I have to admit that NewsAlloy is my current favorite of the free online news aggregators. It has many of the features that a true RSS junkie needs to manage their feeds, and enjoy reading. Its probably the most advanced news reader of all the free online offerings that I’ll review.

As I’ve done before, here are some links in case you would like to read up on what RSS, ATOM, Web Feeds, OPML, and news aggregators are.

This is what seperates NewsAlloy from the rest. It truely is a real news aggregator, with all the trimmings. Feed management, archiving, rating of feeds, favorites, simple exporting of OMPL, and extensive account settings to manage the views, archiving, tags, actions and more. NewsAlloy really does compare with a stand-alone product offering, but is a fantastic value, especially when you consider that their is no software to install, and is browser independent. It works flawlessly in both Firefox and Internet Explorer, so bring your favorite browser!

(IMAGE) This is one item that I have not elaborated on in my reviews for NewsGator Online and Attensa Online, mainly because there was not much to talk about. The list of feeds were on the left, the reading pane on the right, simple as that. You click, you read.

NewsAlloy, however, is different in that there is much more to the interface. Yes, the two-pane layout is the same as the others, but because of the feature set, you have more items and controls in the interface. The interface makes full use of the AJAX techniques that have come to infuse all “Web 2.0” sites. On the left, you have the Folders & Shortcuts area that gives you one-click access to multiple “Folders” including Inbox, Archive, Trash, Pinned, Rated, All, and Unread. These shortcuts simplify getting to the major portions of NewsAlloy.

Below Folders & Shortcuts, there is the Channels area, which is actually where you organize your feeds. Consider “channels” folders, and you’ll get the idea. You can have subchannels of channels, so you can organize a “News” channel with specific subchannels for “Politics”, “Sports”, “Technology” and so on. Or start with a top-level channel for “Blogs” and subchannels for “Friends”, “A-Listers” and so on. There is also a toolbar for this section that allows you, with one click, to (from left to right): Export selection as OPML, Create a new Channel, Move selected Channels, Delete selected Channels, Reload Channels Pane, and Reset the selection.

In the viewing pane, you can manipulate the individual posts of a feed. On the right-hand side of the screen, within easy reach, are tools for selecting, expanding, moving, deleting, pinning, subscribing, mailing and exporting. The text, backgound and layout of the actual post is easy to read and allows for quick scanning of the text. The font is easy on the eyes, and does not induce strain – at least for me. Pictures within posts are rendered in their proper places, and the overall post presentation is quite nice.

At the top of the viewing pane, there are 6 tabs that allow you to quickly navigate to the different settings and tools withing NewsAlloy. These tabs are for News (the default), Manage, Settings, My Account, Feedback, and Feed Directory. Overall, its laid out fairly well, everything can be found in a few clicks.

For me, NewsAlloy has had great performance with some annoyances – though remember it is still in beta. I have had some issues with the service, performance was horrid when I loaded it up with over 100 feeds and didn’t read anything for about two weeks. When I came back, I had around 3300 posts that needed to be dealt with. But I was negligent in managing my read/unread feeds/posts and so my account quickly had so many posts, that it took several seconds to process a read, move, or delete command. With this in mind, I took several minutes about a week ago and cleaned out a number of extraneous feeds and posts, marked them all read, and simply deleted them, as I had already read them in another aggregator. Since then, I’ve noticed what I originally saw in NewsAlloy, a speedy quick news reader with a lot of features.

The interface of NewsAlloy does take a bit to get used to, it is more advanced than other freebie online news readers. The layout is familiar and the features you need are all there – and all right on the screen. This doesn’t make it cluttered, but it does take awhile to learn what each icon is for, and how to use them. So, usability is not “bad”, it just is hindered slightly by need to pack stand-alone functionality into a web page. I’d say NewsAlloy has done a rather good job of this, though I’m betting that they are going to continue to improve the interface as this product progresses through its beta.

NewsAlloy is my favorite online reader – no two ways about it. I’m going to continue to keep this account long after I’ve shut down the other online readers, simply because it is much more powerful then the competition, and is quite fast. My daily aggregator is actually Pluck for Internet Explorer, which I’ll talk about another day, but I could see myself switching to NewsAlloy for simplicities sake.

  • Pros: Quick, powerful, high-end features for a web app, no software install, browser independent
  • Cons: Learning curve, less intuitive than other offerings, currently in beta (though open to public)

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