While it's true that there are other web-based RSS aggregators out there such as MyFeedster, DailyWhirl, Newsgator, even MyYahoo, none hold a candle to Bloglines. I've recently switched from my desktop aggregator, Newzcrawler, to Bloglines and haven't looked back. Now I can access my feeds from any computer. Bloglines also offers some unique features that I think you'll like. More on that later. Let's start with the basics.
Click on Register to sign up. The only information required is an email address. Since Bloglines is free, no credit card is needed. It may not be free forever, so enjoy it while you can, carpe diem and all that stuff.
An aggregator doesn't do you much good unless you've got some news you want to aggregate. So after logging in you might want to browse the Blogline list of their most popular blogs. Note that many feeds on the list are not actually from blogs, but are RSS feeds from some fairly mainstream news services such as the N.Y. Times. Click on the subscribe link next to any that interest you and a subscription will be added to your blogs list; no muss, no fuss.
You can also review my public subscriptions. If you see something you like, click on the link for the feed, then click on the subscribe button to add it to your own MyBlogs page. If you'd like to share your list, note that you can designate some subscriptions as public, and some private so you don't have to share everything. If you'd like to share your public feeds with LawLibTech readers, leave a comment below with the URL.
From your MyBlogs page you can also add subscriptions by simply entering the feed's URL in the box at the bottom of the left frame labeled "Subscribe by entering URL". How do you know if your favorite web page or blog offer an RSS feed? Look for the little orange XML box, , a link saying "Syndicate this Site" or a RSS icon. If you click on any of these three, you should see the xml file. Cut and paste the URL for that file into the Bloglines subscribe box, and you should be set!
By now you should have a few feeds on your MyBlogs page. What? You want MORE? Okay then, click on the My Recommendations link from the left frame of the MyBlogs page and Bloglines will provide a list of additional feeds that you might enjoy. How do they know? Bloglines recommendations are based on the feeds that you've already selected. You may want to revisit the Bloglines recommendations as you refine your MyBlogs page.
Your feeds are displayed in the left-frame in a directory-like listing. Folders containing unread news are bolded. Click on a feed, and the headlines and summaries will appear in the right-hand frame. Click on a folder name and new entries from all the feeds in that folder will be grouped together in one long list. The default view shows unread news only; if you'd like to see more, specify how far back you'd like to go in the box labeled "Display items within the last ______" at the bottom of the list of entries.
My only complaint with the Bloglines display is that you have to page through all headlines complete with summaries. There is no option to view only the headlines so you can pick and choose. Still, paging down is simple enough and I can adapt.
Organizing Your News
Your feeds can be easily organized in folders by clicking on the "Manage subscriptions" link at the bottom of the left-hand frame. Follow the instructions for creating folders and moving feeds.
I have experienced some problems in the "manage subscription" area. Ticking off the items you want to move, then clicking on the folder you want to move them TO, usually works just fine. Other times not. I have three items I have never been able to move into a folder no matter how many times I select and click. What can I say; every tool has its dark side.
Those are the basics. Now let's move on to some of the fun frills.
Drag the link on this page to your browser's link bar, then when you're visiting a site with a feed that you'd like to add to your subscriptions list, click on "subscribe to this feed" from your link bar, and it will be automatically added.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Once I started using an aggregator on a regular basis I wanted just about EVERYTHING delivered that way. So I was very excited to learn about Bloglines's email subscription feature. I now subscribe to law-lib via Bloglines. Between filtering spam and subscribing to lists via Bloglines, my email inbox is absolutely sparse! And this is a great way to avoid the spam that seems inevitable with Internet distribution lists. If you start to get spam to the Bloglines address, delete it and re-subscribe under a new one.
To be alerted when there are new items in your feeds, download the Bloglines Notifier. After installation, a Bloglines icon sits in your system tray. A message indicating how many unread feeds are waiting for you pops up when new items arrive. A web version that requires no installation is also available.
Nice feature, but the first thing you may notice if you have several feeds is that the darn thing is going off all the time. If this is too much of a good thing, try turning the notifier off for certain feeds. To do this, go to "Manage Subscriptions", check off the feeds for which you do NOT want notification, then select "Ignored by Notifier." You can also right click on the notifier icon, select "Settings" and increase the number of seconds listed under "Check messages every ______ seconds." These strategies should help get things under control.
You can search your own subscriptions, or ALL blogs, by keyword. This is VERY handy for finding a blog entry you've already read, looking for items in your blogs on a particular topic, or looking at ALL available blogs by topic.
This is by far my longest blog entry to date. I will remind myself in the future that blog entries should be short and concise. In the meantime, have fun with Bloglines. Do you love it? Or hate it? Have you found a better alternative? Share your comments or questions!
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