Let's talk about blog readers! How exciting does that sound? I only bring them up because many of you might benefit from using one. There are many out there, but the one I use is Google Reader. It's pretty popular.
The purpose of a blog reader is to automatically gather up recent entries from all the blogs you'd like to follow and put them in one place for easy reading. Then, instead of visiting each blog separately to check if there are new posts, you can go to one place and the new entries will show up.
To get started with Google Reader, you need to create a free account with them. Many of you might already be registered with Google without realizing it. If you have a Gmail (Google's email) address or use a personalized Google start page, you are all set. I sign in with a non-Gmail account--you don't have to use Gmail to use the reader.
Once you sign in with your new account, it's very easy to add blogs to your reader. In most cases, all you have to do is copy the URL of the blog you want to follow, and paste it in the "Add subscription" box. Make sure you're copying the main blog, not just one of the specific entries. (For instance, if you were adding my blog, you would add http://blog.greengatephoto.com NOT one of the entries, such as http://blog.greengatephoto.com/2011/01/san-francisco.html, etc.) It's usually a matter of clicking on someone's title banner or "blog" link to get to the main blog as opposed to a specific entry.
Once it's added, the latest entries will show up in your reader window and you can scroll through and read them. Here's what mine looks like. Click on this picture for a larger version:
I put in a couple of pink arrows to show you the useful buttons to know right away. The "Add a subscription" button is, obviously, how you add a blog--just like I mentioned above. The "previous" and "next" buttons were two I never noticed for months but wish I had. So often I want to go back to the top of an entry (each entry header/title links to the actual blog post outside of Google reader where you can comment on it and see other comments) and it's easiest to just hit "previous." Or, I can tell an entry is not something I care to read, and I can just click on "next" to scroll down past it. Sooooo nice!
You'll notice along the side I have created my own folders to be categories, but you don't have to. I opened one (Bible and Faith) to show how they work just like in Windows--click on the + to see what's inside. You can drag and drop blogs to folders, or you can click on a blog in that menu and go up to "View settings..." to unsubscribe. Mass actions can be handled in "Manage subscriptions" (small link at the bottom left).
I use the "Add star" button to mark recipes or other entries that I want to keep on hand, or I mark "Keep unread" when I don't have time to read through something but intend to later. Note that as soon as you scroll by an entry, it becomes "read" unless you mark it otherwise. At first this seemed so hasty, but now that I know my way around, it doesn't bother me. I can always go back up by hitting "previous entry," or I can go directly to that blog on the side panel and find the entry again.
I'm no expert, this is just how I use Google Reader. I'm sure I'm missing lots of cool shortcuts and features--what are your favorites?
Do any of you use another blog reader that you recommend? Who here uses Google Reader already? Who wants to try it now? Talllkkkkk tooooooooo meeeeeeeeeee.