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How to get started with Google Reader

David Daw | Aug. 10, 2012
You may already be using Google Reader, Google's Web-based RSS reader, but you probably haven't figured out every advanced trick for getting the most out of this free RSS syndication service. RSS (aka "RDF Site Summary" or "Really Simply Syndication"), a feed-based communication system that most websites support, makes it easy to stay abreast of your favorite websites from a single page. Though some third-party programs and even some browsers can help you curate your favorite RSS feeds in one place, Google Reader's Web-based structure means you can set it up on one computer and then open it anywhere by logging in to your Google account and heading to reader.google.com.

By default, Google Reader presents the articles in your various feeds as a chronological list of posts, with newer posts appearing at the top of your list. This system works pretty well, but if you're getting bogged down with too many new posts every day you can instead sort your feed by date (prioritizing the oldest unread posts first, for example) and by "magic," which triggers a Google algorithm to show you the entries that Google Reader's designers think you'll find most interesting first. Another option is a "condensed" view that shows you only the headline of each post; clicking on a headline brings up the full post.

Google Reader's features go far beyond merely adding to and sorting your RSS feeds. If you like to browse the Web socially, you'll appreciate that Google Reader lets you share any post in your reader via email or on the company's Google+ social network.

You can also star entries that you find especially interesting. And if you subscribe to friends who also use Google Reader, you can see anything they've chosen to mark as a starred post.

If you load your Google Reader with feeds, manually scrolling through hundreds of posts every day can become a chore. Instead, try using the J and K keys (or if you prefer, the N and P keys) on your keyboard to move up or down your reader by one post.

Advanced Google Reader Tips and Tricks

Occasionally, searching for a site's name in the Subscribe box won't bring up the RSS feed you seek. In these cases you'll need to capture the site's RSS feed URL manually and then put it into your Google Reader. The relevant URL usually lurks behind an RSS button or behind a link labeled 'RSS'. Once you've copied the URL, you can paste it into the Google Reader Subscribe box and add the feed to your collection.

Manually adding an RSS feed's URL is an unavoidable annoyance when you're following sites that don't support automatic discovery of their RSS feeds. But it can also be a helpful tool in certain situations. Both Craigslist and eBay have handy RSS feed features that allow you to get real-time updates on new auctions or offers on their sites. For example, I'm currently searching for a new apartment; so instead of repeatedly running a search for apartments in my chosen neighborhoods and price range, I grabbed the handy Craigslist RSS feed for my preferred search parameters and subscribed to it through Google Reader. Now, I see new apartment listings as soon as they pop up on Craigslist, simply by checking for news on Google Reader.

 

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