RSS stands for (among other things) Real Simple Syndication. Using an RSS reader is an easy way to stay up-to-date on your favorite blogs, by subscribing to the RSS feed. RSS readers are also called feed aggregators or news readers.
How does an RSS reader simplify your life? It constantly checks your favorite news sites and blogs and then updates your account anytime a subscribed website is updated — hourly, daily or monthly, it doesn’t matter. Your reader knows — you don’t have to visit the website or blog to see if there is anything new.
There are two types: web-based and stand-alone applications. Which you choose (I use both) depends on your needs. In general, these applications should make it easy for you to subscribe to, read and manage your RSS feeds. They all do it differently — so experiment and see what works for you.
Ideally, a good RSS reader will also allow you to categorize and/or prioritize individual entries so that you can easily find them again. It should also provide a clear link to the original item. Some people also want to be able to e-mail an entry or post it to their blog.
The advantage of a web-based RSS reader is the freedom to access your feeds (subscriptions) from any computer, any where. The downside: limited customization and web-browser constraints. Popular web-based (free) RSS readers follow:
One of the “grand-daddy” RSS readers (2003), Bloglines allows you to make your subscriptions private or public. If you don’t have a blog, you can use Bloglines as a very basic blog. If you want to use an entry as the basis of a blog post, add it to your “Clippings” and revise it there. There is a mobile service.
- Google Reader
Of course, GoogleReader requires a gMail account; if you like that look-and-feel, you’ll probably be comfortable with GoogleReader. You have two options for how it presents your feeds: as a list of one-line headline entries or in an expanded format. You can make individual entries public on your “shared entries” page. It also works on mobile phones.
This is the same company that sells FeedDemon (Windows) and NetNewsWire (Mac); there is a free (limited features) and paid version of the online reader. It differs from the other two by having a drag-and-drop interface.
The advantage of the stand-alone reader is customization; the downside, your feeds are confined to one machine. Popular stand-alone readers follow:
- FeedDemon (Windows) – $
- NetNewsWire (Mac) – $
- Outlook 2007 (Windows) – $, Office2007
- SharpReader (Windows) – free
- Shrook (Mac) – free
- Thunderbird (Mac and Windows) – free