In just a few years, RSS has gone from being a niche technology to one of the most broadly used and widely supported information formats on the Internet. RSS functionality has already been integrated into the Firefox browser, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 promises to have many of the same features. But if you're not using Firefox and don't want to wait for IE 7, there are other ways to take advantage of RSS.
Feedreader 2.90 is a free, open source standalone RSS aggregator, sporting many features found in commercial applications. The entire program is extremely small -- the installer is less than 2 MB -- and you can customize or re-brand it extensively for use in your organization. The program has also been translated into 17 languages, with support for new ones being added constantly.
Once installed, the program can import feeds from an existing Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) file or URL, or the user can add feeds by hand. The program doesn't yet know how to autodiscover feeds embedded in a Web page (as Firefox can), but OPML is supported broadly enough that this is rarely a problem. Feeds can be subdivided into folders so that clicking on a folder brings up a list of all the unread headlines for all feeds in that folder. Clicking on an article opens the article's link in a sub-pane or in a wholly new browser.
Existing feeds can be searched, and the program also contains a list of "smart views," which are essentially pre-programmed searches. Feedreader comes with two smart views: one for unread headlines and one for everything published "today." A user can add smart views in the form of filters, which automatically highlight or flag articles that match certain search terms.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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This was first published in January 2006