Users of Google's Desktop software have a new first party widget to play with. This one lets you use most of Google Reader's features without having to fire up your browser. It puts Google Reader's source list in your sidebar where you can peruse feeds you're subscribed to and read individual stories in a small pop-up window that slides out across your screen.
The widget works both in Google Desktop's dock and "popped out" on its own. Between the two, I prefer it off the dock since you can see more of the feeds and stories at once without having to change the height and width of your sidebar; something that can affect the look and feel of other widgets.
One major drawback is that it can't yet properly display HTML-formatted feeds, meaning some of your feeds will be left unreadable with images and page formatting stripped out. However, just like in Google Reader proper, you can simply click on the headline to hop to it on its original site.
I also found performance on this widget to be a tad sluggish. It doesn't provide the instant feedback you get in the browser. For instance, clicking on my source list of feeds and seeing them appear took about two or three seconds. The same goes for any time you drill down to see any feed's list of stories.
Early flaws aside, there is a serious convenience factor here. You can keep an eye on your feeds no matter what you're doing, and read entire articles without the need to launch another app or be signed in with a specific Google account back in the browser.