Google Tools Part 2: Google Reader

What is Google Reader?

It is a free, web-based reader for RSS Feeds. An RSS Feed is a web feed format used to publish frequently updated works (e.g. a blog).

In plain speaking terms, it is somewhere to store and read all the posts from blogs/news sites that you sign up to.

How does Google Reader Work?

The first step is to have a Google Account. If you do not already have one – why not?!! Once you have your Google Account and have accessed Google Reader, you need to set about subscribing to some feeds. There are 2 ways to do this: First, you can go to the site that you want to get the feed from and they should have the below icon on:

You click on the icon and choose where you want the feed to go to; The second option is to use the ‘Add a Subscription’ feature on Google Reader itself. This gives you the chance to search on a topic or for a site name that you want to subscribe to. The only issue I’ve found with using the search feature is that you do not always get the exact result returned that you were looking for.

Organising Feeds

Once you have more than a few feeds coming in, you might want to organise them. First of all, I would recommend setting up folders for the different topics the feeds are on (simply click on manage subscriptions on the bottom left of the screen). You can then also individually tag posts with more specific terms.

There is also a ‘star’ feature where you can mark a particular post with a star and it gets copied into another folder. I find this particularly useful as stars make searching for old posts much easier. I have over 200 new posts coming into Google Reader each day. If I was to search all posts for a particular topic, thousands of results would come up making it time consuming to find what I’m looking for. All I do is search my starred items and I know that the posts in there are high quality and there are fewer results that come up.

Reading your Feeds

There are 2 views available when reading your feeds: Expanded and List view. The expanded view shows each full post, the list view just shows the title. Personally, I love the list view. Each morning, I go through the list of new posts, any titles that are on topics I am interested in will get read (and then possible starred), the rest will be ignored until I reach the bottom of the list of new posts and then I will mark all posts as read.

Extra Features

There is a sharing function within Google Reader that means you can email posts to people or share using a publicly available blog that you can direct people to.

If you are a shortcut wizz, there is plenty to keep you happy on Google Reader. Simply press shift + ? to bring up an overlay of all available shortcuts and get going!

As mentioned in Google Tools Part 1, you can set up your Google Alerts so that they go into Google Reader rather than email. Getting them this way means that you can get an alert as soon as Google has identified a new page with your search term on, rather than waiting until your next scheduled email.

If you, like me, need/want to keep up to date with your favourite blogs, then Google Reader (or a similar service) is definitely for you. It has revolutionised my life and I love the fact that it saves me time, keeps everything organised, and I can access it from anywhere that I have Internet available.