Tool Tweaks: Making the Most of Google Reader

In a previous job, I gave training courses to different groups, and the most common presentation I was asked to give was one on e-mail alerts and RSS feeds and the benefits that these tools can offer.

For readers unfamiliar with either of these resources, both e-mail alerts and RSS feeds are invaluable tools to help save time and improve efficiency. Many people have a number of websites and blogs they visit frequently, to check for news and recent information. However, as the number of useful electronic resources increases, so does the time and effort required to visit each one. Added to this is the fact that not all sites are updated with the same frequency and one has a recipe for frustration and information overload. With e-mail alerts and RSS feeds, instead of visiting numerous sites individually, one can have the information sent by e-mail or delivered to a page in a web browser or a RSS feed reader (or simply “feed reader”).

E-mail alerts come in several varieties, but all save time by automatically running searches of news websites, commercial electronic databases, library catalogs, and even Google and sending notification of new content on designated websites. RSS feeds enable users to subscribe to receive updates from websites and blogs and view them all in a central location, either within a web browser or from a feed reader such as Google Reader. This helps users save time as new content is collected as soon as it becomes available and is presented in a single, conveniently-accessible place.

After being introduced to Google Reader a few years ago, I became a staunch and enthusiastic advocate, spreading the word and seeking to bring enlightenment and better information management skills to the masses. However, despite these tools, the risk of information overload remains. Now, upon returning to the office after a holiday, there is something I dread more than opening my e-mail and facing the new messages received; worse is the thought of the thousands and thousands of posts awaiting me in my Google Reader account. I love and loathe my Google Reader; it brings so much that is useful and entertaining, but it also threatens to overwhelm and drown out the most pertinent with the mundane.

Therefore, to help master the tools available and use them with greatest efficiency, one can look to the various online guides on managing Google Reader which are useful for all skill and experience levels. A good place to start is the Google Reader support pages (http://www.google.com/support/reader/?hl=en); one of most valuable aspects of Google’s help section is the ease of use and the presentation of information, as resources include prose and outline guides as well as forums and videos. Additionally, Stan Schroeder produced this fine guide as part of Mashable’s How To series: Get the Most Out of Google Reader.

For further information, here are a selection of other guides available on mastering Google Reader:

What shortcuts, hacks and techniques do you have for making the most of Google Reader?

KRED

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