Thursday Tech Tip – Pimp Your Google Reader

Posted on Friday, Feb 13, 2009

This week’s Tech Tip comes at the request of The Meg (@NoBatteries).

RSS makes it super easy to keep up-to-date on your favorite blogs – perhaps ones that come as RSS Recommendations from Good Old Rock, even. But left to their own devices, your subscriptions can quickly get out of hand and become difficult to manage. You’re a busy person – you don’t have hours and hours to slog through all of the posts in your feeds. Never fear – by following very simple strategy, your Google Reader will quickly become a sleek, efficient, information delivery mechanism. You will be better informed and have more free time to post tweets about how awesome I am on Twitter.

Read all the tips after the jump!

I am assuming that you are using Google Reader (hearafter referred to as GReader)as your feed reader (although the core of this strategy will work with any reader; the implementation may differ slightly). I prefer GReader for several reasons:

  1. It’s online and “in the cloud” – that means that no matter what computer I am on, all of my feeds are there for reading. Since I bounce between many different computers (home, work, etc) as well as my mobile device, this is pretty important to me
  2. It works very well with the mobile browser on my BlackBerry Bold (it worked just as well with my BlackBerry Curve and Pearl too). I do a lot of feed reading while on the train, so I’m on my mobile device quite often.
  3. It’s totally free
  4. It integrates into my Gmail contact list for sharing items with my friends

Now, the first thing you want to do, is break your feeds up into categories.  Click on “Settings” on the top right of your GReader screen, and then select the Subscriptions tab. 


The basic gist of my feed management strategy (which I learned from a post on Lifehacker) is to break them up into two different categories (known in GReader as “folders). My main two folders are Can’t Miss and Skip ‘Em. To create a new category/folder, simply click on the dropdown of the blog you want to categorize (where it says “Change folders”) and select New Folder:


Once you have done this for all your feeds (put them into the appropriate categories), it certainly makes reading simpler. Now, when you are in a bit of a hurry, you can simply click on the Can’t Miss folder in the Navigation Pane, and this will only show you posts from those blogs you have determined to be “important”.


An essential piece of this equation is that you can use the “Mark All As Read” button when viewing your Skip ‘Em folder if things get too…full. 

The Can’t Miss category is very useful when browsing on a mobile device. I also get a lot of mileage out of using Stars while on mobile. I’ll be reading along on my BlackBerry, and I hit a post from Joel Oleson’s blog about some super awesome new SharePoint configuration trick that I want to try out when I get to work. Or maybe I read about a super-cool video posted on the Best Week Ever blog that I want to watch on my computer at home. If I mark it with a star, it’s a simple matter for me to review the starred posts later when I’m on a full-fledged browser. 

Of course, I use stars when browsing on a “real” computer too – it’s my “I need to read this later when I can really pay attention to it” marker. Also, sometimes it’s the “I want to buy this thing but not yet” marker. 

Extra Bonus Tip – if you use Firefox to read your feeds, check out the Better GReader extension. It provides a handful of helpful add-ons to make your GReader all that more awesome. I don’t use it myself anymore, as I rock the Chrome instead of the ‘Fox, but a few of the features (especially Auto Add to Reader (skips the annoying “do you want to add this to iGoogle or Google Reader?” when subscribing to a feed) and Preview Item (loads the actual webpage inside the feed window) are well worth the price of admission (especially since the price is, well, free).

How do YOU keep your feed subscriptions manageable? Let me know in the comments!

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