// Internet Duct Tape

How I Use Google Reader

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, How I Use, Software by engtech on October 18, 2007


“How I Use” is a new series I’m starting about the software I use on a day-to-day basis. I want share tips and tricks and to learn tips and tricks from readers sharing with me in the comments.

Google Reader is a web-based RSS reader. Because it’s web-based I can access my Google Reader from multiple places (home PC, home laptop, work PC, visiting family, etc) and all of my information is stored and updated in one place. I use the Firefox web-browser with the Greasemonkey extension.

Google Reader is an RSS reader

RSS can be best described as a stream of news. Instead of visiting different websites at a time, you subscribe to them and you get all of the updates from the websites you follow in one place. For me that one place is Google Reader. This video will describe RSS and why you would want to subscribe to an RSS feed.

Subscribing to a Feed

I subscribe to feeds either by clicking on the feed link directly or by using the autodiscovery feed option in Firefox.

rss feed auto-discovery

The first time you subscribe to a feed, Firefox will display the feed in a nice, human readable way, with a yellow box asking you what you want to use to subscribe to this feed. Choose the Google option and chose the option to always use Google to subscribe to feeds.

always use google reader to subscribe to rss

Unfortunately, Google isn’t smart enough to remember your preference between Google Reader and Google Homepage — so you have to always chose the red pill or the blue pill. There is a handy Greasemonkey script to fix that though: always subscribe to Google Reader.

Accessing Google Reader

I access Google Reader by typing reader.google.com into my address bar or by clicking on the Google Reader icon in the Google Toolbar.

  1. Install Google Toolbar
  2. Install Google Reader button for Google Toolbar

Setting Up My View

Google Reader lets you save your view settings which ever way you like them. I like to view all items at a time instead of sorting them by tags (I’ll switch to tag view if I don’t have time to read all my feeds and I want to focus on a specific subject).

google reader all items

I click on the Expanded view tab in the top right hand so that I can see titles and the body of each item.

google reader expanded view

I turn off the left sidebar by clicking the left margin or pressing ‘u’ on the keyboard.

google reader remove sidebar

Then I click on the View Settings drop-down and choose sort by newest and set as start page.

google reader save settings

Now Google Reader will remember these settings every time I log in.

Navigating Feeds

I read feeds by

  • using the middle mouse wheel to scroll down the page with my right hand
  • my left hand hovers over the ‘j’ and ‘k’ keys on my keyboard
  • ‘j’ jumps past a post that I don’t find interesting enough to read completely
  • ‘k’ jumps back to the previous post if I decide that I do want to read it

I find quickly scanning through full posts like this lets me read many more feeds than if I have to click on the titles I find interesting.

Opening Links

I open links I want to read by

  • clicking on the link with my middle mouse button to open it in a background tab

When I get around 10 links I take a break from reading feeds and go through all of those open tabs, closing them as I’m done with them.

Read a Post Later

If I come across a blog post that’s too dense to read at the moment I’ll use the Readeroo extension to save it to delicious with the toread tag. Readroo will let me fetch it later, and mark it as read.

Leaving a Blog Comment

When I find a blog post I want to comment on

  • I hit the ‘v’ key to jump to the post on the blog
  • hit the ‘end’ key on my keyboard to go the bottom of the post
  • press ‘alt+c’ to fill in my name / email address / blog url thanks to the handy prefill comments Greasemonkey script
  • write my comment and click send
  • press ‘ctrl+w’ to close the tab and return to my Google Reader tab

Bookmarking a Blog Post

When I find a blog post I want to save for my ‘Best of Feeds’ series

  • I hit the ‘v’ key to jump to the post on the blog
  • click on the ‘TAG’ button in my toolbar to save it to delicious

Google Reader has it’s own mechanism for sharing and bookmarking posts but I don’t find it nearly as useful or as fast as delicious. That might change with time.

I’ve seen a Greasemonkey script that lets you bookmark the post from within Google Reader, but I prefer using the official delicious extension to bookmark posts because of other enhancements I’ve made to it.

How Do You Use Google Reader?

The reason for writing a post like this isn’t only because I want to share how I do something, but because I also want to learn tricks I might not know about. Got a trick I’m missing out on? Please leave it in the comments, or write your own blog post about it and send a trackback.

25 Responses

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  1. Webomatica said, on October 18, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Pretty cool tips. I also like the folders (I separate blogs and news), the find feature (great for looking for posts on a specific topic) – and my one time management strategy – at the end of the day I hit “mark all as read” no matter what.

  2. Ross said, on October 18, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I use Google Reader too, and not entirely differently than you. One difference is that I use Jaspers Google Reader Subscribe (greasemonkey script, http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/2571) to subscribe to feeds. Totally unobtrusive and instantly loads the feed in greader.

