We review six RSS readers

Liferea

Liferea [5] is a conventionally designed RSS reader with a four-pane window. At the top, a horizontal menu and buttonbar list the most important functions. On the left, the individual subscribed feeds appear vertically in a tree view. The right pane lists the latest news from the active feed at the top of the screen. Below it, you will find the message itself. The program reads feeds in common RSS formats, as well as those in Atom format, and it displays podcasts (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Liferea displays content in a conventional layout.

The application, based on the Gtk+ component library, has an internal WebKit-based browser to display content, including multimedia objects such as video sequences. If you don't like the fact that the internal browser doesn't have an effective ad blocker, you can use an external browser, which you define individually in the Settings dialog of the software. Right-clicking on a message opens the context menu, and you can decide to open it in an internal or external browser. Because the program lets users open several tabs simultaneously, you can have a text and browser view at the same time in the individual tabs.

Liferea has a sophisticated search function that you enable by selecting Search | Browse All Feeds from the menu or by pressing the Browse All Feeds button in the buttonbar. In an intuitive search dialog, you can specify the actual search term, as well as any inclusion and exclusion criteria using advanced settings. Liferea not only browses the headlines, but also, for example, the subscription titles.

Additionally, the Read status can be defined as a rule; you can even combine several freely defined rules. Liferea also lets you mark particularly important messages with a tag that can also be used as a search criterion.

Much like the Gnome Evolution mail client, Liferea uses search folders. All matches for a search run are moved into this directory; the extended search dialog can be opened from the context menu with a right-click. You create a new search folder with Subscriptions | New search folder. The folder can then be inserted into the tree view at any position in the hierarchy.

The next dialog determines the search criteria. Right-clicking on the newly created folder and selecting the Create new option lets you search all subscriptions for the terms. Any messages found then appear in the list view sorted by feeds (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Liferea works with search folders to collect topic-specific messages.

Group folders archive important messages in Liferea. However, the software does not update these folders automatically. You can create a group folder with Subscriptions | New group folder. It is then added at the current position in the folder structure tree, but it can be moved to another position later by dragging and dropping. You can then add messages to the collective folder by right-clicking on the message and selecting the Copy to group folder option.

If you have created several group folders, you can enable the desired folder in a fly-out menu. Group folders generally appear in the left tree view in an ochre yellow tone instead of pastel blue and can therefore be distinguished from search folders at a glance.

QuiteRSS

Russian feed reader QuiteRSS [6], which has been developed continuously since 2012, is still available in a few software repositories, but it is easiest to obtain from the project page. QuiteRSS has a conventional user interface with a buttonbar and three window areas, which clearly display all necessary information (Figure 9).

Figure 9: The still fairly young QuiteRSS reader also uses a conventional design.

The reader can handle RSS, RDF, and Atom feeds, and it imports and exports OPML data. The software displays multiple messages in tabs. Users can also look forward to a built-in browser based on WebKit, which quickly displays the desired content. QuiteRSS also comes with an ad blocker that uses generally accessible filter lists and can be supplemented with your own filters.

QuiteRSS can also play back content in an external browser. The reader uses the standard system browser, although you can enable a different browser if required. Thanks to the click to Flash option, users can play Flash content – which is blocked by default for reasons of speed and resource savings – at the click of a mouse.

QuiteRSS offers a very efficient search feature even for large volumes of news, and it is not limited to categories. The search feature is located in the buttonbar arranged horizontally at the top of the program window. To the left of the search term input field, a magnifying glass icon takes you to a drop-down menu. You can use this to restrict the search to parts of a message, such as its author, title, or category.

In the program window's message area, the results are displayed during input. If you view the messages with the internal browser, the finds are highlighted in yellow.

To keep track of multiple feed subscriptions in the vertical list view on the main window's left side, QuiteRSS also offers the option to group feeds in arbitrarily defined folders. You can use the buttonbar in the program window for this.

QuiteRSS lets you categorize the individual news. Some default categories are available for this in the program window's lower-left corner, and you can add more if needed. To create and manage categories, click on the small menu icon at top left in the main window next to the first tab. Once a message has been assigned to an individual category, QuiteRSS displays it in the news window below the headline. Categories can also be defined as search criteria.

Additionally, you can specify how long you want to keep messages with the Tools | Options menu in the Feeds | Clean Up dialog. The Feeds dialog lets you configure automatic update for news feeds (Figure 10).

Figure 10: QuiteRSS offers very detailed settings.

One of QuiteRSS's unique selling points is the ability to start a data backup, which can be found in the main menu below File | Create Backup. The software asks for a backup folder and then saves the program's configuration in one file and your collection of subscribed feeds in another.

Because it stores the feeds in a SQLite database structure, you need to make sure you have enough free space in the destination folder, especially if you have many subscriptions.

Makagiga

Makagiga is not a dedicated RSS reader, but rather a complete work environment with a powerful feed reader on board [7]. In addition to the popular RSS formats, Makagiga also supports the Atom format. You do not have to install the reader as a plugin in the Java software; it is available in the application suite right from the start.

Once you have installed Makagiga, which also supports the new Java 9 Runtime Environment as a portable version for 64-bit systems, you will find an RSS feed entry in the task view on the left of the program window after the first start. Right-clicking on this opens a context menu in which you can subscribe to your feeds using New | Add RSS Feed.

The associated dialog takes some getting used to: You need to enter a name separately in addition to the feed address. You then click on the Preview button at bottom right in the dialog window; the software then displays a preview of the feed headlines after a short wait while it loads. Next, click on Create, and create the subscription on the main window's left side. Clicking on one of the subscriptions shows the current headlines below it.

Clicking on one of the headlines on the right side of the program window opens a conventional feed reader view with the headlines in the upper window area and the messages below (Figure 11).

Figure 11: The interface of Makagiga's feed reader offers no surprises.

Makagiga's RSS module also offers powerful search and sort functions: To search for a term within a message, open a search line at the bottom of the program window from the Edit | Search menu; alternatively, you can use Ctrl+F. Then, enter the search term in the search line and check the box to make the search case sensitive.

The first result is now shown in the message in a pastel yellow tone. Using the arrows in the search line, which let you navigation to the right (forward) and left (backward), you can jump to previous or subsequent results.

However, this search function does not let you browse headlines. To do so, you need the small search field below the tree view with the folder and RSS hierarchies. If you enter a search term, Makagiga clears the tree view and displays only the headlines in which it appears. Makagiga also color-highlights the term.

Using the Sort by tab, which is located below the field for entering the search term, you can also use the context menu to specify the criteria by which to sort the list. The options include the message date, the name, or, in the case of read messages, a rating that you assigned (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Makagiga offers useful sorting functions.

Another unique feature of Makagiga's RSS reader is the ability to save individual messages as HTML or TXT files. To do this, press the Save As button above the headline view while accessing the message. In the following dialog, you then define the format and the storage location and save the file.

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