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The Ultimate Google Reader Guide

Google Reader is the most popular and widely used RSS feed reader on the internet today.

Google Reader comes packed with many powerful features that often go overlooked.. so I thought I would delve a little deeper and explore what it really has to offer.

For those of you who have heard about RSS but don’t know too much about it, make sure you checkout my Really Simple RSS Guide.

When it comes to explaining RSS I like to use the pizza analogy.. you can either go out and get take-away.. or you can have it home delivered.

Likewise, when searching for new content on the internet you can either go out and directly visit a site.. or you can subscribe to a site’s RSS feed and have all the new content delivered to you.

This is where Google Reader comes in.

Google Reader constantly checks your favorite sites for new content. Whether a site is updated daily or monthly, you can be sure that you won’t miss a thing.

Google Reader shows you all of your favorite sites in one convenient place and allows you to read, subscribe, manage and share all your RSS subscriptions.. plus a heap of other cool things.

Think of it as an inbox for the entire web.

You can even follow Google Reader on Twitter.

Common Craft have created a great video explaining Google Reader in Plain English,

If you haven’t already done so sign into your Google Reader account or create a new account here.

Subscribe to a Feed

I have covered how to subscribe to a feed in my Really Simple RSS Guide but I will recap again here.

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

The Long Way

Once you have found a site that you want to subscribe to, find its RSS icon.. right-click on it.. and depending on your browser select either Copy Link Location / Copy Link Address Copy Shortcut,

Once you have copied the URL of this site’s RSS feed, login to your Google Reader account and click on <Add a Subscription>,

Paste in the URL you copied from before.. then click <Add>,

That’s it! You have just subscribed to a site’s RSS feed,

When there are new items available in a feed.. it will turn bold and the number of items will be displayed in brackets.

The Quick Way

The way I prefer to subscribe is much quicker and a lot easier.. by using the <Subscribe> button.

This needs to be setup first.

From within Google Reader click on Settings.. then Reader Settings,

Click on Goodies, then DRAG the Subscribe link into your Bookmarks toolbar,

The <Subscribe> button will now be in your toolbar,

Once you have found a site that you want to subscribe to, just click on this <Subscribe> button in your toolbar,

Google Reader will now display.. click on the <Subscribe> button to subscribe to this RSS feed,

Done! You have just subscribed to this RSS feed.

It doesn’t matter which way you use to subscribe, but I personally like using the subscribe bookmarklet.

If I StumbleUpon a new site that I want to subscribe to I just click <Subscribe> in the toolbar.. then again from within Google Reader and that’s it! Nice and easy.

Google have also created a video on how to add a subscription,

Reading Feeds

Now that you have subscribed to a number of sites I am going to show you how to read your feeds, among other things.

Google Reader offers several ways to make browsing and reading your feeds easier.


The expanded view will expand your feeds, showing the full article in the main window,

The List view will show a list of all the articles in that feed.. all articles will be minimised,

When you click on an item in list view, it will expand open.

New Items and All Items

On the top of each feed you can choose to view all items.. this option shows all the items in that feed whether they have been read or not,

Alternatively, you could click on new items.. this will only display the new unread items,

Mark Items as Read

There are a few ways to mark items as read.

Firstly, you can click on the <Mark all as read> button to mark all the items in that feed as read,

Secondly, everytime you open up an item it automatically becomes read,

The third way is to click on Settings,

Then on the Preferences tab, under Scroll Tracking, click on In expanded view, mark items as read when you scroll past them,

By having this option enabled, every time you scroll past an item in an RSS feed (in expanded view).. it will automatically become read.

Mark as Unread

To mark an item as unread, click on the Keep Unread option (in an expanded article) and it will revert to being unread.. this is shown by its title going bold,

Viewing Original Posts

To view the original post, click on the double-grey arrow that is displayed next to each item,

This will open up the original post in a new tab / window.

Managing Feeds

You can manage your feeds in Google Reader by creating folders and tags. This helps to better organize your feeds in a way that suits you.

Creating Folders

To create a folder click on <Feed Settings>.. then New Folder,

Enter the name of your new folder.. then click <OK> to create this new folder,

Now drag any feeds (that you want to go into this folder) into this folder,

Organising your feeds into folders is a good habit to get into especially when you have subscribed to lots of feeds,

Managing Folders

You can manage your folders at any time by clicking on Manage subscriptions (or via Settings –> Subscriptions tab),

From here you can,

  • unsubscribe from feeds
  • rename feeds
  • delete feeds
  • move feeds to different folders
  • create new folders

Creating Tags

You can apply tags as a way to categories and organize items that interest you.

You can use any word as a tag, eg your favorite posts could be tagged favs.

Tags with the same names can be assigned to any feeds.. regardless of the folder they are in.

To assign a tag click on Edit tags at the bottom of the item,

Enter the tag you want to assign, then click <Save>,

All saved tags will appear under your Subscriptions,

Clicking on this tag, will display all items that have been assigned with this particular tag,

Folders and Tags

The Folders and Tags tab on the Settings page allows you to,

  • delete any folder / tag
  • make folders / tags public or private
  • view the public page of a folder / tag
  • email a link to this public page
  • share an item with readers of your blog by adding a clip to your site
  • share your Google Reader bundle with readers of your blog by adding it to your site

Google have also created a video on reading feeds,

Sharing Feeds

Every Google Reader account comes with a public page(s) which can be used to share items of interest with friends and family.

This shared page is visible to anyone who knows its address.

To share a feed just click on the Share icon below any individual item,

This item is now shared.

You can view all your shared items by clicking on Shared items in the left-hand sidebar,

These shared items appear on your public page and everyone can see it by visiting its URL.

People can bookmark your public page or even subscribe to it in Google Reader.

