into a new window
  • Save items for quick access later on
  • Setup an email template for sending items to your friends

The Bad:

  • Does not let you preview the entire article, and instead takes you to the article’s website to read it
  • Can’t customize the interval at which the feeds are updated
  • Can be a bit cramped trying to do all your reading in the sidebar

–Sage (Homepage)–

Sage Firefox Feed Reader Overview: Sage is nice because it displays the contents of feeds in a clean and intuitive manner. If you have hundreds of feeds to read this is the Firefox feed reader for you.

The Good:

  • You can manually have it refresh all of the feeds
  • Customizable stylesheets let you change how the contents of feeds are displayed
  • The feed subscriber shows you the last time a feed was updated
  • Two column reading of the news
  • Scales images to fit the width of the content area
  • Import feeds from OPML file
  • Search your feeds
  • Can organize the feeds into folders

The Bad:

  • Would be nice to switch between full feed views and short descriptions
  • Can’t customize the interval at which the feeds are updated

–infoRSS (Homepage)–

infoRSS Overview: This extension puts a scrolling marquee in the Status Bar that shuffles through the news. It is extremely customizable, but there are so many different options that it can be overwhelming.

The Good:

  • Extremely customizable
  • Filter headlines for keywords
  • Create groups of feeds so that you can quickly switch between different types of news
  • Specify the update interval on a per-feed basis or change the default value
  • Report feature shows you how many items haven’t been read in each feed, last time the feed was updated, and more
  • Synchronize with FTP
  • The marquee can be moved from the Status Bar to a toolbar at the top

The Bad:

  • The number of options can be overwhelming for some people, and they aren’t very well organized
  • The marquee animation can be a bit choppy at times, so you might want to change it to a different type of animation

–RSS Ticker (Homepage)–

RSS Ticker Firefox Feed Reader Overview: A superb marquee feed reader that has all the right options.

The Good:

  • Smooth marquee animation
  • Elegant article summary popup
  • Grabs all of your Live Bookmarks right away without any additional configuration
  • Customize the update interval
  • Choose the placement (below the Status Bar or below the Bookmarks Bar)
  • Feed enabling and disabling
  • Makes good use of the room

The Bad:

  • All feeds have to be Live bookmarks, although you can disable them on an individual basis
  • It always has to have its own toolbar to display feeds, which can occupy precious screen space

–Simple RSS Reader (Homepage)–

Simple RSS Reader Overview: This is just a toolbar that cycles through the feeds that you specify. The configuration options are a little limited.

The Good:

  • Nice manager for adding/removing feeds
  • The toolbar is a nice condensed way to keep up with the news
  • Control buttons to move on to the next item, next feed, or restart the cycle

The Bad:

  • Takes awhile to go through a lot of feeds
  • Can’t import feeds
  • Can’t customize the interval at which the feeds are updated
  • Only shows one item at a time

–The Winners–

I’m a little disappointed by the quality of the feed reading options available for Firefox, but some were clearly better than others. For the more full featured feed readers (the first three in this article) I would have to say that Sage is the best. It has the right amount of features, and definitely feels like a feed reader. To my surprise, however, Beatnik comes in a very close second place. There is something about it’s simplicity that I really like.

When it comes to the marquee style feed readers (the latter three in the article) I would put RSS Ticker up on a pedestal above the others. It has smooth animations, an elegant interface, and a sufficient number of options. However, if your heart lies with customizability I would jump on the infoRSS bandwagon, because it is sure to make you drool!

There Are 21 Comments

  1. From the screenshots, I guessed that Sage looks like the best one. :D My rant is that most (almost all) websites dont provide full RSS feeds (only partial content). That is what keeps me from using RSS more.

  2. You forgot to mention Brief ([brief.mozdev.org]). This one is really smart. Please add it to your list. (No, I am not involved with this project).

  3. have you tried Brief?

  4. Andre, Brief looks interesting but as Ryan mentioned its kind of disappointing when you look at reading feeds in Firefox. For now, Google reader does it for me although I have used portable GreatNews for the longest time. :|

  5. I’ve been using ‘Sage’ for years, love it, read all my feeds with it, including CyberNet’s! I’ve tried others but they all appeared in my opinion to be either too simple either too complicated. I agree with Ryan, ‘Sage’ is a good compromise. Very fast, elegant, nice. I’ve even modified some of the many provided stylesheets (available on their website) to have the display in my very personal fragrance : nice brains, nice body! ;)

  6. Try Boox ( [joliclic.free.fr] ), it’s a nice companion to your Live Bookmarks.

  7. I’m one of the few who likes Firefox’s RSS functionality better than any other browser’s. The reason is because I use Yahoo! Mail for my feeds. W/ Fx, I can preview feeds, and add them straight to Y!Mail w/ just a couple clicks.

  8. Before I switched to Google Reader, I actually moved from Sage to Wizz. Using the folder pane in the top of the sidebar and partial view/summary pane in the bottom of the sidebar, while browsing the original websites in the main pane actually seems like a more intuitive setup for a feed reader – especially one that’s a browser extension. You often end up going to the original articles anyway, right? Especially with all those partial feeds.

  9. RSS Ticker crashes my whole system from time to time and I have to reboot. This is reproducible but unfortunately noone has fixed it yet.

  10. Personally, I’ve already tried Wizz and Sage and neither of them are anywhere near as good as Google Reader, so I couldn’t use them.
    I also like using Firefox’s gimpy feed reader for sites that I merely check when I feel like (not every day), or I just want to read headlines.

  11. Anonymous wrote:
    From the screenshots, I guessed that Sage looks like the best one. :D My rant is that most (almost all) websites dont provide full RSS feeds (only partial content). That is what keeps me from using RSS more.

    There are good reasons for that though. For some sites they feel that’s the only way to bring readers to their site.

    André wrote:
    You forgot to mention Brief ([brief.mozdev.org]). This one is really smart. Please add it to your list. (No, I am not involved with this project).

    Looks like a nice one, but it would be hard to cover every extension in this article. Thanks for pointing it out though.

    BossaNova wrote:
    I’ve been using ‘Sage’ for years, love it, read all my feeds with it, including CyberNet’s! I’ve tried others but they all appeared in my opinion to be either too simple either too complicated. I agree with Ryan, ‘Sage’ is a good compromise. Very fast, elegant, nice. I’ve even modified some of the many provided stylesheets (available on their website) to have the display in my very personal fragrance : nice brains, nice body! ;)

    Sage is really nice for that reason, and I love how everyone has the chance to truly make it their own.

    netster007x wrote:
    I’m one of the few who likes Firefox’s RSS functionality better than any other browser’s. The reason is because I use Yahoo! Mail for my feeds. W/ Fx, I can preview feeds, and add them straight to Y!Mail w/ just a couple clicks.

    Firefox’s preview functionality is really nice, but I think Internet Explorer’s preview is even better. IE gives you all kinds of options to sort the posts as well.

    MandyJosiFan wrote:
    RSS Ticker crashes my whole system from time to time and I have to reboot. This is reproducible but unfortunately noone has fixed it yet.

    I wonder how it crashes your entire system? I would think at the very worst it would be Firefox.

  12. But IE doesn’t have a button to add to Yahoo! feeds (or other web service).

  13. Brief seems identical to Feed Sidebar ([addons.mozilla.org])

  14. I agree that Flock had a really nice RSS feed reader. But what to do now that Flock has been abandoned? Which of the ones you look at are most like flock?

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