Whether you’re a news nut or just like to visit certain Web sites a lot, RSS can help you easily access up-to-the-minute information. These tips will help you get the most out of this technology. (If you’re just starting out with RSS, see “RSS 101” for the basics.)
Tweak Safari’s summaries
Love the convenience of using Apple’s Safari as your RSS reader, but hate plowing through the lengthy article summaries it provides? No problem. To change the length of Safari’s RSS summaries, drag the Article Length slider that appears below the Search Articles field. If you drag the slider all the way to the left, you’ll see only headlines.
Keep track of feeds
One way to keep track of your RSS feeds is to save them in a folder on Safari’s Bookmarks bar. When you’re looking at a feed page, click on the Add Bookmark link under Actions and save the feed to the Bookmarks bar. Choose Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks. Click on the plus sign (+) to the left of the search field at the bottom of the window. Double-click on the folder that appears and name it. Then drag your feeds into it. Choose Bookmarks: Hide All Bookmarks.
Safari totals up all the articles from all the feeds in the folder. Now you’ll be able to see at a glance how many new articles are waiting for you. Click on the folder to see a number next to each individual feed’s name. If you want to view all the RSS feeds, select Open In Tabs.
Try live bookmarks
Mozilla Firefox goes one step further than Safari to help you keep up with the latest headlines. Whenever you see an orange icon in Firefox’s address bar, the program has detected a Web page with an RSS feed. Click on this icon, and Firefox gives you the option to add a live bookmark to it. Set the Create In pop-up menu to Bookmarks Toolbar Folder, and a bookmark with an orange icon will appear in the bar below the address bar.
Click on this icon to see a list of currently available articles—not just how many there are, but their actual headlines (see “Firefox’s Daily News”). New articles have an orange RSS icon, and older articles either show the site’s favicon or a default site icon. Select an article to open its Web page. If you’d like to read all the articles, select Open All In Tabs at the bottom of the menu.
If you dislike switching to another application to check your feeds, but yearn for more features than your browser offers, two Firefox add-ons can help. The Sage Project’s free
Sage add-on integrates with Firefox’s live bookmarks and adds feed discovery, as well as RSS search engine powers. The infoRSS Project’s free
InfoRSS supports a variety of feed types, scrolling feeds, and more.
Like to keep your eyes on headlines from a specific site? Keep everything a key press away by downloading Dashboard widgets that keep you up-to-date on single feeds. Go to Apple’s Dashboard
download page and search for
RSS feed .
You’ll find dozens of widgets here that let you keep up with your favorite football team, your favorite TV show, or your local newspaper’s headlines (see “Dashboard Scores”).
If you’ve spent days mining the Web for the best, most up-to-date Web sites on a specific subject, share the fruits of your labors with interested friends. Most stand-alone RSS readers let you select the feeds and export them, using the OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) format. Some RSS readers, such as NewsGator’s NetNewsWire, even offer Bonjour sharing on a local network. In the program’s Sharing preference pane, turn on sharing. Tell friends who share the network with you to open their copies of NetNewsWire, select View: Show Sites Drawer, and then click on the Shared tab. From here, they’ll be able to access your feeds.
See feeds anywhere
If you’re on the road a lot and want to be able to access your favorite news feeds from any computer, set up your own personal selection of feeds online. Services such as
NewsGator Online, and
FeedLounge offer free or fee-based RSS services on the Web. For example, NetNewsWire lets you sync its feeds to the NewsGator site, so if you use this RSS reader, you are guaranteed to find the same feeds no matter where you are.
If you don’t have time to check out all your feeds before going to work, load them on your iPod as notes, with Kainjow’s $13
Life2Go. This program will copy your favorite RSS feeds—but only the feeds, not the articles they link to—along with a slew of other info, such as stock quotes, weather, notes, and much more. Graham Parks’s RSS reader Shrook can also sync your feeds to your iPod, though it allows you to sync only all of them at once; Life2Go lets you choose exactly which feeds you put on your iPod.
Relax with the news
Can’t get enough headlines? Use them as your screen saver, so you can catch up whenever you take a break. In OS X 10.4, open the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane, click on the Screen Saver tab, and then choose RSS Visualizer from the Screen Saver column. Click on Options to pick a feed. (The list shows all the feeds you’ve saved in Safari.) White 3-D text rotates over an aqueous background, displaying the headlines and summaries of your selected feed. If you want to read more, press the key that’s specified below the text (for example, “Press the 4 key to read more”). This will open the appropriate Web page in your browser.
Firefox’s Daily News: Put a folder full of RSS feeds in Firefox’s Bookmarks toolbar, and all you have to do is click to see the latest headlines.
Dashboard Scores: With a widget that displays sports info, you can spot the latest scores and news for the sport of your choice.
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. ]