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Windows XP Unwired

Top Three Windows RSS Readers

by Wei-Meng Lee, author of Windows XP Unwired
07/06/2004

What are Syndication Feeds

Weblogs are popping up like mushrooms; there are simply too many of them for you to find and read on a regular basis. That why you need an RSS reader, to aggregate the various weblogs into a common area so that you can read them all in one place. In this article, I will share with you the top three RSS readers that I have been using and share with you some of their features. Here are some of my criteria for a good RSS reader:

  • Includes a built-in web browser for following the links in a RSS feed.
  • Automatically adds a feed when I encounter one in the web browser.
  • Allows the user to blog the RSS feed.

I welcome you to add your favorite RSS readers in addition to the ones I'll talk about in this article. There are quite a number of good RSS readers available for Windows, and so please share them with me at the end of this article.

Some Acronyms

Before I set to review my top three RSS readers, let's briefly define some terms/icons that you will often come across in a weblog (see Figure 1):

Figure 1
Figure 1. Some of the icons you will see on weblogs to represent the type of feeds supported.

  • RSS (Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary, or RDF Site Summary; depends on whom you talk to): RSS is an XML file (known as a feed) that contains a list of items such as title, description, links, etc. Usually, an RSS document contains an extract of a weblog, summarizing its content.
  • ATOM: An alternative to RSS. Developed by people who do not agree with RSS.
  • RDF: Resource Discovery Framework, same as RSS (well, loosely).
  • OPML: Outline Processor Markup Language. An XML document that contains a list of RSS feeds to which you have subscribed. For example, if your friend subscribed to a list of 20 RSS feeds and highly recommends that you subscribe to them as well, all he needs to do is use his RSS aggregator (reader) to export an OPML file and send it to you. You can then import the OPML and you will have subscribed to the 20 RSS feeds in one go.

When someone says that his weblog is syndicated, it means that his site produces an RSS document.

For a good introduction to all things weblog, visit this page.

NewzCrawler

One of my favorite RSS readers is NewzCrawler 1.7, a Windows application that displays your RSS feeds in multiple frames (see Figure 2). You view the RSS feeds using the built-in web browser, which in my opinion is better that launching it in a separate browser window.

Figure 2
Figure 2. NewzCrawler 1.7

When you have incoming breaking news, NewzCrawler will display the headlines above the task bar (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. Incoming breaking news

One very cool feature of the NewzCrawler is the News Ticker, which is a moving string of text (floating above the task bar) displaying the latest RSS feeds (see Figure 4). I find this feature very useful in keeping me updated with the latest feeds to which I subscribe.

Figure 4
Figure 4. News Ticker in NewzCrawler

When you surf to a site that exposes a RSS feed, NewzCrawler will automatically detect it and display a balloon message in the Tray (see Figure 5). Click on it to reveal the window to add the news feed to NewzCrawler. This is very useful, as often I surf the Web using Internet Explorer (and not the web browser within NewzCrawler), and so when I stumble on a site that exposes an RSS feed, I can add it to NewzCrawler.

Figure 5
Figure 5. The Autodiscovery feature detects RSS feeds automatically

You can also generate and view a condensed "newspaper" of all of your feeds (see Figure 6).

Figure 6
Figure 6. Condensing all of your feeds into a newspaper

What Are Syndication Feeds

Essential Reading

What Are Syndication Feeds
By Shelley Powers

Syndication feeds have become a standard tool on the Web. But when you enter the world of syndicated content, you're often faced with the question of what is the "proper" way to do syndication. This edoc, which covers Atom and the two flavors of RSS--2.0 and 1.0--succinctly explains what a syndication feed is, then gets down to the nitty-gritty of what makes up a feed, how you can find and subscribe to them, and which feed will work best for you.


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