Review: MnmlRdr Feed Reader

For the last few weeks, I have been using MnmlRdr as my feed reader. It’s really excellent. The developer, Jordan Sherer, describes it as “lightweight and minimal… you’ll want to use [it] everyday”. I’m more than inclined to agree. I have tried a number of different feed readers, mainly on the iPad. Until MnmlRdr, the reigning champ was Pulse. I’d tried Flipboard—very pretty, but too much hassle to cover material quickly. Instapaper and Pocket are two more that came and went. MnmlRdr, I should say, runs in a browser—there’s nothing to install.

I used the Pulse app for quite a long time. It’s a good app that makes it simple to browse and select individual articles to read. News feeds can be organised into different pages, blah, blah, blah… The problem was that over time I had added dozens of different feeds. And while Pulse differentiates read and unread articles, unread articles cannot be hidden. For feeds that changed often, this wasn’t so much of an issue, but I gradually accumulated a number of sources that don’t publish very frequently. So pages became more and more clogged with articles that rarely changed. On the other hand, with feeds that published a lot, it was easy to miss stuff.

I stumbled across a link to MnmlRdr as a minimalmac weekly sponsor and chased it down. I was immediately taken with the clean interface and decided to sign up. MnmlRdr is a subscription service: USD 36 for a year or 4 bucks a month. There is a 7-day trial period, so you can decide whether  you like it before having to pay out. There’s also a demo page with a dummy account, which allows you to have a play before even committing to the trial.

I migrated my subscriptions from Pulse over a few days… just in case. Plus, I could take time to consider the importance of each feed and how to organise them; MnmlRdr uses folders[1]. I did suffer from some initial confusion because new feeds disappeared immediately they were added. This was a 101 user-error as I’d turned on only show unread items and hadn’t realised that feeds with zero unread items would also be hidden. I emailed Jordan using the built-in contact option with a couple of questions. He responded quickly even with the time difference between Atlanta, GA and London, UK. I was a bit relieved to learn that a bug (which was quickly repaired) had been the cause of one of my queries and not my stupidity.

In the last day or two, I’ve added feeds from the BBC, such as their main BBC News page. I didn’t do this initially because I expected a large number of articles. I thought it would be easier to use their own news app. But it’s so much less hassle to scan items in MnmlRdr and pick ones of interest. Anything that’s left over is set to read. If you do get overwhelmed because you’re offline for a few days, then articles older than 1 day or 1 week can be set to read, if you choose.

One of the great things about MnmlRdr is that it works the same on Safari in iOS[2]. It’s exactly the same on my iPad Air and iPad mini, and functionally the same on the iPhone apart from the different layout to accommodate the smaller screen. I never used the Pulse website; it was a bad experience compared to the iOS app. But now, I’m quite happy to check my feeds in a spare moment on my iMac. If there’s nothing of interest, it’s a couple of clicks’ effort to mark all items as read… then they disappear. Not only do I deal with articles of interest more quickly, but I also find stuff that I might previously have missed.

There are other features in MnmlRdr. For example, you can add tags in addition to, or instead of, saving articles as favourites. The search capabilities look quite sophisticated, though I haven’t used them much yet. Sharing can be enabled for a whole bunch of apps/services: email, Twitter, Evernote, gmail, google+, Facebook and (at time of writing) 18 more. One function I particularly like is the show full text extract that pulls the full articles from feeds, like the BBC, that only show a short snippet.

I really, really like MnmlRdr. It’s one of those things that just feels right. Without doubt, it justifies its price tag.

  1. One approach to folders that I may adopt is just to have two: Important and The Rest. This makes it simpler to handle feed overload because you can keep the important stuff, but mark some, or all, of the rest as read.  ↩
  2. A small word of warning: I had a problem on my iPad mini using MnmlRdr, which I tracked down to (thanks again to Jordan’s assistance) to having private viewing turned on (no smirking allowed).  ↩

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