Comparing akregator and liferea (rss readers)

I have previously reviewed both akregator and liferea. In this post, I want to compare the two rss reader applications.

For reference, here are the links to the two reviews:

I’ll note that each of those reviews contains an image of the main screen for the particular application.  You might find it useful to refer back to those review.

Desktop environment

The akregator reader is designed for the KDE desktop.  In fact, it is part of the  Kontact suite of KDE programs, although it can be used without the remainder of the Kontact suite.  I am using only akregator, but not the rest of Kontact.

The liferea application is a gnome application.  However, my testing of liferea has been while running KDE.

As a KDE user, akregator would thus be the natural choice for me to use.  If I were a Gnome user (or, for that matter, an XFCE user) I would probably choose to run liferea.  I presume that akregator will run under either Gnome or XFCE (not tested).  However, because of the way that akregator is integrated into the KDE desktop, you might find that you are running more KDE services that a Gnome user would like.

Main screen

The main screen of akregator contains, for each listed message:

  1. the message title,
  2. the name of the feed,
  3. the author of the message,
  4. the data and time that the message was originally posted.

By contrast, the liferea screen contains, for each message:

  1. the date and time of posting,
  2. an icon (apparently the favicon for the site),
  3. the message title.

I find the akregator screen a lot more useful.  The site icon on the liferea screen is not very useful.  Many wordpress sites will have the same wordpress icon, while many blogger sites will have the same blogger icon.  So it is harder to identify where a message is coming from when using liferea.  Even when you click on the message line, to display the feed content for that message, liferea provides less information that I would like about the message source.  You have to open the full message before you can be sure where it came from.

I see this difference between the two rss readers as being a major plus for akregator.

Advertisements

When reading the feed content for a message with akregator, I often see advertisements.  Those ads are not particularly annoying, as they are mainly static ads (no moving parts).

By contrast, I have not seen any advertising in the feed content presented by liferea.  I am not sure why.  I presume that both readers are getting the same data from the sites, so presumably liferea is doing some filtering.

I’ll call this a plus for liferea.

Cookies

The use of cookies is well integrated into akregator.  It shares the same browser cookies as used by konqueror.  I presume that it is using the “kcookiejar” service provided by KDE.  This will be a big plus if you use konqeror as your main browser.  But even if you prefer a different browser (in my case, firefox), you can still open konqueror and use it to login to sites where you would like akregator to appear logged in.  If you do that, remember to check the “keep me logged in” box on the login page.

The cookie handling in liferea is more primitive.  Cookies are used, but are not integrated with a browser.  It is possible to manually copy a cookies.txt file (in netscape format) to the liferea configuration directory.  However, with firefox and chromium both using sqlite for cookies, it is not easy to manually integrate cookies.

Apparently you can still use a site that requires a login, and liferea will present an authentication page for you to use.  I presume is keeps this information in cookies.  I have not tested this ability.  Likewise, akregator supposedly has an ability to directly request authentication where needed, though again I have not tested this.  At least with akregator, using konqueror for site login would be a more congenial approach.

I’ll count this as a plus for akregator.

Browsing a full message

In akregator, I can click on a message title to see what is in the feed.  At the bottom of that message, there is a link to “Complete Story”.  Clicking on that “Complete Story” opens the full message in a tab on akregator.  Alternatively, if I middle-click on “Complete Story”, it opens the full message in my browser (currently configured to open in a konqueror tab).

Alternatively, I can middle-click on the message title (in the main display of message titles) to directly open the full message in my browser.  Or I can right-click on the message title and select to open the full message in an akregator tab or in my browser.

The message, when opened in an akregator tab, looks reasonably complete.  At sites where I am logged in (vi konqueror), I can readily post comments.

With liferea I have similar choices, but they are less convenient.  Clicking on a message title shows the feed content.  Middle clicking on the title marks the message as unread.  I suppose that might be useful, though I have not used it accept for testing.  To open the full message in either a liferea tab or in my browser, I must right-click on the message title and then select how I want to open the message.

