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July 28, 2008

Google Reader – Feed Your Need for Fresh Content

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an unfortunate name for such a useful technology.  RSS is a standard employed by the majority of web sites to essentially “feed” updates to those who are interested without requiring the reader to actually visit their web site.

Updates can include a blog article, a news update, recent photos, and more.  While most browsers can display an RSS feed, the technology doesn’t make much sense until you utilize an application that can pull multiple feeds together in one nice package.

Google Reader offers a powerful interface for storing hundreds of your favorite web site feeds using a logical dashboard view with navigation controls on the left and a reading pane on the right.   The application offers plenty of clever features that simplify the process of managing feeds.  As an example, when you click on the “Add Subscription” button, Google Reader can detect each web site’s unique RSS address.  Just type in the web site name, or even keyword topic that you’re interested in viewing and Google Reader will handle the rest.

Practical Uses:

Insider Tips:

  • After adding several feeds into Google Reader, try using the “Discover” button and Google Reader will suggest similar web sites you may find interesting
  • If you use a Firefox browser and are technically savvy, you can install the Google Gears add-on to enable offline reading of your articles (great for traveling)
  • Save your favorite articles by clicking on the “star” icon, you can retrieve later by clicking on the “Starred Items” link in the upper left

What We Liked:

  • Articles are marked “read” automatically when you view them
  • After learning your reading habits, Google Reader will suggest similar web sites
  • Ability to organize your feeds into groups, apply tags, and apply a star to favorite items
  • Capability of sharing favorite articles with friends
  • Lightening-fast searching using the Google engine

What We Didn’t Like:

  • We simply couldn’t find anything not to like

Alternatives:

Company Info:

  • Launched: October, 2005
  • Publicly held (Google, Inc.)
  • Headquarters: Mountain View, CA
  • Founded by Google Labs
  • Web site: http://reader.google.com

Costs:

  • Free (supported by advertising

Rating:

  • 5 out of 5 (strongly recommended)

Screenshot of Google Reader while viewing an active article

Screenshot of Google Reader's recomendations feature

Screenshot of Google Reader's settings pages