Sidetrack: A great Feed Wrangler app for iOS

Despite using a number of different RSS services, I’ve always found myself coming back to Feed Wrangler. It has some great features and Smart Streams are worth the price of admission ($19 a year) alone. While I love the service, I’ve found that most third-party iOS feed readers offer only basic support, so it’s often not possible to manage feeds and Smart Streams without visiting the website or using the official Feed Wrangler app.

I stumbled upon Sidetrack a few days ago via a retweet by @feedwrangler and it’s now become my iOS feed reader of choice.

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Sidetrack is a clean-looking app for both iPhone and iPad (including Apple Watch support) designed exclusively for Feed Wrangler, so it supports certain features that other feed reader apps don’t, such as managing feed subscriptions and Smart Streams. Searches can even be saved, once performed, as Smart Streams, a quick way to create new Streams you’ll likely want to keep.

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The self-described “unconventional” RSS reader is exactly that, so navigating throughout the app, especially between articles, takes some getting used to. Moving between articles requires swiping anywhere on the article, though accessing the feed list and app settings require similar swipes from different areas of the display.

Swiping right moves to the next article, though in apps such as Photos, it’s the traditional behaviour of going to back to something. This does, unfortunately, mean you’ll often skip through articles accidentally while you become accustomed to the gestures, though toggling between unread, read and starred articles is just a tap away.

Gestures play a big part of Sidetrack’s feature set and the entire article-browsing experience, as well as sharing to other services like Instapaper, can all be done through clever swiping without taking your finger or thumb off the display. Swipe right to move onto the next article, swipe down to bring up the sharing options and swipe left/right to select the sharing service to use. This makes one-handed use, especially on an iPhone 6 Plus, very easy to do.

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One of my favourite features is Speed Browsing, which increments through articles automatically in a slideshow-like way. Tapping the Play button will cause the app to display each article for a small amount of time before skipping to the next. You can tap anywhere on the screen to stop the process, but it’s a clever way of automating the process of swiping through articles, especially if you’re subscribed to busy feeds that you may not be fully interested in. It’s another way that Sidetrack streamlines the reading experience as you can have the app do the work of moving between articles for you, instead of swiping through them.

In addition to the typical sharing options you’ve come to expect from feed readers, so there’s built-in support for the iOS share sheet and native support for Instapaper, Pocket and Pinboard. You can also configure a sharing option with a custom URL scheme for use with other iOS apps and web services.

The sharing options are quite comprehensive, providing four “slots” that you can use swipe gestures to access, and you can customise how the app handles a single-tap, double-tap and long-tap on an article’s headline. Despite what appears to be a plethora of sharing options, the app makes this uncomplicated and easy to configure. The iOS selection menu obeys the order and services selected, so it’s just as easy to send specific links within articles to respective services.

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One small annoyance I had with the app was that, during the initial setup, the app’s sounds don’t obey the mute switch. While the sounds aren’t obtrusive and can be disabled once you’ve connected your Feed Wrangler account, this bugs me.

Update: As of version 3.0.1, this has been fixed.

Sidetrack is a fantastic app and it’s a steal at just 99¢. There’s an in-app purchase if you’d like to “tip” the developer (you should), though no additional functionality is unlocked.