Update: the 1,179 news stories I won’t read

Five days ago I wrote about The 319 News Stories I Won’t Read. If you’ve heard me wibble on above ten minutes then you might figure that these 319 are sports stories. No. I ignore sports but just as one amorphous blob of nothingness, I don’t understand it enough to determine individual news stories.

The 319 were the Apple news stories in my RSS newsreader. And right now there are 1,179 articles about Apple. That’s quite a lot of stories and I would like to tell you about them, except I still won’t read them.

I may never read them. You can be sure that a gigantic majority are to do with the launch of the iPhone 6 and whatever else Apple may or may not release tomorrow. I’ve been staying away from the firehose of news because most of it is wrong, much of it is clickbait emptiness as well as wrong, and you end up being convinced that Apple will announce the discovery of alien life.

After tomorrow’s event, there will be many more stories and I might read some of those. But these 1,179 are dead to me.

All of which is a long way of saying that a lot gets written about Apple, that a lot gets read about Apple by me and that is KILLINGLY DIFFICULT to ignore 1,179 articles.

Apple is streaming its event live on apple.com from 6pm UK time tomorrow, Tuesday. I’ve skipped the articles but I’ll be watching the event. If you enjoy these as much as I do, please write in and explain what I get out of them.

Reeder for Mac now available

This week’s updates to the iOS versions of Reeder have been followed by the first full release of Reeder 2 for Mac. It’s now out of beta and available to buy from the Mac App Store for £2.99 UK, $4.99 US.

It’s an RSS reader: it brings you all the news from any number of websites who have these RSS feeds and that you chuck into Reeder. There are many such services and if they’ve stuck around for any length of time at all, they each have their fans. I’m sufficiently a fan of Reeder, though, that when it was pulled from the App Store last year because Google changes stopped it working, I stopped reading RSS.

Only on my Mac. I couldn’t stop reading it on iOS and I’m not sure now what the chain of events was. I think Reeder lasted longer on iOS but anyway, the iPhone one was updated last September and I so very clearly remember the delight at that coming out while I was on holiday. Learnt about it, bought it, had a really good time getting reacquainted with an old friend in a new design.

Similarly, the iPad version is a pretty constant friend.

But I did miss reading news on my Mac, most especially on those days when I’m here for twelve or fifteen hours. Maybe I should go take screen breaks, but I just used to really enjoy spending a few moments downtime catching up with news. Today, after so very many months without Reeder being available on the Mac, it is again and I’m enjoying it again.

Here’s me enjoying it.

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I’m not going to claim that Reeder is the very best RSS software, I am just going to say that it is the very best for me. And along with OmniFocus, Evernote and Mail, it’s got to be on my machine for it to feel like my machine.


Quickie: Reeder update review

Previously… yesterday the new 2.2 version of Reeder came out and amongst bug fixes and a couple of visual twiddles, the reason to remark was that it added background refresh. (Where instead of my getting the app to add the latest news whenever I open it, the app itself does that continually through the day.) I wondered whether this would work and whether it would make any difference if it did. Now read on.

It worked.

It makes a big difference.reeder

On the one hand it’s slightly disappointing because I’m used to the anticipation of waiting to see if there’s anything new to read and now I just know at a glance. But it’s unexpectedly faster. Logically, rationally, it can’t be saving me more than a few seconds compared to when I would have to wait for it to update in front of me, but it feels faster. Much faster.

I’m also reading more because of it. I find I clear down all the remaining articles and then the next time I pick up my iPhone, there’s an unread news notification. Who can resist?

Reeder for iOS is a universal app (so it’s for both iPhone and iPad) and costs £2.99 UK or $4.99 US. The Mac version is currently still free in beta but the finished and to-be-paid-for version was reportedly submitted to Apple about a week ago.

Reeder updated with background refresh

reederMy favourite newsreader app for iPhone and iPad has today been updated to version 2.2. It includes a lot of bug fixes (can’t say I ever noticed any bugs in my daily, near hourly use) and behind the scenes differences to how many news feeds it can handle. But the biggie, the reason to mention this instead of just update it on my iOS devices and forget about it is this:

Background app refresh (per account setting, disabled by default)

It sounds like such a small thing and perhaps it will be but I’m looking forward to trying it. Background app refresh means that Reeder will get news stories for me behind the scenes. I won’t even have to be in the app. So instead of opening it and refreshing the list for myself, I can pick up Reeder and know that it us up to date right now.


You saw that bit about it being “disabled by default”. It took me a minute to find out where to switch the thing on.

