Keeping up with internet news sources
What’s your favorite website where you go to catch up with what’s happening in the world? Maybe you’ve got more than one. Maybe like me, you have several. What if you could gather all the news from all those locations and have it fed into one list of articles that you can read in one place?
You need Google Reader!
This article will tell you the basics of what it is and how to set it up.
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What is Google Reader?
Many websites that publish news or regular updates use a feature called “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS). This is a list of links to all the articles that have been published on that site.
Google Reader is an online RSS Reader. You tell Google Reader the website that you’re interested in, and it fetches the article headings. You can then choose to click on the articles that interest you. When finished, click a button that marks them all as “read,” and you can come back and read the next lot when you’re ready.
You’re not limited to reading every article that’s published on a particular site; if you have an interest in, say, the Sydney Morning Herald, you can subscribe to the entire site or just a subsection that interests you.
Sounds good; how do I set it up?
Firstly, you’ll need a Gmail account if you don’t already have one. It’s possible to set up Reader without Gmail, but the steps are much simpler if you use Gmail. To sign up, go to the Google homepage and click on Gmail at the top. Click on the Create An Account button to get started. (You can also sign in to Google with an email account from somewhere else, e.g., Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.).
Once you have a Gmail account, you can then sign into Google Reader. There’s a link to Reader at the top of your Gmail Inbox screen, or you can go to the Google homepage, click on More, then click on Reader, and sign in with your new Google account. You’ll see a Welcome screen.
From here, the next step is to add some subscriptions (websites) to your reading list. The latest articles from those websites will be automatically fetched every time you log into Reader.
There are several ways to add subscriptions:
Click on Recommended items in the left panel, then review the list of suggestions from Google and add some that you like. This is really just a random sampling of really safe (and not very exciting) sites from the web.
The real deal is when you add the sites that really interest you. Go to a site with the news you want to read, copy its address from the address bar to the clipboard and then paste it into a new subscription in Google Reader. All new articles that are published on that site will then appear in your Google Reader list.
For example, if I want to read the Life & Style section of the Sydney Morning Herald, the easiest way to set it up is:
Go to The Sydney Morning Herald website and click on Life & Style.
Note the address at the top of the screen. It will be something like http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle. Highlight the mouse’s address, then use CTRL-C (or Command-C on Mac) to copy it to the clipboard.
Now go back to Google Reader, click on Add A Subscription at the top left, and paste the address you copied previously, using CTRL-V (Command-V on a Mac). Press ENTER to continue, and your new subscription will be added.
But wait, it tells me, “Your search did not match any feeds”!
This illustrates my next point – not all sites can be set up just by copying their www address into Reader. The SMH is one example. If you come across a site like this, go to the site’s homepage, and look for the text “RSS” – that will generally give you a link or list of links that comprise the site’s true news feed. In this example, the SMH site has a tiny text ‘RSS’ link at the bottom of the home page, which takes us to a list of sections that we can subscribe to. This page then lists the different sections.
Most sites will work just by copying and pasting the site’s home page’s address into Reader.
What happens after I’ve set it up?
Once you have a list of Subscriptions set up, you can click on All Items at the top left of the Reader screen, and you’ll see a list of all new items across all your Subscriptions. (My own interests may be very different from yours, as you can see from the diagram!)
Click on a particular subscription at the bottom-left to see only the articles from that news source.
How do I clean up my reading list?
I personally read all the articles I’m interested in; then I click Mark All As Read. If you’re on the All Items list, this will clear your entire reading list until new articles come in. If you’re looking at only a particular subscription, only articles from that subscription will be marked as reading.
What if I want to remove a subscription?
Click on Manage Subscriptions at the very bottom left of your Subscription list. (you may need to scroll the window down, as in my example above.)
Click the small rubbish bin on the line that corresponds to the subscription that you want to remove.
The reader can be quite addicted. Add too many sources, and there will be days when you’ll feel like you have a mountain of news to read! (e.g., “408 Unread Items”…sheesh!)
Over time you can review your subscriptions – Reader gives you tools to answer things like: “how many articles from this particular news source do I ever actually open?”
I hope you enjoy Google Reader as much as I do. In the tech world, it really helps me keep up to date with current events. In a computer repair business like mine, sometimes that’s critical!