AOL launches a solid Web-based RSS news reader (hands-on)

The new AOL Reader has many of the same features found in other popular RSS newsreaders. It looks like one of a few good alternatives for those losing Google Reader next week.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
2 min read

AOL Reader
AOL Reader's Card View gives you a newspaperlike layout for quickly browsing the headlines. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The new AOL Reader is now in beta and open to the public, and while it may not be a perfect replacement for Google Reader, it has a nice layout and a strong tool set for quickly scanning and organizing your RSS feeds. At this time, AOL Reader is Web browser-only (with plans for app-based versions in the works), but it can detect your mobile devices and give you a mobile-friendly experience.

To sign up, you can connect via Twitter, Facebook, Google, or your old AOL account (does anyone still have one of these?). Once logged in, AOL Reader prompts you to start subscribing to news feeds. It gives you some handy topics to start off with such as News, Sports, Movies, and Technology. You also have the option to enter a search term or paste in a source URL. If you're a former (or soon to be former) Google Reader user, you can import your subscriptions in a ZIP file via Google Takeout, and transfer them to AOL Reader in only a couple of minutes.

Scan headlines or casually read the news with AOL Reader (pictures)

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Once you have some feeds set up, AOL Reader gives you a few options for how the news is displayed. You can look at headlines in a list using List View; get a more spread-out look in multiple columns with Card View; get headlines with brief synopsis in Full View; or split the screen vertically with headlines on the left and content on the right in Pane View. On the far left, you always have your main navigation to get to your Home screen of top news, or you can drill down to specific sites or categories of feeds you have created. The overall look and functionality are very similar to Feedly, Google Reader, and other services so it should be no trouble to get up and running quickly.

AOL Reader has a few more features to make your RSS feed consumption both convenient and useful. You can share stories on social-networking services including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ via a share button next to every story. You also can "Star" stories as you read to save them for later. As with most good RSS readers, each of these and several other actions can be accomplished using keyboard shortcuts (accessed by typing a question mark).

AOL Reader
There are keyboard shortcuts for just about every action in the app. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

To be honest, there's not much new here that you can't find in other popular RSS readers, but AOL Reader is a solid option nonetheless, with a nice layout, familiar controls, and plenty of suggested content to make it easy for beginners.

One thing is for sure: with Google Reader going down on Monday, July 1, there will be a lot of RSS fans wondering where to turn. While there's nothing particularly groundbreaking in AOL Reader, it definitely doesn't hurt to have another good option for quick news consumption.