One of the first webpages I go to every day (and virtually the last page I visit at the end of each day) is Google Reader to check my RSS feeds. Google Reader has improved by leaps and bounds since it was first introduced a couple of years back. When it first came out, I hated it on sight and went back to My Yahoo. But Google has done a lot of work on Reader and now it is probably the best web-based RSS reader on the net. Add the fact that they have finally installed a search engine on Reader and you have one cracking application.
Plus since Google has today finally taken the beta label off Reader, I figured now was a good time to write about this great RSS reader. So first let’s look at three of the more useful settings available on Reader that you may or may not know about (which doesn’t include previously mentioned Google Gears as I think it is very unstable):
When you are in “All Items”, you can sort the RSS entries by newest first, oldest first or “sort by auto”. Sorting them by “newest first” gives you the ones you have yet to read. Sorting them by “oldest first” allows you to read posts in chronological order (if you are say following a news story).
I am not sure of the benefits of “sort by auto” – the Google Reader blog says that this feature “mixes feeds together according to posting frequency, so items from rarely-updated feeds show up higher than items from frequently-updated feeds“. OK….how is that good?
The Keyboard Shortcuts
At over 200 RSS feeds a day, I wouldn’t get through them all without keyboard shortcuts. When going through the new feeds, my two favourite keys are J and K to go up and down the list, opening each one as I go. Pressing R refreshes the whole page, pressing S stars the item you’re on and Shift-S shares the item. There are many more shortcuts but these are the ones I most use on a daily basis.
View your reading trends
If you click on “trends”, you will see how many posts have been published by each blog you have subscribed to and how many of those posts you have read / clicked on in the past 30 days.
This is helpful for deciding whether or not to subscribe from a blog or not. If the blog hasn’t published anything in months or if you don’t generally read the blog’s posts, maybe it’s time to unsubscribe from that feed.
SCRIPTS AND TOOLS
A nice little developer community seems to have sprung up around Google Reader with many scripts and tools being developed. Here are some of my favourites :
Smart Subscribe Button: made by Mihai Parparita who works at Google and writes an excellent blog. The smart subscribe button puts a RSS symbol in the top right hand of your screen and if you are subscribed to a feed, the RSS box will have a tick in it. Good to see if you are subscribed or not to a particular feed and it also provides a fast way to subscribe to new feeds.
: provides a pop-up window notification for new feeds. Fairly self-explanatory.
Integrate Reader into Gmail: Lifehacker’s Better Gmail gives you the option to integrate Reader into Gmail. The advantage of this is that everything is concentrated on the one page.
Auto-add feed to Reader: this script bypasses the intensely annoying page where you have to choose whether to add the feed to your personalised Google page or to Reader. This automatically adds the feed to Reader without asking.
I will now write a second post on MakeUseOf.com recommending some RSS feeds you should be looking at in your Reader……coming up next….