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RSS 101

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, has revolutionized the way people get information from the Web. Subscribe to an RSS feed, and you no longer need to manually scan pages to spot what’s changed on your favorite Web site. Instead, the feed shows you what’s new or updated.

Most Web sites use the RSS data format to provide easy access to their stories. You can view feeds using a Web browser that supports them (such as Safari 2.0 or Firefox), or a special RSS reader, which offers additional features for retrieving and displaying news and articles. You can even use some online services to organize your feeds and read them on any computer.

Get Started with Safari You’ve already got a built-in RSS reader—Safari. If a Web site offers an RSS feed, the browser shows an RSS icon in its address bar. Click on this icon to see the feed within the browser window. To read an article, click on its headline or the Read More link to jump to its Web page. If you’re looking for something in particular, you can search for keywords in all available articles. To return to the normal Web view, just click on the blue RSS icon in the address bar, and you’ll go back to the Web page you were originally viewing.

Use a Dedicated Reader What if you have dozens or even hundreds of RSS feeds you want to monitor? There are plenty of dedicated RSS readers to pick from—for example, NewsGator’s free NetNewsWire Lite 2.1 (   ), David Watanabe’s $19 NewsFire 1.4 (   ), and Graham Parks’s free Shrook 2.5 (   ). (Disclaimer: Mac Publishing has a business relationship with NewsGator.)

All allow you to subscribe to feeds, organize them, and read them in a two- or three-pane interface, similar to that of Apple’s Mail. They update your feeds automatically, and some offer powerful search functions.

If you decide to use an RSS reader, you’ll need to tell your system. In Safari, choose Safari: Preferences and click on the RSS tab. From the Default RSS Reader pop-up menu, select the program you want to use. In Firefox, choose Firefox: Preferences and click on Feeds. Choose the Subscribe To The Feed Using option, and select your reader from the list.

[ Kirk McElhearn has authored and coauthored a dozen Mac books. His Web site, Kirkville, has an RSS feed. ]

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