Do you visit the same websites every day to see what’s changed? If so, you might want to think about using news feeds. Loads of websites offer them and they could save you stacks of time.

They let you know when new content has been added to websites. What makes them useful is that you don’t have to visit the site to see what’s new. You just open your feed reader to see the new articles on all your favourite websites – in one place.

News feeds are sometimes known as ‘RSS’ (which stands for Really Simple Syndication). The easiest way to understand them is to see them in action. It’ll only take five minutes to get started, so why not try now?

All you need is a feed reader. You can use an online reader, like Google Reader (which I use), Bloglines or Newsgator. Online readers are web-based (like Hotmail), so you can read your feeds from any computer.

Alternatively, you can use an offline one, like SharpReader or Awasu. These are programs you download and install on your computer.

News feed iconOnce your reader is ready, look for feeds on the sites you like. They’re often identified by the orange RSS icon (right) – the feed for this blog is on the right, underneath the archives list.

If you click the feed link, you’ll often just see a page of gibberish. Some websites have taken the time to make it look pretty (like the BBC), but most haven’t bothered. Either way, don’t worry – it’s written in code that your reader can understand.

The way you add a feed to your reader (also called ‘subscribing’) will depend on which reader you’re using. But you generally just need to right-click on the link and choose Copy shortcut.

Then when your reader asks for the address of the feed, paste in the shortcut you just copied (hold down the Ctrl key and hit V). You should see a list of the latest articles from that website appear in your reader. Click each headline to see more of the story.

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? You soon learn to check your feed reader regularly for new stuff.

There are lots of ways feeds can make your life easier – I’ll cover some of them in the next instalment. Why not subscribe to the feed for this blog now, to make sure you don’t miss it? In the meantime, here are a few sites with feeds you might be interested in:

• Get the latest from BBC news and sport
The Register’s feeds contain technology news
SEOMOZ for search engine optimisation tips and advice

 

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