First Look: Reeder leaps from the iPad to the Mac

After a long and winding path that has seen stops at both the iPhone and the iPad, developer Silvio Rizzi has finally released his newsreader app on Apple’s longest running platform, in the form of the aptly named Reeder for the Mac.

I’ve been a fan of Reeder since its iOS days—I even once penned a love letter to the iPad version. On Apple’s mobile devices, Reeder embraced the conceits of the touch-based operating system: You tap through your folders, tap through sources, and tap through articles. Tapping and holding on links revealed sharing options, and you could even swipe articles to mark them as unread or favorites.

So, how does Reeder—born and raised in the world of Apple’s mobile operating system—survive its leap to the Mac? Pretty well, actually. On the desktop, I’m a longtime NetNewsWire aficionado; switching to another desktop client would be, in technical terms, a big honking deal for me. However, in many ways Reeder is an entirely different beast.

By default, Reeder employs a three-paned approach perfect for Apple's widescreen displays.

In order to use Reeder, you’ll need a free Google Reader account. Because of Reeder’s reliance on Google Reader, you can use other compatible apps (including NetNewsWire, Reeder’s iOS variants, and of course the Google Reader Website) to keep your articles in sync.

Reeder on the desktop looks a lot like its iPad counterpart. In fact, the app offers two broad theme settings: a more traditional Mac look, or a sepia-toned spin that more closely emulates the iOS versions. Obviously, you can’t rely on tapping on the Mac, but the app offers excellent keyboard support. I depend upon the arrow keys in NetNewsWire, and similar—though tweaked—keyboard shortcuts are available in Reeder.

Browsing and reading in Reeder is a unique experience on the desktop, because of how closely it hews to its iOS predecessors. Whereas NetNewsWire lets you open different articles in tabs, Reeder instead focuses on a one-at-a-time approach. In the default view, you see your sources (and folders) in the leftmost pane, headlines from individual folders (or sources) in the middle pane, and then post content in the rightmost pane. If you want to view an article on its native Web page, you can do so just by clicking its headline or pressing the right arrow. When you do, however, your entire view slides over: The two leftmost panes temporarily vanish, leaving just the headlines and the Web view.

This screenshot isn't cut off; rather, it exhibits Reeder's narrower, Minimized mode that never shows more than two columns at once.

There’s a slimmer view, too, which the software calls Minimized. It shows just two panes when you’re browsing feeds, and replaces them with the content view (or Web page view) when you click into a specific article. It feels kind of like an iPhone, and seems like unnecessary confinement on my Mac’s wide screen.

Overall, Reeder’s interface works well on the iPad, but my early experimentation on the desktop leaves me feeling a bit twitchy, especially given how accustomed I am to NetNewsWire’s tabs. Still, the more time I spend with Reeder, the more I can appreciate its efforts to keep you more focused on the story at hand.

All of the tiny features that contribute to Reeder’s overall awesomeness on iOS make the jump to the desktop edition. There’s the configurable sharing/services menu—I leave Twitter, Instapaper, e-mail, Copy, and View in Safari in mine—which makes spreading the word about a particularly interesting article a snap. And there’s beautifully implemented Readability integration: If you’re reading a feed that includes only summaries, click the Readability button and Reeder magically pulls in the full content of the post. It’s excellent.

In another feature ripped straight from its iOS predecessors, Reeder offers a three-way toggle to switch between viewing the unread stories in your feeds (my preference), all posts, and starred posts.

Reeder lets you set custom keyboard shortcuts for pretty much everything.

What power users will appreciate most in Reeder is its exceedingly flexible level of customization. You can set custom key commands for just about everything; configure multitouch gestures; tweak levels for the display’s tint, texture, and contrast; and even customize the appearance of the Dock icon. Reeder’s geared not just towards news junkies, but to tinkerers as well.

The $10 app is available exclusively via the Mac App Store, and requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later.

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