These days it seems like almost every developer makes a Google Reader client for browsing your favorite RSS feeds—or will soon. But Reeder for Mac (Mac App Store link) is a breath of fresh air in this crowded market, offering a healthy dose of features polished up with an interface that shows its iOS roots. You might call Reeder for Mac the Twitter app of Google Reader apps: Like an increasing number of new Mac apps, Reeder takes obvious interface cues from Twitter’s official client, Twitter for Mac (formerly called Tweetie), as well as from Lion (Mac OS X 10.7) itself.
After you enter your Google account credentials in Reeder’s minimal login window, the app loads your feeds and the articles they contain. The default interface is a compact window that displays your feeds, feed groups, and followed Google Reader users on the left; and a list of headlines (for articles in the currently selected feed or group) on the right.
Double-click a headline, or press spacebar with an article selected, and the entire window is filled with the article view; click the close button, or press escape, to go back to the feed/headlines view. You can also configure multi-touch gestures that let you swipe between articles, send the current story to your favorite social-media service, and much more. Keyboard jockeys are welcome, but Reeder could certainly do more to make them feel at home. For example, using the tab key to change keyboard focus between the feed and headline lists works, but interface feedback is next to none.
If you find this alternating list/webpage approach distracting, you can give your feeds and headlines a permanent place by switching to Classic view, which opens a dedicated article-reading pane to the right. Keyboard shortcuts for toggling this reading pane and other interface features make Reeder quite flexible, though there is admittedly a bit of a learning curve. While Reeder’s interface style and language is consistent across the Mac, iPhone, and iPad versions, it can take a little while to get used to if you aren’t familiar with Reeder on iOS. It doesn’t help that Reeder’s toolbar icons do not even present text labels (tooltips) when you hover over them.
Reeder’s out-of-the-box configuration presents a sort of Google Reader dashboard—a compact window that’s less intimidating than other feed readers, and that can fit on the screen next to another app or two. But Reeder’s interface also scales well, with toolbars and button layouts that expand gracefully, either with the reading pane expanded or when taking advantage of Lion’s new full-screen feature. (Some days, I keep Reeder open next to my browser or email client and bounce between them; other days, I’m just as happy to use Reeder in full-screen mode and swipe to it from my working desktop for a quick news break.) These and other little details make Reeder a pleasure to use, and it’s one of the few Mac apps that ably tackles both compact and expanded interfaces.
Reeder is also social-media savvy, letting you share stories to Twitter and Facebook, but it also supports a welcome crop of extras, including Evernote, Pinboard, and Zootool—though not Tumblr. You can also send articles to Instapaper and Readability, and use either of the services or Google Mobilizer to make articles more readable. You can choose which sharing and bookmarking services appear in Reeder’s toolbar, and you can even customize each service’s keyboard shortcut.
Reeder is not without its shortcomings. Its gesture-friendly interface skews heavily toward trackpad users (perhaps understandably, given that 75 percent of new Macs sold these days are notebooks, and even desktop buyers can opt for Apple’s Magic Trackpad). It also doesn’t offer many features above and beyond those found in Google Reader’s Web interface. For example, OS X-like smart folders and searches would be a nice start, as would caching images for offline reading (a feature its iOS brethren put to good use). A nice second step would be to take some inspiration from the “Hot” headlines feature in Fever, a self-hosted alternative to Google Reader that I really like but that’s updated too infrequently for me to use seriously.
That said, Reeder has a unique style while still feeling Mac-like, especially on Lion (thanks largely to Reeder’s iOS roots). A flexible interface, a great out-of-box experience, and customizability made it my go-to Google Reader client from the first days I used it. Whether you have five feeds or 500, you can’t go wrong with Reeder for Mac.