Linux.com

Home News Software Applications Goodbye Google Reader, Linux Has Its Own RSS Aggregators

Goodbye Google Reader, Linux Has Its Own RSS Aggregators

 RSS is an open XML standard for syndicating Web content. RSS stands for Rich Site Summary and Really Simple Syndication, and it's been a standard part of the Web for years. RSS benefits both publishers and readers by providing a simple open standard that makes it easy to create newsfeeds, and easy to subscribe to them. If you're not accustomed to using an RSS reader you might give it a try, because it delivers articles to your RSS newsreader so you won't miss important news.

Let's look at a simple example of how it works. Click the little orange RSS icon at the top right of the Linux.com home page, and this takes you to a page all full of RSS feeds: all content, and individual feeds for each category. To subscribe to any of these, just click on the icon. You can send your feed to your Google Reader account, Yahoo, an RSS client on your PC, or in the Bookmarks toolbar of Firefox.

Linux.com RSS feeds

Google Reader is an easy, flexible RSS client that allows you to stuff all your feeds into a page in your Google account. As Google says, "Reader is like a magazine you design." Which isn't quite accurate because you can't adjust the layout, but only the content. Still, it's easy and useful, and has become a daily staple for a whole lot of users. But Google has decided they don't want to support Reader anymore, and so Reader is going away on July 1.

It's a good lesson in the perils of relying on a service provider instead of your own local applications. There are plenty of good RSS clients for Linux users, so let's look at some good alternatives to the party-pooper Google Reader.

Exporting Feeds From Google Reader

Any RSS client should be able to import OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) files, so you can save your Google Reader feeds by exporting them with the Google export tool. Log into your Google Reader account, click the gear icon, click Settings, and then click the Import/Export tab. From here you'll have to jump through another hoop and click "Download your data through Takeout". It will make you log in again, and then finally you'll be able to download your zipped OPML file. After downloading unzip it, and then use the import feature of your chosen RSS reader to import your Google Reader feeds. There will be several files in the export, but the one to import is subscriptions.xml.

Firefox

The Firefox Web browser has always had a built-in RSS client, and it's not going away. Your feeds become automatically-updated bookmarks, and you manage them just like any other bookmarks: name them whatever you want, organize them, and put them in the Bookmarks Toolbar for fast access (figure 2).

fig-2-lcom-feedsFig. 2: RSS feeds in Firefox

The Opera Web browser includes an RSS client that's just as easy to use as Firefox's. Opera is closed-source, but they have a native Linux version, and it's an advanced, powerful Web browser with a lot of great features.

Akregator

Akgregator is part of KDE and is a very nice news client, but it does drag in a lot of KDE dependencies in non-KDE environments. But all they do is take up disk space, and fortunately it doesn't start a lot of daemons like Akonadi. Akregator has the classic, efficient three-pane organization (figure 3), which I prefer because it lets me see everything at a glance: which feeds have new articles, titles, and then the articles. It has the usual KDE wealth of keyboard shortcuts such as middle-click to open an article in a Web browser, ESC key cancels feed fetches, + key opens the next unread article, ALT+ opens the next unread feed, P opens the previous feed, and left-arrow key goes to the previous article. And, of course, all of these are easily customizable.

fig-3-akregatorFig. 3: Akregator

Liferea

Liferea is an excellent, lightweight, feature-ful Linux news reader that is almost as configurable as Akregator, but without all the KDE dependencies. It comes with a batch of default feeds that includes XKCD. Sure, it's easy enough to add it yourself, but it's a nice touch.

Canto

The Canto newsreader is a fast, slick little ncurses console newsreader (figure 4). Start it up by typing canto in any terminal.

fig-5-cantoFig. 4: Canto

Canto operates from a configuration file, ~/.canto/conf.py. It creates a default configuration automatically when you don't have one, ~/.canto/conf.py.example:

# Auto-generated by canto because you don't have one.
# Please copy to/create ~/.canto/conf.py
add("http://rss.slashdot.org/slashdot/Slashdot")
add("http://reddit.com/.rss")
add("http://kerneltrap.org/node/feed")
add("http://codezen.org/canto/feeds/latest")

So adding new feeds is as easy as copying their URLs into ~/.canto/conf.py. Use the arrow keys or PgUp/PgDn to navigate your feeds, press the space bar to read an article, and press the space bar again to return to the article list. Exit Canto by pressing the Q key.

