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Are you the kind of person that keeps up with the latest news? If you are, then you will be familiar with RSS feeds. One of the most well-known names in the realm of online RSS clients is Google Reader. Even though the service has gradually improved its interface, it’s still just lists of texts.
If you are a Google Reader user who wishes to try a different interface, you might want to try NewsSquares, a Chrome extension which will add style and interactivity to Google Reader.
News In Squares
Start by visiting the NewsSquares extension page and installing it in your Chrome browser.
You can customize the extension by going to the Chrome Extensions page, locating NewsSquares from the list, and clicking on the “Options” link.
There are many elements you can customize on the Options page, but the most important for first users is the NewsSquares URL under the “Use NewsSquares as Homepage” option. Copy and paste the URL into Chrome’s address bar and hit “Enter“.
You’ll see NewsSquares’ starting page. Click “Start” to begin. After clicking the button, NewsSquares will start building your “news wall“. Please note that you have to log into your Google account before you start NewsSquares because it needs your Google Reader data.
To see what changes will happen to your Google Reader before and after using NewsSquares, here’s the screenshot of the original Google Reader. You can see the list of news on the main pane, while the sources are listed on the sidebar.
Here’s what it looks like under NewsSquares. News sources are arranged into colorful squares with the latest articles featured upfront. More news from one source will be available after clicking on the square.
As a first step, NewsSquares will offer to add more news subscriptions to your news wall.
There are two panes you can use to add news subscriptions.
The left pane allows you to pick sources based on topics. Choose one of the topics from the left sidebar, then add the sources to your Google Reader by clicking the “Add” button.
Alternatively, you could also search for the topic on the right pane, and add sources from the search results.
There’s one other way you can use to add sources to NewsSquares. When you are on a webpage, right click that page, and choose “Add to NewsSquares“.
Filtering & Reading
To read news, you can browse around the squares and pick one of the sources. But you can also filter them to get a clearer view. There are filtering options at the bottom of the screen. You can search the sources, show the unread ones only, or show by categories.
For example, I put “makeuseof” into the search field and the one square that appears shows MakeUseOf articles.
Clicking on a square will open up the reading pane. The selected article is displayed in the middle while other articles are floating about at the bottom of the screen.
The reading menu on the left allows you to close the reading window, mark all articles as read, shrink or enlarge the source square, and unsubscribe from the source.
If you scroll down to the bottom of an open article, you’ll find options to share the article, view it on its original webpage, give stars, like, keep it unread, and add tags. This is also the place where you can find options to play audio content (for podcasts).
Keep NewsSquares Open
To keep yourself always updated on all the news you follow, you can use Chrome’s “Pin” feature. Right click on NewsSquares’ tab and choose “Pin Tab” from the pop-up menu.
This action will put the pinned tab on the far left of the tabs, and it will always be opened every time you (re)start Chrome.
News junkies who use both Google Reader and Chrome> will find NewsSquares as a fresh alternative to read RSS feeds on Google Reader.
Have you tried NewsSquares? What do you think about it? Do you know other alternative methods to hack Google Reader? Please share ideas using the comments below.