Windows Advisor: RSS and You
A Review of RSS Readers and Feeds
By Joe DeRouen
What exactly is RSS? Opinions on the exact definition differ, but the one that seems to have stuck is Really Simple Syndication. RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites such as Wired, Reuters, BBC, MSNBC, and even personal blogs and websites.
In fact, pretty much anything that can be broken down into individual items can be syndicated by the use of RSS: a list of recent changes to your company website, new postings to a message board, even the revision history of an online FAQ. Once information about each item is in RSS format, an RSS-reader (usually called news aggregators) can periodically check for changes and respond accordingly.
There are many different RSS-readers for the Windows PC, depending on the browser you use. Typically, the RSS program works as an add-on for your browser and resides in the sidebar in the form of several clickable links. When you click on an RSS feed, it expands into your main window, linking you to the news item in question.
As always, if your browser of choice is Internet Explorer, you have the most choices. One such choice is Pluck, a free aggregator that will run on Win 2000 as well as Win XP. The program is powerful, easy-to-use, and offers a plethora of options, including bookmark synchronization and sharing, which means you can share your favorite RSS feeds with your friends. Pluck can also continuously monitor searches on Google, Amazon, and eBay, keeping you up-to-date on whatever it is you choose to look for.
More information (as well as the free download) on Pluck can be found at http://www.pluck.com.
If you use Netscape 7 or Mozilla, the browsers come with RSS readers already integrated into the software. Thatís definitely a good thing, and you do have the choice to use a third-party RSS reader, but the selection isnít nearly as abundant as it is with IE.
Fortunately, one of the few readers available for Mozilla and Netscape is also one of the best across the board. News Monster, which comes in a free and professional version, is the Cadillac of the Netscape-flavored aggregators. It does everything that Pluck does, plus has the ability to obtain threads from non-RSS sites like CNN and the New York Times. Plus itís easy to set up and use, is versatile, and supports all of the various RSS standards. What more could you ask for? The free version is supported by ads, while the professional edition comes ad-free and costs $30.
Firefox, Mozillaís leaner, meaner cousin, (and my personal browser of choice) doesnít come with RSS integrated but itís easy enough to add. Installing an extension called Sage will add RSS capability to Firefox within a matter of seconds. Sage doesnít seem to have as many options as some of the other readers, but itís fast, free, and gets the job done.
Setup is amazingly easy; just click on the XPI file, restart Firefox, and youíre done. You can search for threads that interest you via a radio box connected to Feedster (see sidebar) or click the magnifying glass whenever youíre on a site to see if they offer RSS. The program is simple but effective and cuts out a lot of the fat that other programs have. Just like Firefox itself.
Curious about RSS?
By Joe DeRouen
Are you considering adding RSS capability to your browser? Check out the links below to find out more about the format and what other readers might best serve your particular setup.
The contents of this article are Copyright © 2004, Joe DeRouen. All Rights Reserved.