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Reeder makes a successful leap from iOS to Mac

When I heard that Reeder for Mac was being developed, I was thrilled. Ever since I had moved to Google Reader, I had been looking for a Mac app which was more compelling to use than the web interface. Reeder for iPad (US$5) was so good that I used it almost exclusively. Could Reeder make the jump from iOS to Mac?

I purposefully waited until the first few public beta versions of Reeder for Mac were released, to let the early bugs get sorted out. When I started to hear good reports about it on Twitter, I downloaded it and tried it for myself. Initially, it felt awkward. I couldn't stop noticing that this was an iOS app ported to Mac OS X. It just didn't feel right. So I deleted it. A few beta releases later, I tried again, but the result was the same: I used it briefly, then gave up.

When the final version arrived, I went to the official website hoping to find a demo version that I could try before buying. (I will pause briefly to repeat my firm belief that the biggest shortcoming of the iOS and Mac App Stores is the lack of full-featured demos.) At US$10, Reeder was above my "just buy it to try it" threshold. I found screenshots, but those are hardly enough to give a good feel for the app.

For a few days I continued my routine of using a Fluid.app browser for Google Reader on the Mac and Reeder on my iPad, but eventually curiosity got the better of me and I dropped my Alexander Hamilton on it. Despite my first rule for purchasing software, I decided that even if it didn't meet my needs now, it was likely to be popular enough that it would continue to be developed and improved.

Five minutes later I knew I had made the right choice.

Make no mistake, Reeder still feels like an iOS app which jumped to the Mac, but it has pushed through the awkward teenage years into a promising young-adulthood. That may be due to the fact that Lion has already started to push acceptance of iOS ideas and concepts coming "back to the Mac," or maybe the app itself has changed enough to make the jump seem less dramatic.

But enough with the vagaries of opinion, let's take a closer look at what's there.

Keyboard Shortcuts and 3rd Party Services

The first thing I loved was the keyboard shortcuts. Clearly that's not something you're going to find in an iOS app, so this is one place where it really stands out on the Mac. There are built-in, easily configurable keyboard commands for just about anything you could imagine. Not just the obvious ones like J/K for previous and next, but also shortcuts to send the current article to other services such as Pinboard, Instapaper, ReadItLater, Delicious, or Zootool. You can also send articles to Twitter, Instapaper or Google's mobilizer, email, or your web browser.

If you have used Reeder on the iPad, you are used to being able to easily send articles from it to those services, and on the Mac it is even easier. Just like the iPad version, you can disable services you do not use. For example, I use Pinboard but not Delicious, so I left Pinboard enabled and dropped Delicious.

But that's not all your fingers can do

Drawing from the app's iOS roots, Reeder also supports gestures for swiping up, down, left, and right, as well as pinch open or close, letting you choose what action each gesture triggers.

I am still getting used to these sorts of gestures on Mac OS X, but I think it is clear that they are part of its future. You are not required to use them; they are simply another way of controlling the app instead of clicking on menus or toolbar icons (also highly configurable) or keyboard shortcuts.

Readability: an RSS lover's best friend

Reeder's built-in "Readability" feature pulls full articles from sites which only offer truncated RSS feeds. To try it out by clicking a button that's available at the bottom of the article pane, or with a keyboard shortcut (G), which toggles it on or off.

If you want to go beyond the Readability format and integrate Reeder with your Readability account, you will find support for that is also built-in to the app, with the sign-in preference right below your Google account information.

Nice Extras

You can determine exactly when articles may be marked as read, pre-load articles (either in a web-browser or with Readability) and more. You can also change numerous appearance settings to make it look more or less like an iOS app with room for tweaking.

I was also glad to see that Reeder let me set the "Unread Count" to either "badge" (which looks like iOS) or "icon" (which looks nicely Mac-ish), or disable it altogether. It also gives granularity of control over syncing unread, starred, and shared items, as well as notes.

What's different and what's "missing"

Unlike most Mac apps, Reeder uses many keyboard shortcuts without a modifier key (Command, Option, Shift). As I mentioned before, some of these will be familiar to you if you have used the Google Reader website, and I would not say that they were a bad idea, just a different one. I do know that many years ago Opera dropped one-key shortcuts because they found it led to user confusion when keys were accidentally pressed either by the users themselves, or (and I am not making this up) their cats. Fortunately the most potentially "damaging" keystroke (Mark All As Read) requires confirmation before it is executed (unless your cat manages to press Shift and A simultaneously, or you turn off the confirmation option in preferences).

So far my only feature request (other than a demo version) is the ability to easily switch between Google accounts (a la Gmail accounts in Mailplane), but I suspect that is not a feature many users will use. At the very least, its absence in 1.0 release is understandable, and it may be enough of an "edge case" that it might never be added.

Others have mentioned the lack of "tabs" as a drawback. While I understand the complaint, I find that I much prefer to read one article at a time. Still, I would not be surprised to see that added in a later version if demand continues. After all, this is only 1.0.

Finally, I was surprised to see that there was no "full screen mode" available. Perhaps that feature will be added when Lion is released.

Summary

Reeder succeeds in crossing over from iOS by bringing the best features that users have come to expect and adding in a sprinkling of Mac-specific features. While it may seem even more at home once Lion arrives, I am glad to have it today on my Mac. If you already know and love Reeder on the iPad, chances are good you will love it on the Mac too. If you are not an iPad user and are looking for a clean, feature-rich Google Reader client for Mac, Reeder should definitely be on your list to check out.

Gallery

Check out Reeder's menus in the gallery below. Screenshots of the UI are available on the official Reeder website.



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Software Mac App Review

When I heard that Reeder for Mac was being developed, I was thrilled. Ever since I had moved to Google Reader, I had been looking for...