If you bookmark blogs to read or follow links from a blog to get to your favorites, I would like to introduce you into an invention that's going to blow your blogging mind. It's called Google Reader. I'm by no means an expert, or even proficient, with all of the features of Google Reader, but I use it enough that I think it's a valuable tool. With it you'll always be able to find all of your updates to your favorite blogs in one aggregated site. For most of you, this is probably old news, but to some it might be really helpful.
To begin with, you should find your Reader tab. Mine is on my Gmail homepage, but your homepage may be different.
You can always access Google Reader by going to reader.google.com.
So, you've clicked on the link and you're at a page that looks sort of like this:
Now you're going to add your first subscription. Pick a blog, any blog, and get its web address. Enter that address, or copy and paste it, and click the button that says "add." It will populate with the most recent posts from the blog, but not all of them. You've successfully added your first blog. Hurrah! But what's the point of Reader if you can only add one? That's right; there is none. So add all of your favorite blogs. There isn't a limit on the number feeds you can add.
You can see some of the blogs I read listed on the left-hand side. Any time a new post is blogged, it is automatically updated on this list. To read it, I just click on the title of the blog. In this case, it's Something Old, Something New.
When you click on the blog it populates the middle column with the new blog post. As you scroll through the blog, Reader will mark this item as read, and you won't be able to find it on your Reader screen anymore. You can still access it by clicking on the title screen and actually visiting the blog's homepage, though.
At the bottom of the post you can find some cool options. The first arrow, add star, is one I use when I'm reading through quickly and find something I like but don't have time to tag it. The second arrow, keep unread, is one I think is helpful if you want to keep something live in your Reader even after you've read it, but you have to click on the box before you leave the middle column screen of the blog you're reading. Add tags is a option I used a lot when I was wedding planning. I had tags for flowers, decoration, photo ideas, cakes, colors, etc. It is one I still use a lot for posts I think are interesting and that I want to be able to access. The idea is to give the post a category so you can easily reference it if you think you will again. Not many of the posts I read get tags, but the helpful hints, DIYs, good writing, spectacular photography and things I don't want to forget do.
After you do any of these actions (and I only highlighted the three I use most), you can access them again on the right-hand side of your Reader home page. You can see on my own blog what I've recently starred, kept unread and it also shows you what you've recently read. It is reverse chronological, so it will show the most recent item first.
You can access your tagged items on the left-hand side, where your blog feeds will be listed. (In the picture below, you can see the tags for books, calling cards, candle lighting ideas.) You just click on the tag and all of the posts you've marked with that tag will show up.
So, that's my mini-introduction to Google Reader. If you don't use Reader, I encourage you to subscribe to your favorite blogs through it. You'll always know when a blog is updated, and you won't have to click to a blog to find out it hasn't been updated in three months. Yay!