Folks, meet my new favorite feed reader. :)

Back when Google launched the first version of Reader about a year ago, I was pretty disappointed. The old UI, while different and perhaps even innovative in some sense, was almost unusable for me. Many others apparently felt the same way. So the Reader team took a step back and redesigned the interface to make it a little more like other web-based aggregators, but with some interesting features of its own.

I started playing with this new version of Reader a few weeks ago on the corporate network while I was interning at Google, and I loved it instantly. I was eagerly waiting for the public release so that I could switch over, and of course, blog about it.

So what are some of the things that I really like about the new version? Firstly, it's fast. This is extremely important to me. If I can't skim through all my feeds quickly, the aggregator fails the test right away. Almost every other aggregator I've tried that uses AJAX has failed for exactly this reason. Google Reader uses a neat trick to overcome lag - if a feed has more than 20 new items, only the first 20 get loaded initially, and as you scroll down the list, the next 20 items get loaded asynchronously. There's no pagination, so it's fluid and continuous, but it's still zippy and responsive. Posts also get marked as read as you scroll past them. Nice.

Secondly, the UI is clean, appealing, and makes good use of space. Besides the traditional "Expanded" view, which shows the full contents of all the items in the feed, there's also a "List" view that's very Gmail-like. It simply shows you the post title with a one-line summary, and each post expands out when you click on it.

Saving items for later is also quick and easy, just like it should be - you "Star" items, just like you do in Gmail again. NewsGator Online is also pretty good at this, whereas adding a post to the Clippings section in Bloglines still needs too many clicks. You can also tag posts/feeds, which is something NewsGator Online and Bloglines don't support yet.

Oh, and of finally, the devs have a sense of humor. That's always a plus in my books. ;)

Go try it out. I think you'll like it too. The response on the web has generally been very positive this time around.