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RSS News Feed

Use my RSS News Feed to get up-to-date news about new Office Tips tutorials, articles and publications as they happen.

XML News Feed Office Tips Update

Click on the orange button to go straight to the news feed or use one of the buttons below to add my feed to your favourite on-line newsreader...


All About RSS

RSS has been around for a while but, like the internet itself, has taken a while to catch peoples' attention. With RSS you can find out when your favourite web sites have been updated or when your favourite web logs have a new blog, without having to visit them. RSS is taking the web by storm. This article explains what RSS does, how it works, and what you need to do to benefit from it.

What is RSS?

I want my visitors to know when I have published something new on my web site. Perhaps there's a new tutorial or article, or a new eBook might be available. I used to do this with an email newsletter but this was unsatisfactory. As the list grew mailing a newsletter became a major task, trying to avoid the various anti-spam traps and coping with the numerous emails that were rejected by subscribers' email post offices as their mailboxes were full or had expired. The newsletter became a headache and reluctantly I abandoned it. Then I discovered RSS!

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Using RSS, web sites create one or more RSS Feeds.  An RSS Feed is a special web page written in XML (a scripting language similar to the HTML used to build the page you are reading). An RSS Feed file usually has an .xml extension. My RSS Feed is a page is called rss.xml. The page contains the latest headlines about my Office Tips web site. Each headline is accompanies by a short synopsis and a link to the relevant item on my site.

Web sites use RSS Feeds to provide information about new features or changes to their sites. Bloggers use RSS Feeds to let their readers know when they have published something new in their web log.

How do I find RSS Feeds?

May web sites now offer their visitors one or more RSS Feeds. Look for a link to RSS or News Feeds or an orange button labelled RSS or XML. This will take you to either the feed itself or a page listing the various feeds available. My site contains several links to my RSS Feed. You should normally expect to find a link on the web site's home page.

Look for an orange RSS button

Most web browsers can display an .xml page so if you follow the link to the news feed you will be able to see its content. What you will probably see is a collection of colourfully formatted text and XML tags (although some web sites use XML style sheets to make the RSS Feed easily readable) but don't be alarmed, it isn't meant to be used this way! Follow this link to see what my RSS Feed looks like in your browser (but remember to come back!).

You'll find RSS Feeds at many news web sites. Here are a few to try. Follow the link to the web page then find the or buttons:

BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/
Sky News: http://www.sky.com/skynews/home
Reuters: http://today.reuters.com/news/default.aspx
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/
Slashdot: http://slashdot.org/
Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/

If you don't see orange buttons like the ones shown above, look for a text link or a different style of button (e.g.   ). There are several different ones in use.

If you are having trouble finding RSS Feeds to add to your news reader visit one of the online news readers mentioned below. Most have extensive lists of available feeds. Or go to your favourite search engine and search using the keywords rss and directory.

How Do I Start Using News Feeds?

Some people call it "subscribing" but the term is misleading because you don't have to give anyone your email address and it doesn't cost you anything! Making use of an RSS feed is completely anonymous.

First of all you need some software that is capable of displaying and managing your chosen RSS Feeds. This software is called a News Reader. Several free versions are available and some browsers (e.g. Firefox and Opera) have news readers built into them. The next version of Internet Explorer (IE7) is expected to contain a news reader. Some of the available news readers can incorporate themselves into your browser or your email program, or you may prefer to use a standalone news reader. To see what is currently available go to your favourite search engine and search using the keywords feed and readers.

I am currently trialling a standalone program called Feedreader which is very simple to use. It is available to download free from http://www.feedreader.com/

Having equipped yourself with the necessary software you can start collecting your RSS Feeds. You will need to supply your news reader with the URL (the web address) of each of your chosen RSS Feeds. The news reader program may allow you to browse directly to the RSS Feed page, or you may need to visit it with your web browser then copy the URL from the address bar.

What Does a News Reader Look Like?

The following examples include screenshots of the free News Reader program Feedreader. They show how a news reader program displays news feeds [click the thumbnails to see a full-sized image]...

Click thumbnail to see the full-sized image    When the program open it checks the various web sites that the user has specified, looking for news items with a more recent timestamp than the headlines it already has. This program displays my chosen news feeds in various categories on the left of the window. Those in bold contain new headlines.
Click thumbnail to see the full-sized image    Clicking on the name of a particular news feed displays a list of headlines in the upper right-hand pane. The headlines each display a timestamp. Unread headlines appear in bold. General information about the web site (usually just a logo and a small amount of text) appear in the lower right-hand pane.
Click thumbnail to see the full-sized image    Selecting a headline from the list in the upper right-hand pane displays a short synopsis of the news item in the together with a link (here marked "Read on") to the relevant page on the web site.
Click thumbnail to see the full-sized image    Clicking on the link displays the web page in the lower right-hand pane of the news reader. Right-clicking on the link offers the option to open the web page in the user's browser.

Is There an Alternative to Installing a News Reader?

Yes. Numerous web sites offer the facility to manage your RSS Feeds online. You might find that your ISP offers such a facility, or you could make use of the facilities offered by sites such as Newsgator or MyYahoo, where you can open a free account for the purpose. Along with the orange RSS/XML buttons you will often see buttons which link directly to the more popular free news reader sites. Here are some examples. Use the text links to take a look at the host site and find out how to open an account or, if you already have an account, click the appropriate button to automatically add my news feed to your list.

My Yahoo: http://my.yahoo.com/   Add to My Yahoo!
NewsGator: http://www.newsgator.com   Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Pluck: http://www.pluck.com/   Subscribe with Pluck RSS reader
My MSN: http://www.msn.com   Subscribe in My MSN
Rojo: http://www.rojo.com/today/   Subscribe in Rojo

Here's how my Office Tips news feed looks on my My MSN page (left) and on my ISP's homepage (right) [click the thumbnails to see the full-sized image]...


How are RSS Feeds Kept Up-to-Date?

Online news readers are kept up-to-date by the host so that each time you log in to your account you can be sure of seeing the latest feeds. You may be offered options governing how feeds are displayed, such as just those in the last 5 days or 30 days. Depending on the RSS Feed owner, they might publish something new just once in a while or, in the case of a news site like BBC News, the site might publish dozens of new items each day.

If you use a News Reader program it will probably check all its feeds at specified time intervals when your computer is connected to the internet (you will probably have the option to change this) and if running in the background can display a pop-up message when new feeds arrive.

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