To use Google Reader, you’ll need to have a Google account. Luckily, Gmail is free, and even if you want to stick with Hotmail for most things it’s bound to turn out useful to have a more professional-looking email address.
When you’re signed into your Google account, finding Google Reader is easy. Just go to any Google page (Google Search, Gmail, etc.) and click “More” on the Google toolbar at the top of your browser. Reader should be on the list that appears.
Once you’re in Google Reader, you can start subscribing to your favourites sites right away. If there are websites you like to visit daily, or ones that you want to keep up to date with but don’t want to have to check all the time, you can add them to Reader and it will bring the latest content from those sites to you automatically. To subscribe, click the “Subscribe” button, and then type in either the URL for the site (if you know it) or an appropriate search term, e.g. the site’s name. If you do the latter, you’ll be presented with a list of matches, and you’ll be able to pick the right one by clicking the subscribe button underneath.
Once you’ve got a few sites added, you might want to categorise them so that you can more easily find what you’re looking for. If you’re the kind of person who has different moods for different things, and you want to be able to, for instance, quickly find all the recipe blogs to which you’re subscribed, then you can add your subscriptions to folders. To do that, click on the drop-down arrow next to your subscription where it’s listed in the sidebar, then either click “New Folder” and give the folder a name, or click on one of your existing folders.
If you’re stuck for what sites to subscribe to, click the “Browse” button and Reader will offer you some examples, sorted by subject. So, if you’re interested in sports, you can subscribe to those sites that are listed as such. You can either subscribe to all the sites listed under your chosen subject at once, or just pick out a selection.
The default view for Google Reader is one that shows your content in an attractive format, images and all, and it’s a pleasure to scroll through when you feel like having a browse. But if you want to see more items at a glance, so you can pick and choose which you’d like to read more easily, then you can click on the “List View” button in the top right corner. You’ll just see the site name, headline, and date for each article, and items you’ve already read will be greyed out.
Finally, if you get bored with one of the sites you’re subscribed to, that’s easily resolved. Just click on the drop-down arrow next to the site in the list in your sidebar, and click “Unsubscribe”, ready to replace it with something more worthy of your time.