If you've ever hunted for a job, housing, or furniture on Craigslist.org, you'll appreciate the help of a devoted desktop reader to sift and sort through multiple listings. I've taken a look at two free Craigslist-helpers on CNET Download.com--Craigslist Reader Pro and CraigsList Reader. While neither one is perfect, we found Craigslist Reader Pro to be the stronger choice, though it would do well to learn from what CraigsList Reader has done right.
Craigslist Reader Pro, published by CraigsPal, isn't pretty to look at, but it does quickly hone your search to Craigslist's key cities and categories, and displays results in one of the reader's four program panels.
There are certainly some nice touches here--a search bar to help in choosing the location of the query, a chance to define positive and negative keywords, and choices to only read posts with images or search titles only. A list of extra variables appropriate to each category you're searching is especially useful for whittling down results. For instance, you can tick a box to find pet-friendly apartments or nonprofit jobs.
While I liked the filter menu to further attack ungainly results after you've launched a search, what's sorely missing are management tools to slash entries you no longer want and to flag favorites one by one--it's currently all or nothing. Without these, Craigslist Reader Pro remains a strong search engine that's limited by the most basic of readers.
CraigsList Reader, on the other hand, achieves much more with design, but contains some worrisome performance omissions. The interface, a Microsoft Office 2007 clone (and not the first we've seen), is much more legible and attractive than its rival. CraigsList Reader also tops the CraigsPal "Pro" reader in organization and customization, and for some that's the lure. You can delete single listings or clear them all, and save individual data files on your PC. You'll also be able to set notifications for incoming listings that match your criteria, and customize the reader's display.
However, the tool is neither as advanced when it comes to picking out locations nor as adept at defining or narrowing searches. Most importantly, CraigsList Reader routinely failed to return as many listings, even when the criteria were equal for both readers.
The ideal Craigslist reader would splice CraigsList Reader's organizational tools and more advanced design with Craigslist Reader Pro's superior engine. Until that happens, or until CraigsList Reader improves its precision and accuracy, we recommend CraigPals' Craigslist Reader Pro, warts and all.