Canto has internal commands that you run after it's open, and external commands to use when it's not running. Here are some useful external commands:

Refresh all feeds:

$ canto -a

Update all feeds, and then run Canto:

$ canto -u

List all feeds:

$ canto -l

Quick help:

$ canto -h

Complete help:

$ man canto

So there you have it, no reason to be sad at losing Google Reader because we have a wealth of better newsreaders in Linux, and they are not at the mercy of a giant company with different goals from us lowly end-lusers.

 

 

 

Comments

Subscribe to Comments Feed
  • Colin Dean Said:

    Desktop readers like these are cool, but they are not as accessible as a web-based reader such as Google Reader and its successors. I've used both Liferea and Akregator (did the EO translation for it a long time ago) and they're great, if you only ever check feeds on one computer.

  • kmoragas Said:

    Colin thats right, what about mobiles, tablets, TVs, cars and computers... :S how to sync?

  • Mike Said:

    I agree with Colin, the main issue is to have your news move with you and sync to all devices. There are a million good ones that just run locally on Linux or Windows. Reader was great because you can use it anywhere.

  • PerlStalker Said:

    Tiny Tiny RSS is an open source, web-based reader that you can install on your own server. There's also a mobile app for android.

  • Fer Said:

    As a Liunux user I was never worried about clients, as imho neither do Windows users. The real problem is the online service, that provides syncing between different devices. I don't need 3 clients each with a local storage storage of its own, but when I mark something as read, it should be marked as read everywhere.

  • christopher Said:

    I'm surprised Feedly didn't make the list

  • joncr Said:

    I've used RSS clients for a long time, well before Google Reader came on the scene. Synching was a neat trick for a bit. But, I quickly realized I read almost exclusively at the desktop. And, when I did happen to read feeds on another device, I often did not want the synching to occur. I'm using Liferea now. A few versions ago it had serious issues with update time and crashes. The current release versions are fast and reliable, and very tweakable of you know a little CSS. The only thing I didn't like about Akregator is that when I fed it an OPML file, it displayed the feeds in reverse alphabetical order. RSSOwl is another good Linux app. It's Java-based, which may worry folks these days. In the past, it had a near-fatal reliance on a single, outmoded, version of xulrunner. That's been fixed, but you may still need to create a link to your libhunspell file to keep it happy. Server-based approaches, like Tiny Tiny RSS and Dave Winer's River of News, can deliver the synching, if you have access to a server.

  • Marko Shiva Pavlovic Said:

    Liferea is good alternative it should also be mention tiny tiny rss and RssOwl which are two good alternatives to google reader. RssOwl is an app built over the eclipse and tiny tiny rss is local rss news agregator. I've using all three for few years and they are good alternatives.

  • Asmer Said:

    None of those clients mentioned are usable when you are on the go... no cloud/web services sync. I sincerely hope that new owncloud RSS service will jump in on time to replace googlre reader. I also prefer Feedly. It will survive death of google reader by importing your google reader subscriptions and continue to sync on its own once google reader is down.

  • Caleb Cushing (xenoterracide) Said:

    Working on making a replacement web service, have a couple of months to do it. Wouldn't be fully featured at first, but can build it up over time. quite frankly I've never found an interface that was a friendly, so I plan on having a very similar interface. Will probably open source it, but charge for use of a hosted version. If anyone is interested drop me a line here

  • Terry Hancock Said:

    There are also server-based readers for popular CMS. I had an RSS aggregator running in Zope a few years ago, and I'm sure you can find something similar for Drupal. I just found a package called "feed2imap" which will bridge RSS to IMAP, so you can use any IMAP webmail or desktop client to read it (which includes most major email readers). http://home.gna.org/feed2imap/

  • nico Said:

    Agree with the others that you cannot really substitute Google Reader with a desktop reader... The two options I am currently trying are Feedly and TheOldReader. TheOldReader is nice, but way too slow (I think they're suffering from people migrating from Google Reader). Also, it does not have a mobile app... Feedly gives a much smoother experience, has an associated app and, given a few days to adapt to its interface it is really nice. Too bad it works as a browser plugin rather than being just a simple website... but the app makes up for that.

  • Tim Blane Said:

    I second the Tiny Tiny RSS Reader as the best in-situ replacement for Google Reader, fortunately I run my own linux server so TT-RSS has been a prefect replacement. In face I'm so impressed I've been looking at solutions like OwnCloud to replace dropbox, now if only I could find a "own" server replacement for Pocket (Read it Later) I could bypass the cloud for my own server completely!

