A first look at Aol Reader

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 24, 2013

With Google Reader's permadeath only days away, companies and developers are frantically trying to get their products out or upgraded before that happens. Aol Reader is one of the few products that is been designed from the ground up after Google decided to retire Google Reader on July 1 (another is Digg Reader).

Aol launched Reader as a beta product today. Sign ups are enabled for users from all over the world, provided they have no objections linking the Reader account with their Facebook, Google or Twitter account, or to create a new AOL account for that.

Once you have created an account you are taken to a blank home page that you can use to add individual feeds or import a feed list from an opml file. I experienced issues trying both options for the better part of the day. While I cannot say for certain why this happened, it may have something to do with the public launch of the product. Anyway, not a great start.

Once you do manage to get your feed list imported into the program you will notice that it may take a while before they are all updated. The first wave of updates seems to ignore publication dates and use retrieval dates instead. What this means is that posts are displayed when they have been retrieved by Reader and not when they were published on the site.

The feed listing itself uses a pleasant design, displaying individual items in rows by default. Here you find the publisher's name, title and the first words of the article listed. You can modify the display if you want, to a card, full or pane view instead. Lets take a look how these look like in comparison, shall we?

Card View

card view

Full View

full view

Pane View

pane view

The only view that seems half-way practicable besides list view is pane view as it is displaying unread articles on top and one selected article in the lower pane like it is handled in many email readers.

A click on an article in list view displays its contents right in Aol Reader. This includes textual contents but also images. Multimedia contents on the other hand seem to be ignored, at least for now. I could not get embedded YouTube videos to show up in AOL Reader nor podcasts streams.

Articles are automatically marked as read when you click on them. There is however no option to mark them read while you are browsing past them in list view. You can however use mark as read buttons at the top to do so, or use shortcuts instead for that.


AOL Reader supports a wide variety of shortcuts.

AOL Reader shortcuts

  • g+h Jump to Home.
  • g+a Jump to all items.
  • g+s Jump to starred items.
  • j or k Next or previous item.
  • space Next item or page
  • Cursor up+space previous item or page.
  • n or p Items scan down / up.
  • Cursor up+n or p next or previous subscription.
  • Cursor up+x expand folder
  • Cursor up+o open subscription or folder.
  • s star article.
  • t tag article
  • v view original content
  • o / enter expand or collapse item (list only).
  • m mark article as read or unread.
  • Cursor up+m mark all as read.
  • ? display shortcuts window.
  • r refresh feed listing.
  • 1-4 switch to list, card, article or pane view.
  • / move cursor to search box.
  • a add subscription
  • = increase magnification.
  • - decrease magnification.

The shortcuts hint at a couple of features that I have not mentioned yet. You can star articles which adds them to the starred category in Aol Reader from where they are accessible. You can also tag articles so that you can find them when you use the search, or share them using various sharing options that are displayed when you have selected an article in the program.

The home page displays the latest articles of each folder or category that you have created, as well as the top list of feeds with unrated items. Last but not least, it also recommends services to you, but those seem to be the generic high profile suggestions that you come across every where (Huffington Post, TechCrunch, TUAW and so on).

The settings enable you to switch from a dark to a light theme, change the default font size, and turn off confirmations for various activities such as unsubscribing from feeds.


The biggest issue right now is feed import which does not work well right now, followed by the fact that articles are sorted by retrieval date and not by date they have been published on websites.

There are other issues, like the inability to change the size of the sidebar that is displaying all subscribed feeds and that switching to a new article using the shortcut n is not marking it as read.

The reader shows promise, but it is clearly a beta product at this point in time.


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between name.com domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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