Maybe the single most useful feature of Gmail for me is how you can “star” items to highlight them to come back to later. In Google Reader, this starring feature also exists and is hands-down the best feature of the service. Today, Google News added the same feature, and it’s also awesome.
Now, I’ve never been a big fan of Google News. In fact, I think it’s pretty awful in many ways. But this is a great addition. Much like with Google Reader, I can now scan through Google News and pick out the stories I want to save to read later simply by clicking on the empty star icon to the left of the headline. Even better, by using these stars, Google News is actually able to better tailor its news surfacing experience for you. When there is new news about a headline you previously starred, Google News will bold it for you, making it easier for you to find on a quick scan.
There are a couple of downsides to this feature. Sadly, you can only star the story that Google News deems to be the most important in the cluster (that it places first). Clicking on a more detailed view removes the option to star any articles. Also, they say that you can only keep track of your last 20 starred items in the new Starred area — that seems pretty low. Also odd is that if the cluster changes after you star it (meaning a different story rises to the top), it appears to also change in your starred items area.
Still, this makes Google News much more interesting to me already.