I’m not the most productive person in the world sometimes, but I hate wasting my life and doing things repetitively if there’s a better, more efficient way to do it. A while back I discovered the perfect way to “browse” all those websites through a single web page, without opening heaps of browser tabs. And it’s simple: Google Reader. The following 5-step how-to guide will walk you through it and it’s completely non-technical so anyone can do it and there’s no new software to install.
Ever wanted to check your Facebook notifications without having them come to your email, or run the risk of opening up the Facebook site and getting completely side tracked?
The types of sites I’m referring to are those that update their content fairly regularly, like blogs and news. Rather than having to open up each one individually to check for updated content, you simply subscribe to them all using Google Reader and then just check Google Reader.
What is Google Reader and RSS?
RSS: Really Simple Syndication
Have you ever spotted a square, orange symbol (pictured above) accompanied with the suggestion that you “subscribe” to the website? What’s all that about? Well all you’re doing is connecting to a news feed that uses the RSS or Atom technology. You don’t need to know any more than that, unless you’re curious of course, except to simply look out for and recognise the symbol on web sites that you view regularly.
When you “connect” to a news feed you receive updates when the authors of the website publish new content. To receive these updates, you need be able to subscribe to the feed. Here’s the basic 5-step how-to.
- Get a Google (Gmail) account. Perhaps you don’t like/want a gmail account… well don’t think of it as a new email account, rather a login that gives you access to heaps of new services (only one of which is email)
- Now you can go to your Google Reader page (http://www.google.com/reader/view/), and sign in if you haven’t already – remember to bookmark this page once you sign in (use ‘Ctrl’+'d’).
- Next, open up a new browser window, browse to the top page of the web site you want to subscribe to. For example, http://paulgoodchild.net/blog/
- Look around the site for a few seconds and see if you can spot a link to ‘Subscribe’, ‘Posts’, or that little ‘feed’ icon mentioned earlier. Now click it. You will now receive a strange looking web page that is basically a summary list of the most recent articles on the site, with a descriptive excerpt for each one. We don’t want to do anything on this page except get the address from the address bar at the top. In the case of my site, it is: http://paulgoodchild.net/blog/feed/. Highlight this text and ‘copy’ it. (you can copy quickly by highlighting the text, right-clicking on it and selecting ‘Copy’)
- Head back to your Google Reader window, and on the top left you will see a box with the text ‘Add a subscription’. Click it once to get a little drop-down box and ‘Paste’ the text that you copied from part 4. Then click the little ‘Add’ button. (You can paste quickly by right-clicking in the blank text box and selecting ‘Paste’)
Hey Presto! You have subscribed to your first news feed! Easy right?
Explore around the Google Reader interface to get used to it. The main section I click on each time is ‘All items’, and this is effectively a new email inbox that I check as often as my email. Go to all those websites that you look at daily for news and try the steps 3~5 for each. It is important to go to the top page of the site, not a sub-category, as many sites have feeds for the subcategories and you’ll be subscribing to them, not the overall website news feed.
How can you put your Facebook notifications in your Google Reader? Goto to your Facebook notifications page (http://www.facebook.com/notifications.php). On the upper-right Facebook provide you with a link to subscribe. Then simply follow steps 3~5 again.
Please let me know in the comments section below if you found this useful, or if you have any other recommendations for saving your time online, or even using RSS/Atom feeds better than with Google Reader. I’m always interested to hear how other people manage information online. If you found this useful, please feel free to share using the Facebook icon below, and leave a comment below too.
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