There’s an easy way for you to keep up with web sites you visit regularly. If you’re not using some kind of a news reader or feed reader to keep up with blogs, news sites, and other frequently updated web pages, it’s time for you to take a look.
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. 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. You’ll be surprised how often that icon lights up.
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!
When you’re looking at the RSS feed and click at the top on “Subscribe to this feed,” it will be added to a list in Internet Explorer – the "Feeds" button you’ve never pushed next to Favorites, in the picture below. If a page has been updated, its name will be in boldface. When you click it, you’ll only see the items that you haven’t read yet.
Internet Explorer isn’t a bad feed reader but there are some features that make me prefer Google Reader. It’s free and you can view your list of feeds from any web browser.
Google Reader starts with a Google Account, a free login and password that Google uses to identify you. Click here for tips about signing up for a Google Account if you don’t have one already. That’s it! Go to the Google Reader site. This is an online service – there’s no software to install.
It takes an extra step to add a feed to Google Reader in Internet Explorer – you’ll have to type or paste in a web site address. Here’s a description of how to add a feed to Google Reader. Firefox reportedly has built-in support for Google Reader when you click the RSS button.
Some blogs provide a separate button that will automatically add the feed to Google Reader. If you look in the right column of this page, you’ll see a button to “Subscribe to RSS feed.” If you click on the “Posts” button, it will offer to add the bruceb news feed to Google Reader or a number of other programs. Try it after you’ve set up Google Reader!
Once Google Reader is set up, the feeds look similar to the feeds in Internet Explorer. That’s the point of an RSS feed – consistency! You can then see your customized list of feeds on any computer, plus a nice mobile version that shows your feeds on iPhones, Windows Phones, and other handheld devices.
Watch that RSS icon. If it lights up on more than a handful of the web sites you visit regularly, you’ll benefit from setting up Google Reader.