To do that, go to Reeder and swipe left-to-right until you reach a screen with a settings cog wheel. Tap that, choose your account name toward the top of the screen that appears. In there, tap on Sync and change it from On Start or Manually to Background refresh. Then tap the < arrow to get out of that screen and the √ tick to confirm the change. Reeder for iOS is a universal app (so it’s for both iPhone and iPad) and costs £2.99 UK or $4.99 US. The Mac version is currently still free in beta but reportedly not for very much longer.

Reeder for Mac now in public beta

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The short news for Reeder fans: download it right now from here.

The slightly longer news for anyone who isn’t a Reeder fan: it is terrific and you should download it right now from here.

Reeder is a news reading app, an RSS one where you tell it what websites you like and forever afterwards it gets news from all of those sites. Depending on the site, you can read the headline, the standfirst, an extract or the whole article and whichever you get, it looks gorgeous. One tap in the morning and I am reading news from BBC, New York Times, Lifehacker, The Onion and myriad more.

There are many RSS readers like Reeder but I don’t think there is another one that is really anything like Reeder. I’ve long loved its design – most of it, at least – and how well done its text was. Routinely, if I found an article on a site that was just too ugly to read, I’d either bung that piece into Pocket to read later or I’d subscribe to it in Reeder and read it there.

I still remember the instant when I learnt that Reeder for iOS was out. Last September, a new version was released partly to deal with how Google shut down its service that powered all RSS readers. It was a paid update and I paid instantaneously. That’s how much I liked the old one and now it’s how much I like the new.

Yet as good as Reeder is for RSS, I missed having it on my Mac too. That Google shutdown made the Mac one literally unusable and that is almost a year ago. Here’s how good Reeder is: I haven’t replaced it. Not on my Mac. I’ve tried others on iOS but as much as I used to use RSS on my Mac, I simply stopped reading any RSS there.

Until tonight.

What’s been released is a beta version of Reeder 2 for Mac and the final version will be a paid-for app. I don’t know the price yet and I don’t truly care: I have read many thousands of articles through the various versions of Reeder and I open it practically as often as I do my email.

So go download it now from here and be ready to pay whatever the maker demands when it’s out of beta.

Unread RSS app review – bright and appealing but not there yet

If you already use RSS and have any Apple news sites in your set, you will today be reading raves about Unread, an RSS reader for iPhone. This is not one of them. But it's close. And the more I use Unread, the more I like it – but the more it bothers me, too.

There are two elements that make Unread notable and very attractive: gestures and text. The text reportedly uses a font called Whitney and it is visibly small yet particularly clear. Reading is a true pleasure on this app. I wish there were an iPad version: Unread feels like the thing to kick back with and relax while you read rather than when you're darting about.

Then you don't have buttons anywhere, you have gestures: you just pull at the screen. Tug left to go into an article, tug right to go back. Unread uses iOS 7's swipe-to-go-back feature that is so natural you keep trying to do it in apps that haven't got it yet. In Unread, it feels natural but also very quick: it's as if thinking what you want to do is enough to make it happen. See an article, start reading an article, and don't notice that you gave a short tug on the screen to go into it.

Then a tug inside an article will get you a menu with options for sharing and for marking articles as read.

That was my first irritation. I had a website's feed that I scrolled through, reading the headlines and the short stand-first introductions to each article but I didn't especially want to read further on any of them. To clear the list of unread, I had to tug to get a menu, choose Mark All as Read, then confirm that before continuing. You can switch off the need to confirm but I confess it took me a surprisingly long time to find the Settings page that allows this. (You just keep swiping left, across from the article, across from the feed, across from the list of feeds, just keep swiping. Once you know it's there, it's far faster than it sounds.)

Getting rid of the confirmation was a boon but I still had to do that Mark All for every feed. Read every article or Mark All as Unread. Those are your choices and it's the same for every RSS reader yet in Unread it is a pain. Reeder has a little button at the foot of a list of articles: tap that and you mark all as read – and you also go immediately back to list of feeds. With Unread, you swipe to get the Mark All option, tap on that, and it does go to the list of feeds but with a beat pause at the list of articles you've just marked as read.

Maybe that's all part of the unhurried feel to the app, which is appealing and is a stated intention of its design. But where in Reeder tapping that Mark All button is natural and quick, somehow having to elect to bring up a menu first makes Unread feel like a chore. I like the lack of buttons and I very much like the swiping around gestures, but this one is a niggle.

An annoyance is that Unread shows you the list of all your newsfeeds – whether they have any unread articles in them or not. You always get the list and there's either a number next to them or there isn't. The designer of Unread says the app isn't meant for people with hundreds of feeds as I have, but that's what I have, so the fact that I have to scroll past many that don't have anything in them is another chore for me.

But I was persuaded enough by reviews to buy Unread – for a brief time it's on sale at £1.99 UK, $2.99 US – and I'm trying it as my only newsreader. Part of the appeal of it, though, is just having a new view after a long time with a familiar one.

