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Reading the Web

I’ve spent a decent amount of time tweaking my … “system” for reading articles and blogs on the ’net that I figured I’d jot down what I’ve tried, and what’s currently working for me.

I currently use two separate but related tools for reading the web: a feed reader, and a “read later” app. My first feed reader was Google Reader until its untimely demise, followed by a long while of using newsbeuter to intermittently follow feeds. And for “read later”, I started with Instapaper, close to the time it was initially released.

Eventually, I stumbled on Feedbin, which has hosted my feeds ever since. Feedbin is great for many reasons, including: muting feeds; the autogenerated email address for newsletters; the friendliness and speed of the interface. But I’ve never used it as a primary client for actually reading my feeds — I’ve always preferred a native client over a web client where I can get one.

And thus, to start with: Reeder.app. Reeder was my go-to feed reader since at least Reeder 3, and it paired nicely with Instapaper.

I stuck with this setup for a long time. Eventually, though, I had ended up with too many saved articles in Instapaper. I tried splitting things out into folders to make “Home” more manageable; eventually, I settled on a “Long” folder that was for anything that Instapaper deemed to be over a “10 minute read”, and everything else was left in “Home”.

I eventually declared bankruptcy on Instapaper, for a few reasons, not least of which involved Instapaper being primarily web-based (at the end, I could feel the latency of talking to the server to interact with the app at all, despite Instapaper’s “native” apps).

Next, I switched over to Reeder’s built-in “read later” feature, which let me send articles over to a more permanent archive, where they wouldn’t be cleared out after having been opened. This was great — using the same app for both “triaging” the feed and also for reading longer articles. It helped, too, that Reeder is a beautiful and thoughtfully designed app.

But the reading experience wasn’t without bugs: for longer articles, if I switched away from the app while reading, it would very regularly lose my place in the article. And with the app being developed by a single person (as far as I know) with seemingly most of their focus on their new (similarly fantastic) recipe app Mela, I wasn’t sure things would get fixed in the near future.

After trying out a few alternative clients, I settled on NetNewsWire (NNW). NNW feels native. And simple. It’s free and open source (still (reasonably) actively developed), and has apps for both macOS and iOS. Truly Mac-assed.

NNW doesn’t have a “read later” feature, but/and I’ve come to like that: I now only use Reeder as a “read later” app, and send articles to it from NNW. And funnily enough, the extra bit of friction of not having a keyboard shortcut to send to Reeder’s “read later” (instead, needing to use NNW’s share menu) has kept me from adding too many articles, and makes me more considerate of what I add to my “read later” queue.

Anyway — I wouldn’t call this setup perfect, but it’s been working out well for me over the past year or so since I’ve adopted it. Feedbin (feed sync and management) → NNW (client) → Reeder (read later).

One important caveat in this whole setup: I only use the macOS version of NNW, even though there’s an iOS version, because I like to keep the number of “inboxes” and consumption opportunities on my phone to a minimum. I’ll talk about that more in a later post!