On October 3rd, 2010 “Feed Reader” was released as one of the first Windows Phone 7 apps in the marketplace and the first RSS Reader. This post is going to cover the details of the app and hopefully serve as an FAQ to help new users with the app.
Feed Reader is ‘mostly’ a Google Reader client but it’s also a full Twitter application.
When you start the app for the first time it will ask you for your Google Reader account information:
Why does “Feed Reader” need a Google Reader account?
Good question! A true RSS reader application needs to continually request all your RSS feeds to see what’s new and cache them. This is necessary because most RSS feeds will only serve up the most recent 10-20 news items. This poses a problem with a Windows Phone app, since once you exit the application it doesn’t run in the background. Therefore, it can’t constantly check for new feed items from your favorite feeds.
Along come services like Google Reader. Google Reader is one of the most popular news reader web apps. If you check out the Android or Apple Marketplaces, you’ll find many versions of Google Reader apps.
Some people, including me, rely on their phones for their daily news. In fact, it’s one of the first things I do when I wake up each morning. It is my major source of news. Almost all major news/sports/tech/blog sites offer RSS feeds and it’s super simple to add them to this app.
What if I don’t have a Google Reader account?
Either go to http://www.google.com/reader/ and create one, or hit the link in the app to take you there on the phone.
Once you’re created an account or if you already had one, enter in your email and password and hit the “save” checkmark at the bottom.
You should now see this screen if you’ve never subscribed to any feeds:
How do I subscribe to a feed?
There are two ways: use http://www.google.com/reader or use this application directly. Notice at the bottom of the main screen there is a plus “+” button that says “add feed”.
You should now see this screen:
Select the textbox where it says “Enter search term here!” and enter in a search term. If you know the feed you’re looking for (perhaps a tech site like “Engadget” or news site like “ABC”) type it in. If you are just browsing, enter a more generic term.
Now hit the “Enter” key or the “search” button at the bottom to get the results:
Select the feed you want (or refine your search query):
If you’re happy with this name, press the “save” check button or hit the name box and change the name of the feed. Keeping these as short names makes it easier to read in the app.
Once you save it, you’ll be taken back to the list results, and will now see a check beside the newly subscribed feed. In addition, when doing searches you’ll always see a check beside feeds you’ve already subscribed to:
Add a few more feeds and when you’re done hit the back button: Notice the status at the top shows as these feeds automatically sync. To sync again, just hit the refresh button.
Can I Unsubscribe if I don’t want the feed any longer?
You bet, that’s easy! Just select one of the feeds and hit the “…” in the application bar at the bottom. Select “unsubscribe feed”:
Can I rename a feed?
Yes, see the above screen shot “rename feed”, selecting that will bring the following screen:
Can I create folders to organize my feeds?
Yes. Notice the screen shot above has a “move feed” item. Select that and you get a list of folders you’ve already created or you can add a new one. This screen shot shows what it looks like with no folders:
I’ll created a folder called “Tech”:
Once you’ve created some folders, moving feeds gets much easier since you can just select an existing one if you like:
Once you’ve added some folders, your main screen will look something like this:
The numbers on the right in blue (this will change to match your phone accent color) indicates the number of unread items.
The font is a bit too large for me, can I change this?
You can change this to “small”, “medium” or “large” in the settings. The settings can be accessed from the main screens. Here’s a complete look at all the settings:
Here’s how all three sizes compare:
What’s “Favorites”, “Shared Items” and “Notes” for?
Google Reader supports all of thee, “Favorites are equivalent to "Starred Items” in Google which are your favoritted items. As you are reading posts you can hit the “Star” to favorite an item.
After you “Favorite” an item you’ll see a little note at the top confirming it was completed successfully:
Now if you go back to the main menu and select “Favorites”, it will sync and you’ll see the items you have added:
Selecting an item will now change the “Favorite” button to “remove” which will remove the item from your favorites:
“Shared Items” works very similarly to “Favorites”. Shared items allow other users to subscribe to a feed of your “Shared” items in Google Reader. To share an item, select “share item with Google Reader” item from the application menu at the bottom:
I don’t use “Favorites”, “Shared Items”, “Notes” or “Twitter” can I hide these from the main menu?
Yes. In the settings section there are options to hide all or some of these. If you hide them all, your home screen will look something like this:
I don’t like seeing the “Unread” count, can I turn that off?
There is an option in settings to “Hide unread count”. If you turn this on, you’ll get a small graphic that new items are there but no count:
Can I lock the phone from changing from portrait mode to landscape?
Yes, there’s an option for that.
I don’t want the app to always sync when it starts, can I disable this?
Yes, there’s a setting for that:
Can I hide folder and feeds that don’t have new unread items?
Yes there’s an option to hide those:
I only want to see the post titles and not the one line of data that goes with it, can I do this?
Yes, there’s an option in settings called “Hide item details”. The following shows a feed list with details on (which is the default):
Here details are turned off to allow you to see more list items on the screen:
I like to read each item in feed list, can I avoid the feed list and go directly to the item view?
Yes, select “Hide feed list” in settings. One note is the feed last has some options like renaming the feed, moving the feed and viewing the live feed, if this view is hidden you’ll need to re-enable it to get those options.
