As I migrate away more and more from desktop applications I have been trying a number of online services, the latest of which is Google Reader. As an RSS reader this web based solution is functional rather than easy to use. For example, there are no pop-ups to tell you when a feed has been updated and I find it difficult to keep track of what has been updated without having to positively look – which seems to defeat the object a bit.
One of the things that attracted me to Reader in the first place was that it had purportedly had an offline capability – very unusual for a web based app. Using Google Gears the feeds can be downloaded to your laptop for reading when on the move and away from a connection. Great in theory but while it certainly works it is tricky to use in practice. The main problem is that you have to remember to synchronise your feeds before you go off line – if you forget to do this you are stuffed. Syncing isn’t an arduous task but it is one more thing that you have to remember to do before shutting down. I would need to be really alert to remember that so there is no chance. Doing a bit of research it seems that manual synching is by design even though Gears has the capability of automatically doing the sync. There is a great article on in at zdnet and I can only concur that right now Reader is OK but could be great with a bit more work. Then again it is free.