The Federal Register (since March 14, 1936), abbreviated FR, or sometimes Fed. Reg.) is the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies. It is a daily (except holidays) publication.
Citations from the Federal Register are [volume] FR [page number] ([date]), e.g., 65 FR 741 (2000-10-01).
The Federal Register is the main source for the U.S. federal government agencies':
- Proposed new rules and regulations;
- Final rules;
- Changes to existing rules; and
- Notices of meetings and adjudicatory proceedings.
In essence, the Federal Register is a way for the government to think aloud to the people, and also serves as official journal of record for the approved acts of the U.S. Government. The notice and comment process outlined in the Federal Register gives the people a chance to participate in agency rulemaking.
Each daily issue of the Federal Register is organized into four categories:
- Presidential Documents (executive orders and proclamations)
- Rules and Regulations (policy statements and interpretations of rules by federal agencies)
- Proposed Rules (petitions by agencies for assistance in rulemaking and other proposals)
- Notices (scheduled hearings and meetings open to the public, grant applications, and administrative orders)
The citation "44 FR 33,238" refers to "Federal Register, volume 44, page 33,238." The published notice, called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (or "NPRM") typically requests public comment on a proposed rule, and provides notice of any public meetings where a proposed rule will be discussed. The public comments are considered by the issuing government agency, and the text of a final rule is published in the Federal Register.
The final rules promulgated by a federal agency and published in the Federal Register are ultimately reorganized by topic or subject matter and re-published (or "codified") in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is updated annually.
Not all documents created by U.S. federal agencies are published in the Federal Register. The government has the power to classify documents so that they are not published.
The agencies required to publish in the Federal Register are those who are required to promulgate regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR").
Each agency is required to list the sections of the CFR that will be affected by the proposals or rulings in the day's Federal Register. The List of CFR Sections Affected is published monthly, and is used to update CFR sections changed by new rules published in the Federal Register.
A "unified agenda" is published semi-annually (April and October of each year), listing regulatory efforts that federal agencies expect to undertake in the coming months. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act and other laws and Executive Orders, this agenda includes indices showing segments of the public and levels of government that are expected to be affected by each of these coming regulations.
To purchase current or back copies of Federal Register, one may contact the U.S. Government Printing Office. In each issue of Federal Register, there is a subscription page. Currently, a year's subscription rate within the U.S. is US$929. Each individual issue may be priced from $11 to $33 depending on its pages. Virtually every law library associated with an American Bar Association-accredited law school will also have a set, as will federal depository libraries.
The Federal Register is not small; for example, the 2008 Federal Register was 80,700 pages long. Although the Federal Register is quite important from a legal and historical perspective as a record of the regular business of American government agencies, few people read it regularly (even lawyers, except for those specializing in keeping track of developments in it), due to its massive volume and the dry style of its content. The size of the Federal Register is often cited as evidence of the growth of the burden of governmental regulation.
The Federal Register is available online from 1994. Federal depository libraries within the U.S. also receive copies of the text, either in paper or microfiche format. Outside the U.S., some major libraries may also carry the Federal Register.
Any agency proposing a rule in the Federal Register must provide contact information for people and organizations interested in making comments to the agencies. The agencies are required to give due diligence to these concerns when it publishes its final rule on the subject.
As part of the Federal E-Government eRulemaking Initiative, the web site Regulations.gov was established in 2003 to enable easy public access to Federal Register publications related to rulemaking and was further enhanced in 2005 with the launch of the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS). Through FDMS, the public can use Regulations.gov to access entire rulemaking dockets from participating Federal Departments and Agencies" to include providing on-line comments directly to those responsible for drafting the rulemakings.
The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations is available on the web site ecfr.gpoaccess.gov. This web site explains what the e-CFR is, and its legal status. It is not an official legal edition of the CFR. The e-CFR is an unofficial editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments.
In April 2009, Citation Technologies created a public website for Federal Register articles dating from 1996 to the present. The difference between this site and a government-sponsored one is a complimentary suite of productivity-enhancing tools developed for the environmental, health & safety industry.
Other than paid copies or subscriptions, people may obtain Federal Register contents from commercial databases:
- Citation Technologies offers the complete Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) through subscription-based web portals such as CyberRegs. 
- Westlaw (January 1, 1981-): Searchable text format since Template:USFR. The Unified Agenda and the official English text of the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, which became effective January 1, 1988, are included. Sunshine Act Meeting Notices are not available prior to 1991. Unified Agenda documents are not available prior to October 1989. 
- LexisNexis (July 1, 1980-): Searchable text format since Template:USFR.
- HeinOnline (1936-): Full coverage available dating back to 1936 in an image-based searchable PDF format.
Nobel laureate and libertarian economist Milton Friedman consulted the Federal Register in an attempt to determine how much individual liberty he believed to be diminished per year. He noted that the number of pages added to the Federal Register each year declined sharply at the start of the Reagan presidency, breaking a steady and sharp increase since 1970. The increase in the number of pages added per year resumed a less-steep upward trend after Reagan left office. 
Amateur radio enthusiasts and people in general consult the Federal Register to determine when FCC rule changes take effect. Rule changes announced by the FCC do not usually take effect until after some specified time of being published in the Federal Register (generally, a month later).
- The Federal Register at the GPO, online in both text and PDF, from 1994 on
- Introduction to the FR by NARA
- List of CFR Sections Affected by the FR
- Freedom’s Friend by Milton Friedman Friedman uses the Federal Register to measure decreases in liberty
- TheFederalRegister.Com Searchable database of Federal Register Documents
- List of Federal Depository Libraries that have copies of the Federal Register
- Federal Register turns 70
- Research Guide the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations
- The Federal Register at FederalRegister.com is a free online portal with robust searching, annotating, bookmarking, highlighting, and printing of FR articles from 1996 to present.