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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:

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.

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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FeedDemon

FeedDemon was written by Nick Bradbury, creator of TopStyle and HomeSite. It, too, displays your RSS subscription in multiple frames and contains a built-in browser.

To add an RSS feed into FeedDemon, you can use the built-in browser to navigate to the site that contains a RSS link. FeedDemon will also automatically detect the URL for the feed (but only when you use the built-in web browser). Clicking the FeedDemon icon located in the status bar will display the links (see Figure 7, bottom right).

Figure 7
Figure 7. FeedDemon detecting RSS feeds in the web page

As a bonus, FeedDemon supports tabbed browsing (see Figure 8), a useful feature not supported in Internet Explorer.

Figure 8
Figure 8. FeedDemon supports tabbed browsing

The Watch feature in FeedDemon is a very handy tool to help you search your RSS feeds subscription for keywords. For example, if I am interested in reading about the release of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1, I can set a Watch to look out for feeds that contain the keywords "Visual Studio 2005" (see Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9. Setting a Watch

All feeds that contain my defined keywords will be displayed (see Figure 10).

Figure 10
Figure 10. Using Watch to look for interesting news

NewsGator

NewsGator is an RSS aggregator that runs in Microsoft Outlook (see Figure 11). It allows you to subscribe to various syndicated news feeds and have news from these sites delivered right into your Outlook folders. You can download a free 14-day trial copy from newsgator.com.

Figure 11
Figure 11. NewsGator in Outlook

Unlike NewzCrawler and FeedDemon, NewsGator does not automatically detect a news feed when you encounter one. You have to use the search wizard to find feeds that interest you (or enter a URL directly). Also, clicking on any links will invoke a separate web browser.

NewsGator provides a summary page showing all of the most recent posts that is similar to the "newspaper" concept in NewzCrawler (see Figure 12).

Figure 12
Figure 12. Summary page of your RSS subscriptions

All RSS feeds are treated as emails, and so you can reply or forward a message easily (see Figure 13).

Figure 13
Figure 13. Forwarding and replying RSS news is easy in NewsGator

Summary

These three RSS readers each have their own strengths. All three allow you to blog the news item that you read, though to be frank, I have not tested this feature as my main focus in on reading news.

The other factors to consider include pricing:

I suggest you try out the various readers and see for yourself which one works for you.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.


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