Let’s talk about blogs and RSS feeds. It might have more relevance than you think.

If you’re like most people, most of your web surfing time is spent visiting the same few web sites every day. That might start with news pages and weather, then a few pages that are updated frequently with items that interest you. Many of you have started looking at blogs – typically pages with relatively short items arranged chronologically. (Why – this page is a blog! Who knew?)

If a page is updated regularly, it almost certainly has an RSS feed. You can set up software that will automatically read the feed and let you focus on the new items from that site. All of your favorite “feeds” are presented in a single place with a consistent look, more streamlined than the original pages.

Start looking at the upper right corner of Internet Explorer 7. When the RSS icon lights up, you’re on a page with an RSS feed and you can subscribe to the feed with a couple of clicks.

Click on the icon and you’ll get the same page presented as an RSS feed, typically focused on the text and pictures in the articles without the fancy graphics and advertisements. Try it on this page! Then click the link at the top to subscribe to the feed.

Internet Explorer 7 has a built-in reader that will display all your subscribed pages in a single place. It’s the “Feeds” button you’ve never pushed next to Favorites.

If a page has been updated, its name will be in boldface. When you click it, you’ll only see the new items. That sounds simple, but this can seriously change your web surfing experience.

There are many programs designed to improve on that simple reader in Internet Explorer – here’s a sample. The built-in IE7 reader is perfect for getting started, but after a while you may find something appealing in the layout and additional features of another piece of software.

Even if you’re just getting started, though, take a close look at Bloglines. It’s entirely web-based – no software to install, just a free login name and password to bring up an online application for your feeds. It’s smooth and easy to get started and has a nice presentation onscreen – and it has the extra advantage that you can go to the Bloglines website and access your list of feeds from any computer. Here’s a description of the service, and here’s a CNet review. If you want a quick look, here’s my Bloglines list.

Now go back to that PC Magazine list of 100 blogs and take a look with a fresh eye – you can assemble a list of interesting sites and easily see what’s new each day with a lot less clicking and a lot fewer advertisements.

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