In a recent post I lamented a couple usability problems with the Google Reader subscription process. I cited two problem areas. First, when you subscribe to a new feed, you’re forced to choose the target aggregator (Google Homepage vs. Google Reader) every single time. Second, there is no streamlined way to tag the newly added feed. Well both problems are pretty much history now. Here’s the scoop…

I just ran across a little tool that solves the first problem in some situations. If you look in the “Goodies” tab on your Google Reader “Settings” page you’ll find a “Subscribe…” bookmarklet in the “Subscribe as you surf” section. Drag that to your bookmarks toolbar folder. When you’re on a page that indicates it’s got an RSS feed, you can click that bookmarklet and it’ll add the feed directly to Google Reader for you – no extra hop through the “Google Homepage vs. Google Reader” page required. Here, I’ve duplicated the bookmarklet for you – just use this one if you like: Subscribe…. And as usual, if you’re reading this in Google Reader the previous bookmarklet will have been neutered so you’ll need to either go to the Google Reader page just cited or toodle on over to for the real thing.

An issue to be aware of is that by using the bookmarklet instead of the built in (e.g. Firefox 2.0) browser subscription mechanism, if the page offers more than one feed you’re always gonna get the first – you won’t get a choice of which one to subscribe to.

On to the second issue (no streamlined way to tag the newly added feed). Well I’ve been asleep at the switch. I’ve got egg on my face. Apparently, about seven days ago, the Google Reader Engineers added a “Feed actions…” drop-down menu (upper right when you’re reading a feed) that you can use to assign tags=folders to your feed.

This last bit is the most recent refrain of a recurring theme. It goes like this: Bill finds an annoyance in a Google product, Bill goes off and does other things for a short while, Bill notices that the evil mind-reading-time-traveling Google engineers have fixed the problem. These people are scary.

PS in the process of writing this post, the theme repeated again – I noticed Google Groups got a significant facelift and now it looks a lot more like Gmail. It didn’t look that way yesterday. Hold up – this is Google Groups Beta I’m looking at. Why am I always the last to know? Those Google engineers smell different.