Archive for the 'Google' Category

Google Reader: Settings In Depth

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Previously in this series, Google Reader: Getting Setup.

I have been using Google Reader for a little over a week now. It has been generally a pleasant experience. However, there have been some areas where I feel there could be some improvements. In this article I will discuss my experiences with the the various Google Reader settings. This is meant to be a reference for new users and a preview for potential new users. I normally begin using a new application by reviewing all of its settings. Google Reader has five settings tabs; Subscriptions, Tags, Goodies, Import/Export and Preferences, these settings will be discussed below.

Subscriptions

While we took a brief look at the Subscriptions tab in the last article, we will cover it in more detail now. In Subscriptions you can either perform actions on individual feeds, or on a group of selected feeds. For individual feeds, you can rename the feed, unsubscribe to the feed or assign the feed to folders. I’ve used the Rename feed quite often. I’ve found when subscribing to feeds that frequently the feed title has additional text that I do not need; in particular “powered by FeedBurner” is particularly common.

I use the Change folders option much more frequently. Selecting a folder from the drop down will either, add it to, or remove it from, the related folder. You may also add a new folder from the drop down, but as stated in the previous article, this does not populate the remaining select box controls which is quite frustrating. A feed can be assigned to multiple folders. This is useful if a feed clearly fits into more than one category.

The unsubscribe to feed option operates as expected, even prompting you in the event you miss clicked. This option is represented as a trashcan icon to the right of the feed name.

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The Subscriptions Tab
Click for Full Size

Using bulk feed options, you can either add or remove folders or unsubscribe multiple feeds. The unsubscribe feed option operates in the same way as the single feed operation, however, the Add/Remove tag option operates slightly different. Tags that are not associated with any of the selected feeds are listed under Add tag, while tags associated with any of the selected feeds are listed under Remove tags.

You can quickly select all feeds, no feeds, or unassigned feeds. This can be further refined by using the filter located in the right-hand side of the header. The filter works for both tags and urls. One complaint is that it filters on both tags and urls at the same time, this does not allow for multiple tag filtering such as “web, Internet, www”. This type of feature would allow the user to quickly reorganize his tags.

Tags

The Tags tab is very similar to the Subscription tag. It allows you to delete or change a tag’s public/private status, however, it does allow tag renaming. As far as quick selection of tags go, any of All, None, Public or Private can be selected. By default all tags are flagged as private other than the global shared items. When a tag is shared, items filed under that tag are shared publicly. The tag’s items can then be viewed via a public Google page, through an RSS feed or through a clip on your web site. An example of the clip method can be found in the sidebar under the heading Interesting Articles. You can also see these items through the public Google Reader page, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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The Tags Tab
Click for Full Size

One annoyance is empty tags can not be created in this tab. Tags can only be created by one of two methods.

  • Creating a folder, folders assume a tag name of the folder itself
  • Choosing Edit tags on an individual story

Goodies

The Goodies tab provides four tools for you to use with Google Reader

  • Add Reader to your Google Personalized Homepage
  • Put Reader in a bookmark
  • Use Reader on your phone
  • Subscribe as you surf

The Personalized Homepage gadget provides a quick view of your reader items. If you use the Personalized Homepage frequently you will likely find this widget useful. You can choose to display from 1 to 10 items from your reader sorted either by date or automatically. You may also view all items or only unread items. The widget also allows you to open items in a new window, the same window, or the coolest of them all in a bubble.

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For heavy reading, I still prefer the full interface, but the updates on the Google Homepage help find those articles when I’m not actively reading. The only annoyance is that I can not select several tags to view at one time.

There are two bookmarklet Goodies. The first is the Next bookmarklet which, which when added to your browsers bookmark bar allows you to browse to the next item in your reader list. You can also choose to configure the bookmarklet, to operate on any given tag. One thing I found annoying is that if you click on next while viewing a site that is not in your subscription list, Google reader takes you to the next feed and not the next item. I personally have chosen not to use this method , due to my reading habits, but you may find it of value.

The second bookmarklet is Subscribe. I find this one very useful, but the necessity to click and subscribe again on the feed preview page seems redundant. You are able to file the feed under folders, as well, during this process. There are other process for adding subscriptions to Google Reader, such as the default Firefox 2.0 subscribe method and Google Toolbar’s Subcribe tool among others. These are outside of the scope of this article and will be discussed in a future article.

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After Using the Subscribe Bookmarklet

Really Subscribed Now

The final Goody is phone access to Google. Simply direct your phones web browser to www.google.com/reader/m. If you add the Reader gadget to your personalized homepage, Reader will show up on your phones Google Homepge automatically.

Import/Export

The Import/Export tab was discussed in Google Reader: Getting Setup. please refer to that article for discussion on the tab.

Preferences

The Preferences tab is really not all that interesting. There are only two options of consequence, Start page and Scroll tracking. Start page allows you to switch which page is initially display when you visit Google Reader. By default it is Home, this is the page I use through the All items page, which may be useful for a lot of users. You can also set the start page to any of your tags. Scroll tracking is a useful option. When activated, this option automatically marks items as read when you scroll past them in the expanded view. I find this very helpful when reading tags with many items. If an item belongs to more than one tag, it is marked as read in all tags.

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The Preferences Tab

There it is, a comprehensive review of the Google Reader settings. In my next article, I will explore some creative uses of tags, shared feeds and subscription methods.

Until next time-

-3Monkeys