If I read the full message in a liferea tab, what I see looks noticeably less complete than when I read the message in a browser.  For example, reading a wordpress message, there is no header line that shows me as logged in, even though liferea has the browser cookies that should keep me logged in.  And if I scroll down to the comment section, I see what I would expect if I am not logged into wordpress.  I’m guessing that this has to do with the use of javascript – presumably, liferea does not use it.  In akregator, javascript is being used, though there is an option to disable that.

I’ll count this as a plus for akregator.

Marking a message

In akregator, I can right-click on a message title, and mark the message as important.  Then, at a later time, I can set the  main screen to show important messages, so that I can see which messages I have marked.  I do this when I have commented on a message, and want to return later to see whether there was a response.  I also do this when I don’t have time to do more than skim a message, but the skimming is enough to see that I will want to revisit the message at a later time.

With liferea when I right click on a message title, one of the options is to “toggle item status”.  That turns out to be what marks the message as important.

I’ll call this a tie between the two readers.

Bugs

Both readers are buggy.  I’m not sure why, but neither of them seems to be able to keep count.

With akregator, the count of unread messages is correct most of the time.  But, occasionally, it gets off by one.  And when it is off by one, it is harder to tell whether there are any unread messages.  At that point, I usually close akregator (“quit” from the tray icon), and then restart it.  That gets the count correct again.

For liferea, there is a virtual folder for unread messages.  The folder content seems to be correct on which messages are unread.  But the number of unread messages listed can be wildly off.  Stopping and restarting liferea does briefly fix the problem, but before long the count will again be wildly off.  It does not seem to be worth the effort of stopping and restarting liferea to fix this.

On a number of occasions, akregator has crashed on me.  When I restart it, I am offered the choice of restoring the failed session or making a clean start.  I usually choose to restore the failed session.  But, even with that choice, data is sometimes lost.  That is, messages that I have seen and read are missing from the display and will be refetched and marked as new.  This can be annoying.

Thus far, I have not had any crashes with liferea.

I’ll count this as a plus for liferea.

Overall summary

Both are reasonably good rss readers, though both have imperfections.  My personal preference is for akregator.  However, my overall advice is to use akregator if you are a KDE user, and otherwise to use liferea.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

5 responses to “Comparing akregator and liferea (rss readers)”

  1. Lars says :

    Hi Neil!

    I found your comparison an interesting read. In many ways you approach Liferea much much different of what I expected. Especially the item list columns missing the feed title was enlightening. I will consider having configurable columns for Liferea in the future.

    As for the tabbed browsing and browsing full content there are tuning
    options in the feed properties. You could configure feeds with sparse
    content to always load the link when clicking a headline. This makes it much more useful.

    (Disclaimer: I maintain and develop Liferea)

    Like

    • Neil Rickert says :

      In many ways you approach Liferea much much different of what I expected.

      That may reflect the fact that I am mainly using it for blogs, where the feed title is quite useful. That, and the integration with konqueror, are the two main reasons that I currently prefer akregator.

      I will have to check back in the future, to see if you have added that option.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  2. skagedal says :

    Thank you for this write-up, I found it interesting! My prefered mode of reading blogs seems similar to yours. I’ve used Liferea for a little while now and also submitted a few patches, one of them (that Lars has kindly accepted for next release) might interest you:

    http://sourceforge.net/p/liferea/patches/223/

    That helps a bit, but I would also like to have the feed title in a column as you write. Maybe in a future patch!

    I chose Liferea for pretty much the same reason as you chose akregator – I use a GNOME desktop. I’ve hesitated to try akregator because from what I’ve seen on other screenshots, it seems to be part of a whole suite (“Kontact”) of things that I don’t really want. But I gather from your screenshot that it can also run as a stand-alone program?

    Regards, Simon

    Like

    • Neil Rickert says :

      Thanks for commenting. Your patch does look like a useful improvement.

      And yes, using the software designed around your desktop is usually a good solution.

      I do run akregator stand-alone. I tried Kontact, but there’s nothing else there that I wanted to use. And akregator works well as a stand-alone application.

      Like

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  1. Notes on RSS readers « Thoughts on computing - 2012/12/13

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