Yesterday I thought I'd try and step up my web-feed game by downloading a few "feed readers" and check them out. I did a search to try and find some good ones. Wikipedia has this page listing many, but it unfortunately it is light on details and (of course) does not provide a review-type information since Wikipedia's goal is to be non-biased.

The Requirements

Requirements were that it was free to download and was being actively worked on. Support of Atom 1.0 would also be a plus since this is a recent development. I decided to go with three applications: RSSOwl, RSSBandit and SharpReader. This is by no means an indication that these three are the best, I just picked them because they sounded half-decent from the Wikipedia page and their web pages showed that they were actively being maintained. Generally speaking, if software hasn't been updated for anything close to a year, I consider it to be "abandonware", especially in the area of RSS/Atom readers since this is such a up-and-coming technology (for the masses anyway).

I should mention up front that my work environment is behind a corporate firewall/proxy server that requires authentication. In my mind this is an average setup for any regular day-to-day user. I should also put a disclaimer in here that it is ENTIRELY possible that my failures are a result of simply not configuring the right setting (i.e. "my fault"). But on the other hand, I consider myself an advanced computer user so this should really reflect how an average user will view the product.

Here are my results:

RSSOwl 1.2 Preview (last updated September 25, 2005)

The BAD:

  • I had to manually configure the proxy server
  • Shoved an icon into my taskbar without asking
  • Couldn't select multiple entries to mark as "Unread"


  • quick and painless install
  • Built in Java, so I'm assuming cross-platform
  • Fast application startup
  • Traditional and intuitive 3-pane "Outlook" interface with multiple tabs

RSS Bandit (last updated April 12, 2005):

The BAD:

  • SLLLLLOW install!!! I have a feeling this is because it uses .NET (though I could be wrong)
  • Shoved an icon onto my desktop without asking
  • Seemed to have a slower UI refresh and much slower application startup than RSSOwl
  • It did not allow importing of proxy server settings automatically
  • Improperly filled in the proxy server port as 8080 (mine is 1080) which fooled me and initially caused some connection problems, though this is admittedly mostly my fault


  • Slicker user interface than RSSOwl
  • traditional and intuitive 3-pane "Outlook" interface with multiple tabs
  • Better rendering of feeds than RSSOwl
  • Seemed to skip ads in my own feed (, though I'm not 100% convinced this is a good thing since I wonder if <script> tags are even supported by the internal browser
  • Automatically loads as an icon in the system tray indicating that it's "always running". I consider this a good thing since it will check feeds "in the background" without requiring a window in my task bar.

SharpReader (last updated July 28, 2005):

Despite having a quick install that allowed icons/menus to be placed only if I wanted them, SharpReader was a dismal failure for me. It even imported my Proxy Server URL and port from my browser though it did not import my userame and password. But after I finishing configuration of the proxy server manually, any attempt to connect brought up an error dialogue that said: The type initializer for "System.Net.HttpWebRequest" threw an exception. After attempting to fiddle with a couple options I gave up. SharpReader was a non-starter for me.


So there you have it. My two-minute critique. I'll keep RSSOwl and RSS Bandit around for a little while, and play with both as I get into some more advanced features like refresh intervals, etc. If any readers have some good suggestions for a Windows RSS Reader that I should try out, please leave a comment to that effect.

One thing I should mention: Before using a RSS reader, I strictly used Firefox's Live Bookmarks feature for my web feeds. It would be nice if either of RSSOwl or RSS Bandit could import all Live Bookmarks from my Firefox profile. I notice that both do support importing from an OPML file, but I have no idea how I could convert my Live Bookmarks into an OPML file...

§162 · October 5, 2005 · Software, Technology, Web · · [Print]

1 Comment to “Finding An RSS Reader”

  1. alexsah says:

    If you want to convert live bookmarks to OPML check out the article on my site:

    I hope it comes in handy.