The internet is great for just about everything but with the sheer amount of information online, how do you keep up? Just check a few sites and read some articles and you’ve already spent an hour. Wouldn’t it be great if you could check all the sites you normally read at once, and read only what you want to read? All with the click of one button.. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Welcome to the world of RSS feeds.
What is RSS
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. An RSS feed is a file generated automatically by a web site written in XML. This file contains links to posts or pages on the website and either a brief description of the page or the entire contents. As new content is added, the feed is updated. Many RSS feeds also are embedded with audio and video files. If you are familiar with Podcasts, they are published through RSS feeds. Although its history dates it back to 1999, it only achieved popularity back in 2004-2005.
Getting feed addresses
Most websites that publish RSS feeds, will post them on their main page or sidebar. Just look for the following symbol:
While this site and many others prominently display this symbol to advertise the RSS feed, some don’t make it so obvious. In this case, you will need to look for a “Feeds” page. Most news sites have multiple feeds to filter the topics you are interested in. This way you don’t get sports news mixed in with your travel articles.
Here’s some feed pages from the following newspapers and services:
- BBC News – Feeds are listed down and to the right.
- New York Times – Feeds are toward the bottom.
- Washington Post – Feeds are listed right on the page.
- CNN – Feeds listed towards the bottom.
- Reuters – Feeds listed right on the page.
Using the RSS feeds
Since these files are written in XML, they aren’t formatted with any design or readability. They are meant to be read within a reader application. Some are free and others are commercial software. Fortunately for OS X users, two of the best readers out there are completely free! They are Vienna and NetNewsWire.
Setting up and using RSS feeds with Vienna
1. Download and install Vienna if you haven’t already.
2. Open Vienna and create a new subscription.
3. Enter in the URL of the feed. These are located on either the site’s homepage or feeds page.
Note: If you copied it from a browser, it will automatically be pasted into the field.
4. Repeat the last two steps for every subscription you want to track. When the feed is entered, it will automatically download the contents.
5. Click on the article you would like to read.
Note: Some sites post the entire contents of an article, others post a summary. The site shown above is showing a summary.
6. To read the article as if you were visiting the page, double click on the title (in blue) and it will open up in Vienna’s internal browser.
Now you can get all your news and visit all your favorite sites at once, with the double click of one button. Enjoy!