Google Reader is the first screen many people look at when they wake up. Likely the most popular RSS app, Reader has been a crucial news and research gathering and sharing tool for millions of users since 2007. Google on Monday announced changes to Reader, which many users won't welcome.
The most noticeable change is visual. Google has been updating all of its services to look more like Google+, with fewer blues and more greys, and the now-familiar black bar across the top of the screen. Reader blends in more with other apps, and looks similar to the updated Gmail.
'Like' No More
The Like button is one of the casualties. Moving forward, you can use the +1 button to show your "like" for something, if you don't mind that information appearing in your Google+ stream. However, old "likes" weren't migrated to Google+, so it's as if they've been erased. Google points out that you can download your data, so you can end up with a file that contains information about your "likes", but what can you do with it? There is no comparable service you can upload those "likes" to if you want that information to be accessible again.
Share via Google+
If you were using the Share button to pass along posts to your colleagues, it's time to find a new way. Reader's built-in sharing tool offered an easy way to share articles privately with specific people. The old sharing tools are gone, and in its place is Google+, which allows you to share with your Circles of contacts. This, of course, will require everyone you share with to be on Google+. In our testing, publicly sharing an item, which works similarly as with the old Like option, works well and is as easy as clicking the +1 button. Private sharing is another story. Despite using +1 to do a limited share of a post, the item showed up on the public +1 tab in our Google profile, even though the Google+ post confirmed it had limited visibility.
Is It Private?
It appears that using the +1 button makes all items public--and limiting visibility for an item doesn't change that, which isn't intuitive. If you want to share privately, use the Share button from Google's black navigation bar, which allows limited visibility, and doesn't "+1" the article. A different option is to use the Email button for sharing. Click it, enter the email address of the person you'd like to share with, and add any note you'd like to include. It works the same way it did in the past, and as long as you type the correct email address, it's completely private.
'Send To' to the Rescue
Another option is the Send To button. Check your Reader settings and you'll find a tab for configuring Send To, which has 14 built-in services you can enable. Check the ones you'd like to use--which include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Delicious--and you can send an article to that service, where it likely can be shared using that service's tools. You can even add custom services to the list. I added Evernote for easy archiving of research articles, and Remember the Milk as a way to create a reminder to read a post. There are bound to be many others, perhaps some that can replace the missing "Share", and maybe even some that everyone in your business already uses.
In the long run, we'll all find new ways to share with our colleagues, perhaps even better ways than we had. In the short term, it's hard to develop new habits, and when something is working, why break it? I loved how Google Reader functioned before and like the new look.
But being forced into Google+, especially when mixing private business communications with a public social network, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How are you dealing with the changes--and more importantly, have you found a new article sharing option?
Joseph Fieber is an experienced blogger who spent 25 years as an IT pro, and has a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him onFacebook or Twitter, or contact him through his website,JosephFieber.com.