Google Reader: An Introduction

I use Google Reader as my RSS Reader to read blogs.  I’ve used it for quite some time now and was recently talking to some folks who had no idea it existed or how to use it.  These people read blogs by browsing to each one everyday to check out if there’s anything new to read. I introduced them to Google Reader and told them how they could read through their blogs a bit quicker using Google Reader.

1. Subscribe To The RSS Feed

Google Reader allows you to subscribe to various blogs that you like to read.  If you visit a blog like this one, there might be an icon like the one I have in the upper right-hand corner of this blog or some link text that says something like Subscribe to my RSS Feed or some form of RSS subscription action.

Here’s mine:

After you click on the RSS feed icon, you’ll be presented with a page that allows you to pick your RSS reader.  For the purpose of this article you would pick Google Reader.

If you don’t see an RSS feed icon at a blog or website that you’re interested in subscribing to, copy the home page URL – and click Add subscription in Google Reader.  Paste the URL into the Add suscription box.  If there is an RSS feed available for that blog or website then Google Reader will discover it.

2. Categorize Your Subscriptions

While you start adding RSS feeds into Google Reader your list of blogs will grow.  If that list gets too big and you feel like it’s a bit unmanageable you might want to categorize them.  I would start categorizing feeds right away from the very beginning when you start using Google Reader.  You never know how fast your list will grow.

When you subscribe to a blog, that blog will end up at the bottom of the list on the left-side in Google Reader.  The new blog should be the current one in your reader and displaying articles on the right-hand side reader pane.

To catorgorize this blog, click on the Feed settings… button on the top right-side of the page.

Select your category or click on New folder… at the bottom of the drop-down list.  Your category will show up in the list on the left-side of Google Reader.

As you can see at the bottom of the list you can select Manage subscriptions and you’ll be taken to a page where you can manage various aspects of the blogs you’re subscribed to.

3. Reading Blogs in Google Reader

Now that you have your list of blogs and you have them all categorized, it’s time to start ripping through the blog posts you might like to read.  I say “ripping” and “might like to read” because what we’ll actually be doing is quickly skimming through the blog posts to see what’s interesting by reading the title of the post and/or skimming the content of the post.

You can start from the top.  On the left side of Google Reader you’ll see All Items.  Click on All Items or any of the categorized folders you created earlier and the reading pane will fill up with blog posts.

Now you’re ready to read the blog posts or skim through the titles and contents of the posts to see if there is anything that interests you.  You can press the Previous item and Next item buttons to read through your blog posts.  As you use the Next item button the highlighted post that you’re reading will be marked as read.

For even a quicker view of all those blog posts switch to List view which is in the upper right-hand corner of the reading pane and use your scroll bar to scan the blog post titles.  Scanning like this will not mark the blog posts as read.  So when you finish ripping through all those blog post with the scroll bar, you might need to click on the mark all as read button located at the top-middle of the reading pane.

As you read the blog posts, the count of unread blog posts will go to zero assuming you read through everything or mark all as read.  So the next time you use your Google Reader, you just have to look for the unread posts which makes it a quick way to read through or skim your favorite blogs.

Also, at the bottom of each blog post is an action bar that contains some actions as well.  I won’t go into these now as this article is focusing on an introduction to Google Reader.  You can certainly read more about these actions in the Google Reader Help Center or just start using and playing with them.  Here is a screen shot of those actions.

What’s Left?

I did not cover everything about Google Reader and here’s a list of extra stuff you can check out while using Google Reader.

  • You can manage your categories.
  • You can share your feeds with other peoples.  Check out this recent blog post by Google.
  • You can email a post to someone.
  • Experiment with using List view and Expanded view – List view is an even quicker way to zoom through your blog posts to see if there’s anything interesting that sticks out than the others.
  • Starred items
  • Tags – Allows you to tag a blog post for example you like as “favorites” without tagging the whole blog itself.
  • Trends
  • Notes
  • Auto-Discovery
  • and much more you can read about at the Google Reader Help Center.

There’s a lot to Google Reader as well as a lot you can do with it than just read blogs.  I’ll be showing you other tricks you can do with Google Reader in future articles.  Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a trick.


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