May 11th, 2020

Is Reeder 4 the Best iPadOS RSS Client?

Today my journey to look at RSS clients means we're stopping with Reeder, which was my go to RSS client for a while back in Reeder 3 days1.

One of the biggest features that puts Reeder above other options is it's integration with services not of the RSS variety. Specifically if you use Instapaper, Pocket, or the Apple Read Later service Reeder can pull in that content for you as well. This means you have a central app to use when it comes time to consume the writing of others.

One of the other stand out features people cite when looking at Reeder is the Bionic Reader view. I totally always read that in a cartoon superhero voice with reverb and everything.

Okay, but what is Bionic reader?

Bionic Reading wants to revolutionize reading. Our mission is: “A higher dimension of reading.” The eye is guided through text much more effectively with the aid of typographic highlights – thus creating a completely new reading experience. The Bionic Reading reading system is characterized by a specific interaction of the parameters “Fixation” and “Saccade”. More focus. Less distraction. More reading pleasure.

While we read we "fixate" on words trying to recognize them. We do this in a jerky way and skip lots of words. That jerky phase between fixations is called "saccade". In theory bionic reading helps guide the eye to fixations so that you can fixate easier and spend less time not ingesting information in saccade mode.

In practice for me, it just looks weird. I spent most of the week trying it out and I haven't noticed any difference in speed, but every time I opened Reeder it looked odd. But if you like it and it helps you read faster, use it, I just didn't like it.

Bionic reading

Reeder for iPadOS

On iPadOS, Reeder is a nice experience. It has a robust number of keyboard shortcuts and has a bunch that don't require modifier keys, which I love.

Reeder iPadOS keyboard shortcuts

You can scroll through articles with the space bar, or with arrows. When using the space bar I often find myself at the end of the article without realizing it so I press space again. That means I move to the next article when I didn't want to. I'd love to see Reeder have some sort of "bump" happen when you're at the end of an article and about to move to another one. I'd even find sometimes that Reeder would sync while I was trying to navigate to the last article and then clear it from my view so I'd have to hunt it down again before finishing it.

On the sync front, Reeder is fast, like really fast. It feels much faster than Unread 2 and NetNewsWire in my use.

On the reading front Reeder is decent. Actually until Unread 1 came out I thought it was awesome but Unread is the readability standard by which I judge everything else now and I find it blows Reeder out of the water.

Reeder iPadOS

Reeder also provides you with a bunch of different options for viewing it's standard 3-column interface. Unfortunately I find none of them to be what I want. There is either too much on screen and I'm distracted, or the process of navigating in and out of articles is cumbersome and I'm not happy. When I'm in 'single' mode Reeder wants to drop me into each article as I navigate through the list, but I don't want to read every article. Some I simply want to mark as read and move on. Sometimes I simply want to scroll past it and mark other articles an unread, but Reeder wants to mark things as read because it was visible in the reading pane.

Yes I can stop Reeder from marking things as unread automatically, but then I have to manually mark everything as read/unread myself. I find that the way Unread 2 handles this is much better suited to how I deal with articles in my feed reader.

On the iPhone front I find Reeder to be just fine. It works as expected in all scenarios. I just rarely read stuff on my iPhone so how well it works there doesn't matter to me that much.

Reeder for macOS

Reeder macOS

The macOS version of Reeder is the same as the iOS version, specifically the iPadOS version. The view styles are the same with my preference being compact. The fonts are decent, but nothing that stands out when you compare it with the reading experience of Unread 2.

Unlike NetNewsWire, Reeder has all the sync services you could want in an RSS reader and then it adds Instapaper and Read it Later as other sources for content. It also supports all sync services across all clients unlike NetNewsWire.

macOS sync settings and services

Unlike NetNewsWire it doesn't provide an easy way to find all the keyboard shortcuts for macOS, which sucks. Reeder has a great selection of them, with many only needing one key instead of some modifier, but you've got to search through the menus yourself if you want to find them. I couldn't even find any keyboard shortcuts listing searching the web, or any actual documentation for the app. I'm not saying it needs full documentation of every feature, but a list of keyboard commands would be useful.

Who Should Use Reeder for RSS?

If you're using both RSS feeds and a read it later service and want a combined view then Reeder is a great choice. It feels the same on macOS and iPadOS. The keyboard shortcuts are the same between both platforms, unlike Spark email which makes your learn 2 versions of keyboard shortcuts and that's stupid.

Since I don't use a read it later service and store my articles in DEVONthink, Reeder doesn't have a feature that I need in particular. I find the reading experience to be not as nice as Unread and I don't really need a macOS version.

So Reeder won't be taking the place of Unread 2 in my reading habits, but it's a solid option if you meet the criteria above like my friend Matthew Cassinelli does.

Get Reeder on macOS or iOS


  1. Technically we're on Reeder 4 now