As Google lines up its bits and pieces into something more like a formation of units that work well both in themselves and together, the appeal of a reliable suite of services co-ordinated through one account is going to be compelling for many end-users. There's some way to go yet before things are really singing along, but I expect savvy schools are already paying close attention. (I've blogged about Google Apps before: see here and here.)
I've been playing with the new iteration of Google Reader. What's new has been well reported elsewhere:
… we've added some things you've been asking for, such as unread counts and "mark all as read." Folder-based navigation makes it easier to organize your subscriptions, and the new expanded view lets you quickly scan over several items at once. And we've made sharing much easier - with a single click of the "shared" icon, you can publish an interesting item on your public sharing page for your friends to see. … (Tip: You can have original item links open in a new tab in Firefox. In the preferences window's "Tabs" section, choose "Force links that open new windows to open in: a new tab.") Google Reader Blog
You can see Niall Kennedy's public page of shared items here. On Google Reader itself, I think Niall Kennedy makes the most perceptive comments (in a review that is full of praise for the new version):
The coolest new feature is Google Reader's continuous scroll of feed items combined with automatically selecting each feed item as you move around the news flow. You'll find a lot more access keys in the new Reader, mapped to the common Gmail commands for massage navigation and actions. I like the Gmail-style unread count displayed in the page title, allowing me to glance at my row of tabs to see if I have anything new in my feed inbox. …
The new Google Reader is pretty impressive and may become the online aggregator of choice for many Gmail users. I was a bit disappointed Google did not leverage what I feel are its two biggest strong points: the data advantages of online feed aggregators and close integration with other Google services. An online aggregator has an edge over desktop aggregators by providing more information about each post or blog based on what might be already known about the site or based on the activity of a user collective. An online Google feed reader could tie into Google search, or offer special handling of enclosures passed off to Calendar or Spreadsheet. I'm most surprised that the new Google Reader does not include search integration with Google feed search, and actually removes the search bar that was present at the top of the page in Reader's first version.
Important suggestions there for how Google Reader might be developed further and be more tightly tied in with other Google products.
Other commentators of note include: Google Blog, Inside Google, TechCrunch ('There’s a “river of news” view [click all feeds, view settings, sort by auto]), Read/Write Web, Michael Sippey and Download Squad:
One feature I quickly fell in love with in this new UI is the way the List view allows you to page through headlines and expand individual articles within the list of headlines … Pressing enter expands a headline like this, while pressing it again collapses it back into uniform with the rest of the listed headlines. What's even nicer is that n/p can be used in the list view like this, allowing you scroll through headlines without expanding them, while j/k let you expand each headline in place …
… Reader seems to build a user's set of folders/groups from their tagging structure, but the tagging system still exists for organizing feeds and headlines, in addition to the new foldering scheme for feeds. Pressing g + l to invoke the label selector (though 'labels' are now called 'tags' in the Settings) brings up a list of labels/tags, but selecting one actually choses a folder in the left column. Confused yet? Me too.
Mobile use? Google Reader Blog for 18 May:
We've just released a mobile-friendly interface for Google Reader. If you use the Google Personalized Homepage and have installed our Reader Homepage Module, it'll automatically show up on your mobile homepage. Simply go to google.com on your mobile phone's browser and click the link to "Personalized Home".
Yes … but it doesn't seem to work right on my E70 using the native S60 3rd edition browser: working from the directions here, I'm not yet getting on my mobile the customised page I've set up on my laptop — no Reader, for example. I'll persevere and also try out different browsers. (I blogged about some Google products and mobile viewing here.)