October 30, 2009 1:07 AM
I keep up with the incessant flow of articles on the internet via Google Reader1. It has the same set of problems when it comes to reading text-heavy articles which Readefine can help out with. I'm quite happy to announce two things: Readefine can now be a quite decent Google Reader client and it also comes as a desktop application (Adobe AIR application). Readefine's popularity was unexpected and overwhelming. I want to thank all of you for your encouragement and valuable feedback.

Google Reader

You can login to Google Reader via Readefine and view articles from your reading list and also see your subscriptions to navigate by feed. Keyboard shortcuts like Space, n, v, etc. help you navigate through the river of news with "Space" key flowing across pages as well as articles.

Google Reader Readefined

Apart from this, you can star, like, keep unread and share articles. Adding subscriptions and marking all as read is also possible.

You can filter out feed names in your subscription list by typing in the "Search" box in the subscriptions panel.

Webcomic Mode

Articles from xkcd.com automatically toggle a new mode in Readefine called "Webcomic mode." It makes the article single column, maximum width so that the webcomic (image) can be viewed without distortion.

For other webcomic sites, you'll have to manually toggle "webcomic mode" by clicking on the button.


Applying the river of news analogy to a system where the article summaries are laid out fluidly was challenging. It pages articles, marking them read as you move along, trimming old ones and concatenating new ones to the list. The list is divided horizontally and vertically with articles from the top one flowing to the left pane based on available screen size.

The web version and desktop version of Readefine work differently when it comes to Google Reader. The web version is on Google App Engine. There's a GAE python Google Reader client that actually talks to Google Reader. The desktop version has a pure AS3 Google Reader client. It is therefore faster.


Since Google Reader has no support for Authsub or OAuth, Readefine requires you to enter your Google username and password. In the web version of Readefine, The username and password are shuttled via HTTPS to https://readeem.appspot.com/glogin and then onto Google's servers since crossdomain requests are not allowed from Flex unless explicitly allowed. The domain name for the login endpoint does not match readefine.anirudhsasikumar.net because Google App Engine doesn't support HTTPS for custom domains.

Note: The desktop version talks directly with Google servers. It is also faster because of the same reason.

Readefine Desktop

You can install Readefine Desktop by visiting the install page. Some unique features about the desktop version:

  • Drag and drop text, HTML, RSS files from your desktop onto Readefine.
  • You can also use it when you are disconnected from the internet to read content on your computer.
  • It is faster and does not contact Readefine servers for accessing Google Reader or the web.
  • Less startup time - since the app is installed on your computer.
  • Usually, there's more screen estate available to Readefine desktop than the web counterpart due to lack of browser chrome.

Other Changes to Readefine

  • The UI has been slightly re-designed with the left pane resizable, top header collapsible. The top header has been reduced for more real estate (especially on wide-screen computers).
  • HTML parsing has been vastly improved.
  • You can now load RSS files from your local machine.
  • Overall performance improvements.

Next Steps

To all those waiting eagerly for the components used in Readefine to be open-sourced: Sorry about the delay, but I'm going to do that next. The main problem is that the NewsText component that does the paging and sectioning does not work with Flex 4 Beta 2 SDK. I have to port it over and then the components will be released.

As always, any feedback you have is welcome.

CategoryFlex Comment(s)

[1] Mainly because desktop RSS clients miss entries unless they are left running constantly.

Copyright © 2004-2011 Anirudh Sasikumar. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: October 30, 2009 2:40 AM