How to set up and use Google Reader

In composing your “short” blog pieces you are expected to engage in and link to other blogs. There’s like a million blogs out there! How are you supposed to keep track of them?

Enter Google Reader: an easy way to manage the way you read websites that update constantly. Before you get started on Reader, however, you have to have a sign-in account with Google. From the Google homepage click on the “sign-in” button in the upper right hand corner. This will provide you with instructions about how to set up a new Google account. You’ll have to provide an email address and accept the terms of service, then you’re done.

Ok, onto Reader! From the Google homepage you will see across the top left a series of different buttons that help you search for different things: “Search / Image / Maps / News / Shopping / Mail / More”. Click on “More” and a drop down box appears, at the bottom of the list is “Reader”.

In order to use Google Reader, you’ll have to tell it what websites you’re interested in following. There are two ways of doing this. One is to manually enter the URL, the other is to click on a RSS feed.

First method, the one I prefer, manually entering a URL. OK, so now that you’ve got your Reader open start a new tab or window and go to a website you find interesting (here’s a whole list of cool ones). Now simply copy the web site’s address, also known as URL. Return to the tab with Reader and click on the big orange button that says “Subscribe” in the upper left hand corner. A box opens. Now just paste the URL into that box and click “Add”.

Bloop! Now you have subscribed to a blog. You should be able to see the content of that website displayed in Reader.

Second method, you can subscribe to websites using an RSS button which looks like this:

You might have noticed this symbol on websites you frequent without knowing what it means. Say you like to read Huffington Post. You can important those headlines into Reader too. See if you can find the RSS button:

Right, push the button! Huffington Post will open a new tab and ask you to chose what kind of headlines you want to subscribe to. Chose one, say, the “College” feed. Now its going to ask you how you want to get your headlines, “Subscribe to this feed using…” and there’s a drop box. Click on the drop box and select Google. Now push the “Subscribe Now” button. One more page, it will ask you if you want to send it to Google home page or Google Reader. Chose Reader. Ta-dah! You’ve subscribed.

Using Reader
Your default setting in Reader is in the “Expanded View” format, but the most streamlined way to view your reader is to switch to “List View.” Find the buttons in the upper right hand corner that look like this.

Click the second one from the left and Pop! now you can have a bird’s eye view of all the headlines on your target blog. Each time the blog updates a new line will appear in your reader.

For now Reader thinks that everything on the blog is new to you, it will show all new headlines in bold face font. But we want to be alerted when our chosen website is updated. So find the button at the top center that says “Mark all as read” and select “All items”.

Notice how to the left of the headlines is the outlines of a star. If you click on the star that headline will be copied into your “Starred Items” list which you can access from the menu on the far left. This is a great way to save something interesting for later if you’re not in the mood or don’t have time to read it right now.

Finally, if a blog doesn’t turn out to be all that great given your interests its easy to unsubscribe. Select the blog title from the menu on the left. Then go to the top center button that says “Feed Settings” and select “Unsubscribe”. Now they won’t bother you any more.

Need more convincing?
Watch this useful video explanation of why RSS Readers are great.


About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
This entry was posted in How to. Bookmark the permalink.