    Like Webo, I also use folders to sort apple/linux/windows blogs, news, my friends blogs, etc.

  3. adam said, on October 18, 2007 at 11:06 am

    ‘v’ is a nice shortcut, never used that one.

    i use the ‘star’ for keeping track of posts that are too dense, have embedded video, i’ve commented on, or otherwise need revisiting. i use “share” as an all-purpose “thumbs up”.

  4. KCLau said, on October 18, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Really nice tips to get things done way faster.
    I spend 1-2 hours daily on google reader. Now I think I can shorten the time at least 10-20%

  5. Bob Warfield said, on October 18, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Great post!

    I follow Scoble’s practice of marking anything of interest (i.e. the stuff I actually read) as “Shared” and publishing a link to that on my blog.

    I find it is a huge resource for me to go back and search that archive when I remember something I want to quote but can’t remember where.

    I also star items that are directly relevant to what I write about or something I’m involved in. This gives me two levels of importance:

    Shared = Worth Reading
    Starred = Worth Talking About and Following

    All Starred items are shared.



  6. Damien Riley said, on October 18, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    If you go to your Google Reader >>Manage Subscriptions>>Goodies>> “Next” bookmarklet

    Drag that sucker up to your Firefox toolbar and the heavens will open up as you click it repeatedly. I just click through the latest posts IN ORDER not via feed but on the actual blog post pages. It’s a work of genius not that many people know about.

  7. gmclean said, on October 18, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Damien – GREAT tip!! Ohh loving that one.

    Can’t add much, I have Google reader on a “faviconized” tab so it’s always there but just the icon shows…

  8. J. D. Harper said, on October 18, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I actually just figured out today how to navigate Google Reader on my laptop using a Wii Remote. It’s so much fun!

  9. Jason said, on October 18, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I use a “skip” tag for the feeds that are not that important. Then, when I have a heavy day and want to plow through, it’s as simple as “g t”->”skip”->ENTER->SHIFT-A->”g a” to clear out the dross and continue to the feeds that I enjoy. I also have a “skip2” tag for the REALLY heavy days.

    BTW, IDT is not tagged “skip” in my reader.

  10. Alex Miller said, on October 19, 2007 at 1:25 am

    I use Netvibes, although I have so much in there and it’s so pretty that I think it might be slowing my computer down??

    Here are my thoughts on things..


  11. Zath said, on October 19, 2007 at 1:42 am

    Some great tips there, I particularly like getting ride of the sidebar for fullscreen news reading and also the next/previous keyboard shortcuts – these things make it sooo much easier! Cheers!

  12. villagerwithwheel said, on October 19, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Great post.

    The v key is something I don’t use often, but whenever I try to e-mail a post to someone, the v key won’t show up in the body of the message. It doesn’t open the post either, but it is annoying to have to copy and then paste (not using Ctrl + v because that doesn’t work either) the letter v into my e-mail.
    Any suggestions? Am I missing something?

  13. Gabe said, on October 20, 2007 at 6:22 am

    Excellent post. Now using Google Reader and it seems to be working for me. Can’t say I’m spending LESS time on the net though!

    Would love a post on how you use delicious in conjunction with Google Reader.

    p.s. Did you make that video on RSS? Tres cool.

  14. syahidali said, on October 20, 2007 at 11:41 am

    i use google reader the same way as yours too. but i prefer to bookmark on del.icio.us that using the “Star” options. i will only start using it if they can implement some “tagging” features inside Google Reader.

    still, Google Reader is the best online feed reader out there.

  15. syahidali said, on October 20, 2007 at 11:51 am

    and one more, i used folders with meaningful names to arrange my humongous subscription list. :D

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  18. Sakib Al Mahmud said, on October 21, 2007 at 6:17 am


    Nice articles at all.

    Google reader is too cool. But, one thing is that, I have to login. If they manage it without login it better for me.

    May I ask you one question? Why you till now use mozilla’s old version?

    Thanks dear to share with us.

    Best Wishes

  19. christianpf said, on October 23, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Great post, I didn’t realize there were so many keyboard shortcuts with google reader… Now I am having fun :)

  20. Tony Neria said, on October 26, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Took me forever to figure out that the “Add subscription” option is not available in the “full screen mode”. Use the “u” key to toggle in and out of “full screen”.

    Also, clicking on “?” will bring up the keyboard shortcuts pop-up window.

  21. […] Using Google Reader […]

  22. Dan said, on February 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    @villagerwithwheel: Did you ever figure out the “letter v” problem? I have it too!

  23. […] of the Information Age, as you can see from the propagation of information aggregators like Google Reader and the meta-aggregators like Friend Feed. There’s only one tip for handling information […]

  24. […] How I Use Google Reader | Internet Duct Tape – […]

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