How to use the little orange square to get your news anywhere!

You may have noticed this little orange square with rounded corners on many of the blogs and news sites that you visit. This orange logo is the unofficial Web logo for feed access.

Alternatively, as on 1389 Message Blog and other blogs supported through Google Blogger.com, you may have noticed a line just above the blog page footer that says:

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

Either of these indicates that the website or blog offers an RSS or Atom feed syndication.

"What can the RSS or Atom feed do for me?"

It gives you a quick and easy way of keeping up with many blog and news sites. You don't have to navigate to each site every day to see if there's anything new.

In a nutshell, here's how it works:

  • Whenever there is new material on website with an RSS or Atom feed, the website sends those new items along to a feed server that you can access.

  • You can bring up a feed reader in your browser and use it to select and subscribe to as many RSS or Atom feeds as you want.

  • Every time you recheck your feed reader, you'll see a menu that lists all of the feeds to which you have subscribed.

  • For each feed, the feed reader shows you the headers of all the recent news updates or blog posts from that site that you haven't seen yet, so that you can click on whichever items you want to read.

  • Both RSS and Atom feeds work in much the same way from the subscriber's point of view.

"So how do I get a feed reader?"

There are plenty of feed reading options available, but we'll keep it simple here.

Use your browser as a feed reader

A quick-and-dirty way to see what feeds are all about is to let your browser serve as your feed reader. You can do this simply by opening the news website in your browser (Internet Explorer or whatever else you might be using on your own computer), clicking on the orange button, and selecting the "Subscribe to this feed" option when the next screen comes up. Your computer will download the feeds automatically at regular intervals, provided that your computer is on and can access the Internet; the browser window need not be running.

But there are some big disadvantages here. The downloading takes up a noticeable amount of resources on your machine, and you can get to your feed subscriptions only when you are able to access your own computer.

Use a Web-based feed reader

A more practical option is to set up an account with a Web-based service such as Google News Reader. If you haven't already signed up for a Google account for Gmail or the like, Google will ask you to set up a free account using your e-mail address and a password of your choosing. This distinguishes your list of news subscriptions from everybody else's, and lets you access your account from anywhere on the Web, not just from one particular computer.

Once you've signed on to Google News Reader, you can subscribe to new feeds by clicking on the Add subscription button. This opens up a search box that invites you to enter either a search term or a feed URL. In other words, you can use the same search box to look for feeds with subject matter that interests you, or to subscribe to a feed that you already know about.

"How do I subscribe to feeds with Google News Reader?"

  1. Start by logging on to your Google News Reader account.

  2. Switch to the window displaying the blog or news site.

  3. Click either on the feed logo (usually the above-mentioned orange square), or on the Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) line.

  4. A subscription screen will appear.

  5. Choose "Google" from the menu and select "Subscribe Now."

  6. Select "Add to Google Reader."

Every time you sign on to Google News Reader again, you'll see all the new posts that have appeared on your favorite blogs and news sites. You can also click on Google's Manage Subscriptions option to group your feed subscriptions conveniently into folders, or to delete any feeds that you no longer want.

"Can I get Google News Reader on my cell phone?"

Absolutely! You can use Google Mobile Reader to check your feeds from your cell phone or PDA.

Bring up the Web browser function, go to http://www.google.com/reader/m/, and sign on with the same email address and password that you used when you set up your account. You'll see a downsized, mobile-web-friendly version of your Google feed menu.

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