In this section I’ll show some of the more advanced features and settings.
Marking all items in a list as read
The first is one of my favorites which is the “markAllRead” Button, which is available on both a folder list or a single feed. This will automatically mark the whole feed as read and take you back to the previous screen, so you can quickly move to your next feed list:
Show live details page
Some feeds have little or no “details” with each feed item, here’s an example:
Selecting an item in this case will only show the title:
Notice in the feed list view there is a menu item called “show live details”. This is handy for some feeds that provide little to no data in the description of the item. This can be turned on per feed. Notice this feed doesn’t have any “details” under each item in the list:
** Hint: Clicking on the title will load the html version of the feed:
Clicking on the title here will bring up the live web page for the item:
However, if you turn on the “show live details page” instead of the html view above it will take you directly to the live web page.
You can easily turn this off by selecting the “hide live details page” once it has been turned on (similar to how you turned it on).
Viewing the “live” feed
There may be times when you’ve read all the news items and on the phone the app has only cached the latest couple of items. You can always go view the real live feed instead of the cached one Google Reader sent us. Notice the “view live feed” item below:
Click on it and you’ll get this page, which looks similar to our cached version, only it’s coming from the live feed. The number of items will vary by feed as to how many they return:
In this section I’m will show some specifics about the item detail page (once you’ve selected an individual item from a feed):
This view shows the title at the top, followed by an image if there is one for the article then the cached details.
Notice the right side of the screen shows a preview and hint that there are more articles to the right. Flicking right/left will go to the next or previous item. Selecting the title will bring up the full html version of the cached page, which will possibly show more images and data than the above page.
Hitting the title or links now will bring you to the live html pages.
I briefly mentioned that clicking on the title will bring up the live page, or clicking links will go to those links while staying in the app:
There are several options available on this page:
I’ve already mentioned earlier in the post the “favorite” button to add to Google Favorites, and the “Share item with google reader” which shares it. You can also email the link, post it to Twitter, send it to “Read it Later” or “Instapaper” if you have accounts setup with those social sites.
The first time you select “send to twitter” you’ll get a twitter web page like this:
Notice the “Sign In to Twitter” button is there and also the “save” checkbox is disabled. You need to setup your Twitter account first. After selecting the “sign in” button you’ll get the screen below. Scrolling down you’ll be asked to enter your Twitter account and password to grant access to “Feed Reader”.
Once you’ve successfully entered it in, you’ll get this screen while your account access is being granted (note don’t hit the back key or your account may not be fully configured and you may have to start again).
After a few more seconds you should be re-directed back to your Tweet page. Notice the sign in button is gone and the save checkmark is enabled. Hitting the save button will tweet the message and take you back to the previous screen if there are no errors. Notice above the message you see how many characters you have remaining. The URLs are also shrunk with the bit.ly URL shrinking service:
You can also click on the message and change it if you like before you tweet.
Finally on the details page you can also select “mark item unread” if you’d like to keep an item unread.
When Feed Reader starts, it syncs with Google Reader. If you do not have a connection an error message will pop up. This is OK, you can still continue to read the news you’ve previously sunk up. If you’re about to take plane ride or go somewhere else where you will not have connectivity, just ensure you launch the app while you still have WI-FI or cellular coverage to sync all your news. You’re now ready to take your news with you.
When reading feed items, if you are not online you will not see images in the details as they are only loaded when online. Features such as adding as favorite, sharing or tweeting will not work when offline.
The app will, however, keep track of read items and marking lists as read. The next time you have connectivity it will mark those items as read and keep them in sync.
Full Twitter integration has been added to this application. Twitter lists are very similar to RSS feed lists.
If you have not set up your Twitter account yet within the app (see above section on sending tweets for feed items), you will see this screen with selecting “Twitter” from the main menu:
Once you’ve signed or if you already had, you’ll see this screen. You’ll need to hit the “refresh” button to go get your new friend statuses, mentions, direct messages and favorites:
Once you’ve hit refresh, you should see a screen similar to the below image with your user image at the top and counts for new items:
Selecting “Friend Statuses” will show:
Selecting a Tweet will show the Tweet details with embedded links which will load right in the app. The user will also now be at the top:
There are several options on this page, including Re-Tweeting, Replying, Emailing the tweet to someone, sending a direct message to this user, adding the item to Twitter Favorites or opening the link (if you’ve selected one in Internet Explorer):
Selecting the User will give you the below screen, where you can now check out their statuses, friends, followers and favorites (note each of these will only list the recent 100 items, but I’ll be adding a “more…” link to this in a future version to page through all their items. You can also “Follow” or “Unfollow” a user here.
If you click on your own user on the first Twitter screen, you’ll also get a similar page, where you can see your friends, followers, favorites and your own tweets.
Selecting “Trending” from the start Twitter page will give you the latest 10 trending items:
Selecting an item will bring up the search screen with a search for the trending topic (or you can get here hitting the search button from the main Twitter page):
Sending a new Tweet is easy from the main Twitter page:
That’s all for this post! I hope you enjoy the app. Please post any questions, comments, or feature requests.