Reading RSS Feeds With Google Reader? How To Do It Super Fast

RSS is dead. Or so they say. I disagree, but then that’s not what this blog is about. If you’re a regular user of Google’s Reader utility, you are more than aware of some if it’s limitations as well as benefits. On of the core uses to Google Reader is to read a heck of allot of news items in a very short amount of time. Today, I wanted to look at some of the methods I use to get through lots of Google reader items – as fast as possible.

Keyboard shortcuts
Google‘s web support page  describes all of the many shortcuts you can use. Most of these work without any problems on the most popular browsers (though I would prefer to use Google’s Chrome browser). Generally, when using keyboard shortcuts, you’ll want to have the browser in-focus and no other applications using the specific shortcuts in your Operating System.

Update: The folks at have created a cheat-sheet for Google Reader shortcuts (in PDF format). Here’s a quick look at the shortcuts they list.

One such really fast way to get through items in Google Reader is using the space bar. You put the cursor in focus on the folder (or perhaps all items) and Reader will open (or scroll through) each item as you continue the press the spacebar. This process is illustrated in the following video:

That’s great for reading items faster than hunt-and-click for sure. And, if you decide you don’t want to scroll through one of the items and want to skip to the next – you can use one of two shortcuts “O” will close the item and the a “SPACE” will continue down the list. You could also use “N” to move on to the next item – but it will have to be opened.

Now, using SPACE is fast, but there are a number of flaws with this process:
1. Not all items are the same length, so it’s hard to determine where you are and what you’re reading – this significantly slows down the process
2. On items with lots of graphics, you don’t want to do this on a slow connection
3. When a long item is loaded – you can tell how long the item is, so you may have to press the SPACE many times to get through the article

Getting Faster
So, to continue using keyboard shortcuts (a minimum amount of them) and still go through items as fast as possible, I moved to using the set of “N”, “P”, “O”, “M”, and “V”  shortcuts. Using these shortcuts allows you to get through articles by using the one thing they all have in common – the headline. The process is as follows:

1. Click on “All Items” or the tag you’d like to go through
2. Type “N” to highlight the first item
3. If you want the preview, type “O” to open it, if you want to load the page in a new tab, press “V”
4. Once done, press “O” to close the item (if open), press “M” to mark it as read
5. Move to the next item by pressing “N”

Generally this process will involve you pressing “M” and “N” quite allot of times until you get to something you want to read either in preview or the full browser. Eventually, you will get to the bottom of the list and will have to scroll down with a mouse or press PAGEDOWN with a keyboard.

Here’s what this process looks like:

The previous process also has it’s flaws; namely:
1. The scrolling issue, the stream of items never stays centered – messing with your ability to read the headlines as quickly as possible
2. Some keyboards (in different languages) make it difficult to find PAGE DOWN – requiring you use the mouse. Often keyboard of different languages don’t have arrow keys easily accessible. Many mice do not include the scroll bar.
3. Getting to the next folder or tag may require the use of a mouse
4. Using this method in a remote control session may not be optimal

Serious Speed
So, I took this to another level, I wanted to use the minimum number of keyboard keys while also find a way to keep the stream of items in consistent view.

The answer is to incorporate the SPACE BAR at specific moments. The process would now look like this when moving through headlines:

1. Click on “All Items” or the tag you’d like to go through
2. Type “N” to highlight the first item
3. If you want the preview, type “O” to open it, if you want to load the page in a new tab, press “V”
4. Once done, press “O” to close the item (if open), press “M” to mark it as read
5. Move to the next item by pressing “N”

When close to the bottom:
– Open the item using the “O” key
– Press the SPACE once (to move the stream up)
– Press “O” again to close the item
– Carry on starting with step “2” above until again close to the bottom of the stream.

Essentially, you’ll end up with the ability to move through the stream like this:

If you have any other thoughts, ideas, tips on how to best use Google Reader – please do share them in the comments. Google Reader can be found here.

UPDATE – Oct 8, 2011<
I have begun using an even faster way of motoring through posts in Google Reader – it has helped me get through a larger number of items while maintaining an eye-line of story headers. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Open Google Reader and possibly open the folder/label to narrow down subject matter.

2. With one hand place a finger on the “N” key of your keyboard

3. With your second hand (my right hand usually) place it on your mouse or trackpad. Your going to use the scroll bar or track scrolling with this hand.

Now, just continue through the items using only the “N” key – each item will be highlighted so you know where you are. As you move through items, use your other hand to scroll the view, keeping it close too, or at the same eye level. If you get the hang of it, you’ll find that all items will stay in the same eye range until you reach the bottom.

Another Cool UPDATE – Jan 6th, 2011

Thanks to a Tweet by Cory Doctorow, a new shortcut was uncovered. What this does is allows you to use the SHIFT+A shortcut to mark items all a read and then move to the next unread subscription folder – SHIFT+J moves forward and SHIFT+K moves backward on the list of folders. This a great shortcut underscored by some of Google’s issues with bugs. So far, I can’t find a way to change focus to the newly highlighted folder. I can’t seem to find a way – and if I can, this would represent a way to completely traverse items and folders without the use of a mouse. Anyone have thoughts on this?

If you find a most you want to read, open it with the mouse or the “O” key, otherwise, carry on until you rip through everything…. FAST.