How to Save One, Many, or All Items from a Google Reader Feed Locally

Google Read­er, employ­ing Google’s petabytes of stor­age, archives every feed item it’s ever pulled for you. This has always amazed me, as I’m sure I and every­one else must be using far more in Read­er than the 5 gigs we get from Gmail. Still, they don’t have much of a choice; it would­n’t do any­body good if you could only see the 10 or 20 items present on a feed’s XML file at any giv­en time. And even though they’re prob­a­bly clever enough to only have to store one copy of every item for that item’s hun­dreds of thou­sands of read­ers, they’ve prac­ti­cal­ly built a third copy of the inter­net (after their cache).

A nice fall­out of this archiv­ing is that when­ev­er con­tent you’ve sub­scribed to dis­ap­pears from the web, you’ll still be able to access its (admit­ted­ly homog­e­nized) Read­er copy, for­ev­er; “for­ev­er” here mean­ing “pre­sum­ably for as long as Google is around.” When (if?) Google dies, will its data die with it? Despite my intu­ition that Google will long out­last cur­rent notions of what com­put­ers are and how they work, I still don’t like entrust­ing impor­tant data to oth­er peo­ple, not to men­tion data that is acces­si­ble only through the web. I want a local copy.

But they don’t make it easy for you. Read­er is all AJAXed out, so even sim­ple page saves don’t work. Copying/pasting would be a night­mare. Screen­shots? Too slop­py. Email­ing copies of each item? Too time-con­sum­ing. Tag­ging them with a spe­cial tag, mak­ing that tag’s feed pub­lic, then sub­scrib­ing in, like, Thun­der­bird or some­thing? Even if that weren’t absurd­ly round­about, the pub­lic feeds only have twen­ty or so items.

I’m talk­ing specif­i­cal­ly about a blog I loved, but that up and dis­ap­peared one day, com­plete­ly, leav­ing the only copies of the lost data scat­tered through­out Netvibes, News­ga­tor, Blog­lines, and Read­er. Google search­es turned up noth­ing like a straight­for­ward guide to sav­ing from Read­er, which sur­prised me. But there were clues, and using only a cou­ple tools, I final­ly got it. It’s actu­al­ly pret­ty easy, I was able to save 118 items in about ten min­utes with this method. Let me show you it.

You need Fire­fox, the two plu­g­ins Grease­mon­key and Scrap­Book, and the Grease­mon­key script Google Read­er Print But­ton. Then it’s just a mat­ter of click­ing “Print” for each item you want to save, which opens it in its own tab, then using Scrap­Book’s “Cap­ture All Tabs…” func­tion, which auto­mat­i­cal­ly does a “Save Page As, Web Page, com­plete” into your %App­Da­ta% fold­er for each tab, then final­ly option­al­ly using Scrap­Book’s “Com­bine Wiz­ard” (in the tools menu of the Scrap­Book side­bar [Alt+K]) to put all the items into a sin­gle fold­er with a sin­gle index.html file.

The “print­ing” part is the most cum­ber­some, but goes by pret­ty quick­ly with the rep­e­ti­tion of a series of clicks and key­strokes:

  1. Click “Print”
  2. Press Esc (to close the print dia­logue)
  3. Press Ctrl+Tab (to get back to Read­er)
  4. Press J (to go to the next feed item)

Do that mind­less­ly for a cou­ple min­utes, and they’ll all be there, wait­ing to be saved. I’m gonna put the word “disk” in here too so that any­body Googling for a solu­tion might find this.