Share with Notes

You can add your own notes or comments to items you share simply by clicking on the Share with note link,

When the share dialog box appears, you can add any note or comment.

If the Add to shared items options is checked,

.. then this note will appear on that article, on your public page (ie shared items),

If you add a note to a shared item, but have the Add to shared items option un-checked,

.. then this item will remain unshared and be placed in the Notes section of your sidebar.. for your own reference,


To unshared any shared item.. simply click on the Unshared link,

Once you have unshared an item.. it will no longer appear on your public page (ie shared page).


If you don’t want to make your shares publicly visible, then you do have the option to email individual feeds to people directly.. as long as you have a Gmail account.

This is done by clicking on the Email link,

You can also email links to entire folders that contain many RSS feeds.. from the Folders and Tags tab on the Settings page,

Like and Unlike

Each item in a feed has a Like link,

By clicking Like indicating that you like it.. everyone who sees that item, will see your name above the item listed, along with everyone else who likes the item.

The names displayed will link to their Google Profile’s.

You can unlike an item at any time by clicking on Unlike.

Send to Social Networks

You can share your items by sending them to other social networks.

To enable this go to the Settings page and click on the Send To tab.. then select the social sites that you want to send to,

Whenever you want to share a particular story to one of your other social networks.. click on the Send to link in that item,

Sharing Settings

To determine who is able to see your shared items and whose shared items you would like to see, click on Sharing settings,

You can make all your shared items public (anyone can view) or protected (shared with selected groups), from the drop-down menu,

By making your items Public, your shared items will be visible to anyone who chooses to follow you from within Google Reader. Your public page will also be available to anyone who knows its URL.

While sharing publicly you can choose which contact groups can make comments on your shared items.

Here, I have four contacts that are in a group called Chat contacts.. any of these contacts are able to make comments on my shared items,

Contacts can be moved into different groups by,

  1. checking the group names that you want to move your contacts to
  2. clicking on the View link

You can move a contact into a different group by clicking on the Add link,

By making your items Protected, you will be able to select certain groups of people who will be able to view your shared items and public page.

By de-selecting all groups, no one will be able to comment on your selected items,

Google have also created a video on how to share items with Google Reader ,

People Search

You can also search for people who are sharing publicly by using Reader’s people search, powered by Google Profiles.

To do this click on Browse for stuff (in the sidebar).. then click on the Search tab,

Enter a person’s name, email address or topic of interest.. then click <Search>,

If you want to preview their Shared items first, click on Preview.. otherwise click on <Follow>, to follow this person’s shared items,

This search function can also be accessed from Sharing settings,

Sharing any Webpage with Google Reader

You can share any webpage or video with Google Reader.. this video by Google will show you how,

Discover More Feeds

Google Reader can recommend new feeds to you by comparing your interests with the feeds of users similar to you.

Click on Browse for stuff (in the sidebar).. then click on the Recommendations tab,

Here you can subscribe to any of the recommended feeds.

You can also subscribe to feeds from sites that people you follow have added to their Google profile.. by clicking on the From people you follow tab,


You can embed a clip of your feeds on another site or on your own blog.

To add a clip to your site go to the Folders and Tags tab on the Settings page.

Next click on add a clip to your site (this will only be enabled for feeds that have been made public),

From here you can customize the clip and copy the code (to be embedded on your blog),


You can read your favorite feeds anywhere and anytime from your mobile phone. Google Reader works on any mobile phone browser.

Whether you’re waiting in line or riding the train, Google Reader keeps you connected.

Firstly you will need to setup your feed subscriptions, as mentioned above. Once you have done that you can read them by using your phone’s browser to surf to www.google.com/reader/m

Another great option is to use the official Google mobile app.. iPhone users can download this free app here (opens iTunes).

Keyboard Shortcuts

Google Reader comes with a wide range of Keyboard shortcuts, that save you time by helping you quickly explore your reading list without moving your hand back and forth between your keyboard and mouse.

The Google Reader keyboard shortcuts can be downloaded from here.

Offline Access

Google Reader allows you to read your feeds when you aren’t online. Perfect for travelling (laptop) users with limited internet access, who still want access to their feeds.

To enable this you need to install Google Gears,

Agree to the Gears TOS.. then click <Agree and Download>,

Click <Run>,

Click <Restart Browsers Now> to restart your browser and complete the installation of Google Gears,

Google Gears has now been installed,

Whenever you visit Google Reader click on the green online icon (next to Settings) to download the most recent articles,

Allow Google Reader to use Gears to store information on your computer,

Gears will begin to download your unread RSS items,

Once the synchronisation is complete, you may disconnect from the internet,

Once you are offline you will notice that the icon has changed to blue,

You can close your Reader window and re-open it later to pick up where you left off.

While offline you won’t be able to,

  • add new subscriptions
  • images in feeds won’t be downloaded
  • videos in feeds won’t be downloaded

However, any feeds you read will be marked as read and any tags you’ve applied will also be saved for when you go back online.

Once you are back online, click on the blue icon to enable the online features, and synchronize any changes with the live online version,

Easter Egg

Google Reader also comes with a pretty cool Easter egg.. Secret Ninja Mode!

To enable/disable this checkout my Google Easter Eggs and Hidden Gems post.


The official Google Reader Blog has news, tips and tricks from the Google Reader Team and is well worth subscribing to.

Help Resources

The Google Reader Help Forum is a great place to collaborate with other people by asking and answering questionsreporting any bugs and sharing your feeds and articles.

The official Google Reader Help Videos provide step-by-step help from the Google Reader Team. Some of which have been featured in this post,

Other Resources

How Robert Scoble reads 622 RSS feeds each morning (original post here by Tim Ferriss),


If you have any tips you would like to share regarding your own experience with Google Reader then please leave a comment below.

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