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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Google Reader

Lately, I found the number of bookmarks in my firefox was growing more in the number of categories as well as the blog/site links under them. The sites where I’m particularly interested about some specific sections were more than those sites which I try to read completely. For example, I manage to read Linux and Hardware sections in http://slashdot.org/ but I seldom read its other sections. For daily news, I was completely depending on my personalized Google news http://news.google.com/. I try not to miss out giving a glance of Hindu headlines & Sports page http://hindu.com/ and the topstories of Business week http://businessweek.com/ . Likewise, the list of mine was increasing as the things which I wanted to read were scattered in many sites over the web. I was wasting much of the very-less-free-time in landing to the needed links and trying to find out whether any good article has came for the day. Sometimes, I used to forget which sites I went and which articles I read. And, there are some of the blogs which I don’t regularly follow but even then I had to step into those blogs to see whether a new post has been published or not. The other biggest difficulty I had is: Whenever I found some good article/site, I had to bookmark it in both of my computers – Office & Personal.

I had always heard about RSS – Really Simple Syndication, an xml format feed using which you can subscribe to the information that is changing in frequently updated sites and read it through your news reader application. I used RSS feeds via the glossy Google desktop reader gadget. But, I realized that I was not able to follow all my sites through it. After all, Google’s desktop reader gadget is not a full-fledged reader application.

Then, it was only few days before I planned to give a try to Google Reader. Now, you know what I’m gonna say.. It’s the same thing which everyone else has told. “Google Reader is awesome!” The first good impression which I felt about it was – I’m not needed to adapt to some other new window, new buttons or new looks. It’s the same uncluttered, simple looks with a fast response as like Gmail. After subscribing to the feeds from all my favorite sites, I was able to realise, how fastly I can scan & read in Google Reader. There are some articles which you don’t know whether to read or not. But, you will be able to decide that only after reading the first 5 or 6 lines. Had it been reading directly visiting the site, I would be needed to follow the link of that article, closing all the irritating popup ads and then proceed to read the 5 or 6 lines but to finally find that the article is no lesser than a junk. In Google reader, I was able to accomplish this task in a fantastic way. I was able to get the gist of the article through the first few lines which were shown in the expanded view. After reading that, I was able to conclude whether it’s of-no-interest article or not. If yes, I will skip it. If not, I went ahead and read the complete article. Now, it has turned so easy and quick to skip the junk news items and read the ones which are of my interest.

Additionally, I saw a feature where I can manage my friend’s list and share my articles with them. But, I never used this feature as I don’t know whether any of my friends is using google reader. In this too, we have got the “starred” feature. The articles which I want to read again can be starred and followed at any time later. Gone are the days, I bookmark the links of such articles. Also, I can have a look at the reading & subscription trends under the trends link. There, I can know what I normally read and what I don’t.

The superb thing which I like in Google reader is its keyboard shortcuts similar to *nix environment. It is so fast and easy to use keyboard shortcuts to read rather than using a mouse. Why most of the Google’s products are winning the world is: They always follow the UNIX philosophy (Keep it Simple but perform the task at your best) because most of its apps are developed by UNIX geeks. Unlike UNIX apps, Google’s apps have a web interface (a simple one) and so people like them.

Here is what a glimpse of how I use Google reader to read the news

I open up the reader and I’m finding 15 unread items – all in my ‘personalized Google news’ subscription. I always prefer to use the list view rather than the expanded view. (Please note that the characters in between double quotes are keyboard shortcuts and within single quotes are from the news article from here after).

I press “n” to select the first article – ‘CIA in 2003 planned destruction of Tapes – Washington Post’. Ok, what is it all about. Let me have a read at it. I press “Enter”. Only that article is shown in the expanded view now. After reading through the first few lines, I got to know it’s related to the destruction of video tapes on harsh interrogations of suspects. Huh! I have no interest in this. I don’t want to read the complete article. Skip. I press “Enter” to switch the article back to list view and press “n” to move on to the second one. Now the second one is about – ‘Mean rain, winds slam Southern California - CNN’. Oh no! I want to read this. I press “v” and the article opens up a new tab in my Firefox. After reading it, I want to switch back to the tab of Google reader. I pressed “Ctrl W” to close the tab and then “Ctrl Pageup” or “Alt ” (say, Alt 1 or Alt 2). Ok, now I want to move on to the third news item. I pressed “n”. It says ‘Conflict in East Congo – Reuters’. I don’t even want to look what it’s all about. So, I press “m” to mark it as read. Oops! Somehow I passed this article without reading ‘Xbox 360 Ultimate Rumours Unsound – NewYork times’. I need to go back and read that now. I pressed “p” which took me back to the actual third news item. I read that. So now, I want to continue my reading from the 5th news item. I need to move two steps ahead. I press “n” two times. I need to search for what happened to ‘India vs Australia 2nd Border Gavaskar trophy Cricket test match’. I pressed “/” which left me in the search box where I typed the needed words and pressed “enter”. It listed me with the news items about the match. Shame! India has lost the test match after fighting a very close battle to draw it.

I felt so easy using Google reader because I’m used to these shortcuts in *nix. Now, I’m not needed to maintain my office and personal lappy’s bookmarks in sync. Thanks to Google reader ‘Web’ application.

When you start using Google reader, you will know how much time you can save in skimming through the news articles. Maybe, it takes few days for you to adapt to the keyboard shortcuts, but once done then you will know how Simple, Fast & Superb Google reader is.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Prassy said...

They've swatted some bugs in the product. http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2006/10/bug-swatting.html

On the most part, these are those small, but sometimes irritating bugs that make a utility less enjoyable. Bugs r a real curse!

I stopped using this, bcos of these annoying ones. Some that work on opera, but not on IE. Google is prepared to leave these bugs, they will be long standing bugs! Probably the emphasis is on comin out with cooler features, but not on fixing some already existing issues!

Good write up!

10:30 AM  
Blogger Sriram K said...

I have never faced any troubles using Google Reader. Im using it for the past 2 months. Im really impressed due to the time im saving with it which made me to post about it. Let me know what bugs you found.

PS: I surf thru Mozilla Firefox 2.0.0.6 v.

10:25 PM  

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