Here's my conundrum. I've been trying out some free feed readers the last couple of months. I started with bloglines (the popular web based reader). I've also tried Pluck's web based version and the new, intriguing netvibes which is not strictly a reader but plays one on my screen. Google's personalized homepage is nice and along the lines of netvibes. I've tried Sage, the Firefox reader. I also found this thing called intravnews (nice name huh?) which runs as an add on to Microsoft Outlook and is now free for personal use or non-profits (I qualify as both!).
If you just want to answer my final questions, skip to the end of the post. Otherwise... I might be missing a whole bunch of stuff on some of these readers since I spent most of my time with them getting an initial set of feeds going. Lots of people seem to be wild about Pluck for example, but I'm not sure how it beats bloglines. In fact, all of the readers involve trade-offs. Here are some examples...
UPDATE: H/T to Lifehacker for this one. They must have heard me typing this post over at Google, or maybe they were monitoring my keystrokes. Google Reader was released in beta just today. I have no idea if it's any good... we shall see.
Bloglines: I think bloglines is the best overall. You've got the bookmarklet for your sidebar that allows you to subscribe with one click, and lots of options. The public subscriptions feature is great! I've discovered a couple of cool blogs sifting through other people's lists. Their editing interface stinks as far as I'm concerned. I want to drag and drop my folders into place. Plus bloglines is not very fast. If one of you fine bloggers posts something, I'm weird enough to want to know about it right then, not like three hours later. Of course, I could just click through my bookmarks and find out what's new, but the reason for using a feed reader is to avoid clicking through the whole list.
Pluck: same as bloglines, though you can import an opml file even in the web version. But their folder editing is even worse than bloglines. Their updates seem to be quicker, however.
Netvibes: This is cool and as time goes on it might get even cooler. You create a page from scratch and can easily move stuff around. Netvibes won't discover a feed for you, however. And you're limited to feeds, there's no way to create your own list of bookmarks. You can monitor your gmail inbox if you have one. Plus, there are no post summaries, just titles. Updates are immediate (as soon as you reload the page).
Google: Very cool personalization tool. This one will discover a feed if you drag a bookmark to the "create a section" box on the "add contents" dialog. Like Netvibes, you get only the post titles. Also as with Netvibes, updates are immediate upon reloading.
Sage: This was a huge disappointment for me. I found it hard to figure out and s-l-o-w. And it kept crashing while trying to read a certain feed. I uninstalled it.
Intravnews: This integrates seemlessly with MS Outlook and runs just like an Outlook inbox; this is both good news and bad news. The updates are immediate. Editing is a pain in the butt and I had trouble with the import OPML function. It also seems like moving folders around without telling intravnews what you're doing is a no-no. Once I got it running though, I added a bunch of feeds to my Outlook Today view and updates seem to happen within a minute or two of the post being published. A nice window pops up at the bottom right of the screen when a feed is updated. There are so many options to set up, however, that if you're just looking for convenience, this might not be the way to go.
So, questions for almost none of you to answer: Do you even use a reader? If so, which? Is it free or purchased? Do you know of any really great free readers that I should try?
Related: For an interesting opinion and burgeoning discussion about RSS, see Micro-Persuasion's current post on the subject. H/T to John at Freshblog for pointing out Micro Persuasion.