A few weeks ago on Mastodon, I shared a simple feature request: a split-screen mode for iPhone RSS readers that would allow me to scroll headlines in the one half of the screen and preview actual articles in the other.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone: back in 2007, Steve Jobs demoed pretty much the same thing for the first version of the Mail app for iPhone OS 1.0. That layout mode never shipped, and probably rightfully so at the time given the limited screen real estate of the first iPhone.
Links are the currency of information overload and distraction. There’s more media available than we could ever get to in a lifetime, and more things we might want to buy, places may want to visit, and other things to explore online than can be fit into a day.
The same problem exists in our work lives. That’s especially true for the kind of work I do. Links are part of everything. Whether I’m researching, writing, or preparing to record a podcast, I’m collecting, managing, and sharing links. I could follow all those trails as they cross my path, but I’d never get anything done.
Instead of flitting from one online discovery to the next with no plan, wasting precious time, I save links for later, putting them aside until I have time for them. I’ve been doing this forever, but I’ve also never been happy with my system. So, it was inevitable that I’d begin tinkering with my setup again, both with the apps I use and the shortcuts that support them.
Unread, the elegant RSS reader by Golden Hill Software that we’ve covered before on MacStories, received its 3.3 update today, and it’s an interesting one I’ve been playing around with for the past week. There are two features I want to mention.
The first one is the ability to set up an article action to instantly send a headline from the article list in the app to Readwise Reader. As I explained on AppStories, I decided to go all-in with Reader as my read-later app (at least for now), and this Unread integration makes it incredibly easy to save articles for later. Sure, the Readwise Reader extension in the share sheet is one of the best ones I’ve seen for a read-later app (you can triage and tag articles directly from the share sheet), but if you’re in a hurry and checking out headlines on your phone, the one-tap custom action in Unread is phenomenal. To start using it, you need to be an Unread subscriber and paste in your Readwise API token.
The second feature is the ability to save any webpage from Safari as an article in Unread, even if you’re not subscribed to that website’s RSS feed. Essentially, this is a way to turn Unread into a quasi-read-later tool: the app’s parser will extract text and images from the webpage, which will be then be saved as a ‘Saved Article’ in Unread Cloud, Local feeds, or NewsBlur, or as a ‘Page’ in Feedbin.
Around this time every year, I tend to start fiddling with my RSS setup. Last year, I drastically simplified my setup, and it worked well. Still, with Twitter’s fate uncertain, I thought it would be an excellent time to reexamine what various sync services and apps have to offer to refine my RSS reading experience.
One of my goals with this year’s experiments is to find better ways to filter and sort the articles in my feeds. Folders are a useful top layer of organization, but I’ve wanted more control over my feeds for a while now, especially when I’m busiest. One way to accomplish advanced filtering is server-side with an RSS sync service, but support for them by third-party RSS apps is limited. That’s why I was excited to see that ReadKit 3.1 has added a new smart folders feature.
Silvio Rizzi, the developer of RSS client Reeder, has released a brand new recipe and cooking app called Mela for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which has immediately become my favorite apps for planning and preparing meals. For me, the two essential aspects of an app like this are how it handles adding new recipes and whether it is easy to use while you’re cooking. Mela excels at both.
I’m going to focus primarily on the iPad experience for this review because the iPad strikes the best balance of portability combined with a large screen that works well when you’re in the kitchen cooking, but the app is also available on the iPhone and Mac. Although my overwhelming preference is to use Mela on an iPad, an equal amount of attention has gone into the design of the iPhone and Mac apps, accounting for the different screen sizes and making the most of each. That’s true on the iPad, too, where the experience differs depending on the size of the iPad you’re using.
Last year we named RSS client Reeder 4 the Best App Update as part of the MacStories Selects awards for a good reason. Reeder has been one of the best-designed RSS apps available for a very long time. With the release of version 4, developer Silvio Rizzi rebuilt the app on a modern foundation from the ground up. Roughly one year later, version 5 is out as a brand new app that takes what Rizzi began last year and extends it further with a host of excellent new features and design refinements.
I love that there are so many excellent choices of RSS readers on iPhone and iPad. Currently, my favorite in terms of iOS and iPadOS 14 feature adoption is lire, an RSS client that is packed with power user features. With the latest update, the app has been relaunched on the App Store, which means it’s a new purchase, with excellent support for the iPad’s new three-column design and widgets.
RSS readers are perfect for the iPad’s new three-column design. Lire’s left pane includes numerous ways to navigate your feeds, the center pane lists your articles, and the right pane displays each article. The first two columns can be hidden so you can focus on what you’re reading.
When I imagine the quintessential RSS user, I think of someone who wants full control of their web reading experience. They don’t want to leave news curation up to an algorithmic service like Apple News, or a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook. They also care about tools like filtering controls, and tweaking the reading experience to their preferences. For such a user, Fiery Feeds may be a natural choice due to its abundance of supported RSS services and settings to tweak, along with some key pro features. Today, Fiery Feeds is better prepared to meet the needs of that kind of user thanks to a pair of important additions: full-text search and saved searches. Throw in optimized iPad pointer support, plus a new native article rendering option, and the latest Fiery Feeds update is a compelling one.
For this week’s installment of the Shortcuts Corner, I’ve prepared quite an assortment of miscellaneous shortcuts to share with MacStories readers and Club MacStories members (because I’ve been spending all my time at home due to the state of emergency in Italy, I’ve been reorganizing my entire Shortcuts library, among other things). Following this week’s launch of NetNewsWire for iPhone and iPad, I’ve adapted an existing shortcut to let you subscribe to feeds using the popular RSS client. I’ve also created shortcuts to reopen the watch later queue in the YouTube app, copy app links from the App Store, and copy a webpage selection from Safari as rich text.
Furthermore, exclusively for Club MacStories members, I’ve created an advanced shortcut to upload images to a remote FTP server and copy their public URLs to the clipboard. Let’s dig in.