Like many of you, I use Google Reader to keep track of new content from my favorite news sites and blogs. As a feed reader, it does a great job of storing and organizing information from countless sources. My friends can share their favorite Reader items with me, and I can with them. One thing that Reader has never had, until now, is a way to browse for interesting content without having to subscribe to individual feeds. We all run out of unread items eventually, and sometimes you just want to browse. Enter Reader Play, a new way to discover web content through Reader. It’s kind of a mix between Digg and StumbleUpon, but with a little of that Google flavor. In this guide we’ll cover how to get started with Play, and some of the features that help you get the most out of it.
You will, of course, want to check out http://www.google.com/reader/play/. You’ll first be brought to something of a Welcome screen.
Once you’re ready to get started, you’ll get the main Play screen. This is where everything happens, and it’s very similar in design to the Stumble Video screen that many of you may be familiar with.
Items are organized into a playlist of sorts, and you can scroll them like a slideshow. The bottom panel displays a scrolling list of content that may be text, images, or other multimedia. Images are automatically scaled to the appropriate size, and videos are embedded into the display window.
If an item has multiple related images, Play will sort them into a table and you can click the desired image to display full size.
Tools and Settings
Most of Play’s tools and options can be found in the toolbar between the main viewing area and the thumbnail scrollbar.
The first box simply hides or shows the bottom thumbnail panel. Items can still be scrolled with arrow keys or by clicking the arrows on either side of the viewing area.
The second icon with the eye symbol changes your view options. As shown above, Play will by default sort images and things into a table. This button will set the display to be more like that of the original page. This is often handy if Play is not showing things correctly.
The third option, the one with the slider icon, is a little more complex. With this you can filter your items to match certain criteria, such as things you’ve Liked in Reader. You can also choose specific categories for Play to display.
The fourth option, with the television icon, enables or disables the slide show mode. This seems of somewhat limited use, because it seems unlikely that any one time setting would be appropriate for all, or even most of the items shown.
The final three items are to Star, Like, and Share. As in GMail, starring an item has no particular function other than that the item is now marked, and can be pulled up later in a list of starred items. Liking an item, as in StumbleUpon, can influence the future items that Play will recommend for you. Shared items are sent to your Reader shares, and optionally Buzz.
Have fun Playing!