If there were an iPad version, I can well imagine my using that for a relaxed read in the evenings and sticking to Reeder in the day. For now, it's iPhone-only and for me it's a mix of great elements and chores: I really don't know whether I'm going to become a fan or drop it as I have so many RSS readers before.

Stop visiting websites. Make them come to you.

It genuinely astonishes me how many people haven't even heard of RSS. If you have and you're even now looking at this through an RSS newsreader, hello. I've got nothing for you: skip along to the next story from your next favourite website. But if you haven't heard of it before, you have now and I want to evangelise you into trying it yourself.

This is what happens when you try it, this is what I do every day. Sometimes many dozens of times a day. Waiting for the kettle. Standing in a queue. Taking a break from work. I'll just read the news on my iPhone or my iPad or my Mac, whichever is in front of me at that moment. And whatever news has broken since I last looked. There are websites I read every single article on yet rarely go to. There are others whose headlines I read every day and often then go to in order to read the full article.

It definitely means I read more websites than many people, but I don't take any longer doing it.

To do this, you need an RSS newsreader. There are eleventy-billion newsreaders in the world and there are ones for PCs, Macs, iOS and I presume also Linux and Android. Windows, OS X, anything. Everything. There are free ones aplenty but I bought one called Reeder for iPhone/iPad which cost me a whole £2.99. I would be surprised if I haven't read a million words in that app.

But just Google “RSS” and your computer or phone of choice and take your pick.

Then go to a website you like and look for the RSS button. It's that orange one with white stripes like radiating waves and it's often the orange one that says RSS next to it. Click on that and you'll either wallop off automatically to your RSS newsreader with the site just waiting for you to say yes, add this one forever – or you'll get a new webpage. Copy the link, open that in your RSS reader, say yes, add this one forever, and you're done.

RSS isn't the friendliest concept: you understand it but some sites make it hard to find and then offer you options you're not interested in. If you're given a choice of RSS links, one will be called Atom and one will be called RSS. I truly have not one single clue what Atom is: I've never tried it.

And I have tried a lot of sites. Something like 300 at the moment.

Two quick things. You'll notice I've now said RSS umpteen times and not told you what it stands for. I think it's like DVD; you know what it is and you watch a billion DVDs but you may not know that it stands for Digital Versatile Disc (or was going to stand for Digital Video Disc originally). RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Exciting.

The other thing is just that I can't recommend Reeder without warning you that the Mac version isn't on sale at the moment. Various changes to the world meant it stopped working and the update isn't here yet. It's taking quite a time but I like Reeder so much I'm waiting for it.

That's it, carry on. And see you in my RSS feed. I've got two. Oh, yes. Two. Get me. Actually, yes, get me: my personal Self Distract blog has an RSS feed at http://williamgallagher.com/selfdistract/feed and The Blank Screen is on http://williamgallagher.com/feed

Reeder 2.1 now out

You can argue whether this is screamingly productive of me or not, but I use Reeder perhaps forty times a day. In case you don't know it, Reeder is a newsreader so when I have a moment standing by my kettle, I'll flick through headlines and read articles there. At least it's quicker than going to each of the 200-odd news sites I read. And definitely quicker than going to them and finding that nope, they don't have any new news since the last time I checked them three minutes ago.

There are many newsreaders: just search the App Store for the phrase 'RSS' as it's that little-used Really Simple Syndication that powers them all. RSS makes news come to us and I can't fathom why it hasn't taken over the world.

But I got into it very many years ago and have used very many RSS apps yet now it would take primacord explosive wrapped around my waist to make me stop using this particular one. Reeder is that good. It used to be even better when there was an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac version and it will be better again in the same way. Some day. Hopefully soon.

In the meantime, Reeder was updated for iOS 7 while I was away on holiday and I bought the new version immediately. You and I hadn't met on here then or I'd have rushed to enthuse about it to you. Instead, I had to tell everyone in earshot and they all looked like thank you, yes, that's really great, William, whatever makes you happy.

Now that you're here and version 2.1 has just this minute dropped on the App Store, let me enthuse about it live. Here's the only bit you really need to know, here's the App Store link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/reeder-2/id697846300?mt=8

But I'd also like you to know that among the myriad bug fixes and semi-demi-myriad new features, there is a particular fix I am going to enjoy. Recently when you ran Reeder in the iPhone and there was a new story with an embedded video, no power on Earth would make that play in landscape. It as solely in portrait. This was the only thing that ever made me think I preferred the previous version of Reeder. But now it's apparently fixed. At least on the iPhone it is.

I say apparently because that's how quickly I've rushed the news to you: the update dropped this minute, this moment, and as we've been speaking, the app has been updating itself on my iPhone. Off to watch some video landscape and also to go get it all for my iPad.