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Now, the digital newsstand

Now, the digital newsstand
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First Published: Tue, Dec 20 2011. 09 28 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Dec 20 2011. 09 28 PM IST
RSS feeds are a great way of getting a handle on all the news that you follow. Google Reader is one of the fastest and most efficient ways of doing that, but it isn’t a visually pleasing way to stay up-to-date. Now, however, there are options along the lines of Flipboard, the first visual news aggregator for the iPad, with a number of imitators allowing you to catch up with news in beautiful layouts that are easy to read, on multiple platforms.
Of the many different ways to do this, the better-looking ones are:
Flipboard
The pioneer, Flipboard, just launched an iPhone/iPod application. The service displays items from your Google Reader account, and from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s displayed as an image-rich, personalized magazine, and you turn the pages to see more stories culled from the links it finds in all these sources. It also has a number of curated feeds from publishers such as Wired,Lonely Planetand National Geographic; and the iPhone has a new section called Top Stories that follows the feeds you read most often. This keeps updating over time so it will show stories of interest more frequently as you keep on using it. There’s also social integration with all these services, so you can leave a comment on Facebook or share a story on Twitter with the press of a button. If you find something interesting but don’t have the time to read it, you can also save it to Read It Later with a single tap. But Flipboard doesn’t display your Read It Later in the magazine format.
Flipboard is free to install and use, but works only with iOS devices.
Download at: www.flipboard.com
Google Currents
Google Currents is Google’s version of Flipboard, released just last week, and the similarity between the two is striking. Google has released the free app for both Android and iOS devices, and it offers a newsreader that draws stories from Google Reader. It’s not as polished as Flipboard yet—it doesn’t offer a digest view of your Reader feeds, so you have to pick the ones you want to follow, and it doesn’t mark stories as “read” on Reader. The layout is focused on pictures, and the app looks great. It also helps you track trending stories on topics you’re interested in. What’s holding back the apps are slow sync speeds and the fact that there is no way of saving images offline—but updates are apparently on the way.
Early Edition
The Early Edition was launched in 2010 alongside the original iPad, and Early Edition 2, launched in November, is a hugely updated visual feed. It is faster than Flipboard, and allows you to curate news from either your Google Reader account or any individual feeds that you find. It’s a very fast newsreader, and the page curls and moves under your finger just as it does in iBooks. The content from your feeds is also stored for offline reading, and there’s support for search through your feeds, and a clippings tool to save interesting items for later. Early Edition 2 works on Android and iOS devices. It is an excellent digital newsreader, but it’s a paid app, which costs $4.99 (around Rs 265).
Readefine
Launched in October, Readefine is a PC program that displays your Google Reader feeds in striking visual layouts. The free service is a great way of catching up with your feeds, and it supports a lot of added features, such as support for Read It Later and Twitter, and an offline reading mode—stories are automatically downloaded (with pictures) and can be read anytime. You can view your feeds using Readefine, and it marks the articles you click on as “read”, but you still can’t delete feeds or organize folders using the reader. That said, the software—developed in October—has been updated, and is still evolving, with new features on the way according to the developer. It’s a small file, free, easy to download and run, and is the best-looking way to read your feeds on a computer.
Zite
Unlike Flipboard, Zite always focused on tracking your interests to provide more relevant news. Zite launched in March, and in December, launched its iPhone application, like Flipboard. The company is also working on an Android version.
Zite’s content comes from a number of sources —your Twitter stream, Google Reader and Read It Later, as well as suggestions on topics from the app. As you add and remove these topics, Zite learns about what interests you, and displays it with large headlines, graphics, and short samples of the stories. It isn’t as attractive as Flipboard, but is still a lot easier to read than a simple RSS reader. And because it also suggests stories, unlike Flipboard, you will get to see news that falls within your range of interests, but which you wouldn’t be able to find yourself. It’s also free to download and use.
Download at: http://zite.com
Paper.li
The free, Web-based Paper.li service can be accessed from an iPad or any connected device, or from a PC. It launched in June 2010, just a little after Flipboard, and the way Paper.li handles your Twitter timeline is very similar to Flipboard. What really distinguishes it is that you don’t need to download any app, and can access Paper.li from any machine with an Internet connection.
You don’t even need to sign into Twitter—Paper.li takes any Twitter feed and strips it for links so you can create a website with a reading-friendly layout with a click. The page is laid out with large pictures, headlines and sample text, so readers can skim through the links shared to find news that interests them. You can also search for hashtags or Twitter lists.
Download at: http://paper.li
gopal.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Dec 20 2011. 09 28 PM IST