  • Paolo Said:

    I totally agree when you write "It's a good lesson in the perils of relying on a service provider instead of your own local applications". The problem is that with local applications it's impossible to sync between different devices, so the only option is to trust some service in the cloud or build a private cloud (your own server always on).

  • Paul Merrell Said:

    It's not impossible to sync the data of local applications in most situations via a cloud file sync service, e.g., Dropbox or Wuala. I prefer the latter because: [i] encryption/decryption happens on the client side is so is more safe from prying eyes on the server; and [ii] Wuala's servers are based in the EU, where online privacy rights are far stronger than in the U.S.

  • nico Said:

    Seriously, I really don't give a damn if someone reads my RSS feeds, they will probably find that as an utmost boring experience.

  • Kurt Said:

    Depends on what you read, what your career position is, or where you want to go in your career. In the current, stifling political correctness climate of this country, and the spying on ordinary citizens by the NSA/CIA/FBI, you kind of have to think about such things as what you read and how that might be perceived.

  • Robert Pogson Said:

    I, too, like a browser-accessible reader so I can use the same tool for the browsing and the RSS reading. I searched around and found Rawdog, RSS Aggregator Without Delusions of Grandeur. It spits out an .html file of the reads when prompted so I set up a CRON job to run it periodically. There is a plugin available to give an index-column on the left and one gets the feeds on the right. It's a bit crude but it works. One can place the output on a server or just view it from the browser on the local PC. Rawdog is available in the Debian repositories and the plugin sidebarfeedwise may be found at http://offog.org/code/rawdog.html Things I miss about Google Reader: fixed order of feeds, counts of messages in the feeds ...

  • Mike Said:

    Carla makes the comment about all of the KDE dependencies for Akregator... excuse me, but not everyone runs GNOME. You could make the same comment about Liferea..."but it does drag a bunch of GTK dependencies with it..." In any event, these are all fine... so far I like Akregator and RSSOwl... think Akregator will win out because the java of rssowl is a bit sluggish...

  • ViolUp Said:

    I used to read news from a French website which ran a PHP/MySQL page which had it's own source of feeds. When that got shut/lazy I switched to Opera.. It was difficult to use Opera both as an RSS reader as well as a Mail client. Ultimately I found solace and comfort with Akregator. Yes it depends upon KDE and uses space but it's worth and KDE is customizable. I use it without the KPanel with cairo-dock. Akregator is reliable and even reflects system date changes instantly in its feed columns. You can have shortcuts to open feeds in new window, new browser and the browser path too ofcourse can be changed. if you are migrating from one OS to another you just need the .config folder of .kde and the akregator file in it.. which has the list of your feeds. You can export the feed list as well.

  • Bu Said:

    Yet another article that completely misses the point of Google reader. It's getting boring.

  • Lizbeth Said:

    What made reader great was that it played media files right in the reader... all the podcasts for my church's sermons played in reader with just a click of the mouse... who else does that?

  • lizbeth Said:

    Rhythmbox has a built in podcaster/xml new reader

  • Jim C Said:

    Bamboo reader is a nice firefox add on

  • meine Said:

    for the real fast and slick I'd like to suggest newsbeuter. newsbeuter runs in terminal and is very straightforward. reloads, reloads all, follows the rss message, goes one level up. when lynx terminal browser is also installed following an rss for further reading automaticly opens the webpage in lynx. the feeds are stored in ~/.newsbeuter/urls. new feeds and order can be easily edited. rss for me is all about quick scanning a few news feeds without being annoyed by a lot of graphical stuff and cookie alerts. newsbeuter just does this.

  • Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér Said:

    I echo this recommendation. I wrote an introduction to Newsbeuter for podcast fetching a while back: http://writtenandread.net/newsbeuter/

  • Gene Novak Said:

    The biggest perk to reader for me was Google cached every article since the first person subscribed to it. This was great for finding old articles. As far as I know no one else does this.

  • Joe Said:

    You forget Quite-RSS http://code.google.com/p/quite-rss/

  • John Said:

    Another good alternative for news aggregation is todaynews.info


Who we are ?

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to the growth of Linux.

More About the foundation...

Frequent Questions

Join / Linux Training / Board