What is RSS: How to read a RSS feed, use a RSS feed, reader & aggregator


13.06.2009

A RSS feed is one of the most important tools on the world wide web which helps users to receive stories on their favorite subjects quickly and easily. Many users don’t know how to use RSS, but in reality it’s very easy and you will probably get addicted to feeds as soon as you discover its advantages.

First of all you need to know what’s RSS: this acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication and it’s basically a notification system which is useful when it comes to alerting a website’s subscribers that there are changes to the website. In general this is a free service offered by websites to that people know what has changed and inform them about new posts, new features, additions etc. If a website is RSS-enabled then you will notice an orange rectangular button which says “RSS” located somewhere on the homepage. Usually, a RSS feed is a text headline which features a link to the actual article. You are not obliged to hit the link, if the article doesn’t interest you, but the RSS feed also includes a short summary of the article. RSS feeds are very useful because you choose what to read from your favorite websites on your favorite topics, and this service makes it easier to you so why wouldn’t you try it?

Second of all you need to know how do you read the RSS feed: In order to read it you need a RSS feed reader which will show users the full article, while other readers only show a preview of the story and a link pointing to the story. There are three types of RSS feed readers: add-ons, built-in Web feed readers, and standalone readers.

Add-on RSS feed readers can be integrated into a software like Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook, and they allow you to setup your favorite channels and a headline for quick viewing. Pluck is a very useful add-on reader and it also allows you to setup a folder in MS Outlook with your favorite website. If you want to read the whole article then click on the link, and the story will open in Internet Explorer. Most of you already keep Outlook and IE (or other browsers) open 24/7 which means that you can always check for new articles in the RSS, but problems could appear if you have too many folders in MS Outlook and too many bookmarks in your default browser.

Built-in Web feed readers are RSS feed readers built in your default browser which means that you don’t need a software to use it. If you use Mozilla Firefox then you can add RSS feeds to the Live Bookmarks which can be found in the Favorites folder. If you have a Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger running Apple then you can see RSS feed support directly into the Safari browser. Microsoft has also added RSS feed support in Internet Explorer 8.

Standalone RSS feed readers consist of a standalone software which searches, gathers, and delivers news for your in no time. A good standalone reader is called FeedDemon as you can customize it to make it link-free, and once it downloads the feeds, it allows you to access the articles offline. The problem with standalone readers is that you have to open it, and this type of software requires storage and memory meaning that your PC might run slowly.

Now that you know what is RSS and how you can read the feeds, you have to setup the RSS feed readers so that they can suit your tastes. Add-on and standalone readers will allow you to add your favorite websites to a subscription list. Add-ons for Outlooks will allow you to create a folder to add you need, and they will also come with preloaded websites whom you may or may not use therefore you may choose to delete them.

Add-ons like Pluck will make your subscription process easy as you just have to click on the aforementioned orange rectangular button on a page, then you will see a dialog box which says that you are on the verge on subscribing to this website and then just accept the subscription.

If you use Mozilla Firefox as your default browser then you should see an orange small RSS icon at the right of the navigation bar. After you click it you will see a dialog box which says that you are about to subscribe, and you already know what to do next. You might encounter some issues here therefore if this doesn’t work for you then copy the website’s URL, open your reader, and add a new page on your favorite topics depending on the topic of the website.

If you use a standalone reader then you can see a toolbar or a bunch of window panels which will allow you to organize the RSS feeds in folders and categories. Also you can see the information of a website, choose a title for the feeds, and the URLs of the articles.

RSS feed readers will load feeds live, or you can simply customize it to load news whenever you want to and circle through the headlines and see only what you are interested in or what sounds interesting.

You might wonder why you can’t see the RSS logo on some of your favorite websites which provides the articles you really want to read. Well, this is either because they don’t know how to add one (which is very unlikely) or it’s because of advertising. If you read an article via RSS feed readers then you won’t see the ads on a website which means that the website owners will not make any money. It’s an understandable decision as blogs have to grow and they need funds for website maintenance.

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