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What is RSS?

by Mervyn Love

If you’re reading this, then the chances are you don’t know - what RSS is I mean - and you want to find out more.

Good for you, because RSS has changed the way we get the information we actually want to arrive on our desktop as opposed to wading through mountains of spam in our in-box.

So let’s get stuck in…

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary (or Really Simple Syndication depending on who you’re talking to) and works by delivering to your computer a brief summary of items that you have decided you want to receive. If one of those is of interest, you can click on its link and this will usually take you to further information. In some cases the ‘summary’ can be the whole article. Another word we will come across in the RSS context is Weblog, often abbreviated to Blog.

Take for instance the RSS ‘feeds’, as they’re called, on WritersReign.co.uk. One of these is for competitions. So instead of needing to visit the site every week or two to see what’s new, you can opt to receive an RSS feed which will give you the latest competitions that have been posted to the site. This will be delivered to your inbox when you next go online after I have updated the feed on WritersReign. Naturally I shall miss not having you visit the site, but I hope you will recognise that there is a great deal of other good stuff here and you’ll continue to call in from time to time.

So How Does This All Happen?

There are two popular ways you can access RSS information:

Through software designed to read RSS feeds

Through your e-mail client e.g. Microsoft Outlook


The Software Route

Many people find using a software reader or ‘aggregator’ (another confusing word so beloved by the internet geeks) preferable to using a browser. If you’re someone who falls into that category then this section is for you. But do be aware that some understanding of downloading and installing may be needed. If in doubt speak to a computer expert first.  

Here are a couple of readers to have a look at:

GreatNews Reader - http://www.curiostudio.com/

This is what they say about this free reader:

Fast Reading - GreatNews displays full pages of news articles across rss feeds, optimised for fast reading. So you can skim through pages in seconds, and pick interesting ones to dig in.

News Highlighting - Automatic news highlighting makes important news stand out. Fully customizable with keywords, channel selections, and foreground/ background colors.

Save & Organize - GreatNews stores all your favourite articles locally, so you won't lose any article when the web site is down or updated. You can also assign labels to articles so that you can retrieve them later by a single click.

GreatNews is the reader I am using to check the comps I upload as rss and it does all I want it to do. For a brief tutorial on how to set it up, go HERE

Omea Reader - http://www.jetbrains.com/reader/

Here’s what they have to say:

With Omea Pro you can read and access your e-mails, news, feeds, web bookmarks, files, contacts, tasks and instant message conversations in one place.

Multiple Omea Pro's organizational features enable unprecedented flexibility of information organization.

Find search instances in all or only one type of resources available in Omea Pro, instantly, ranked and highlighted.

Where Do I Get New Feeds?

By finding an RSS link or button on a site you are visiting. An RSS button may look like the pic on the right. You will also find buttons with 'XML' on and a wide variety of other methods for obtaining feeds.

The E-mail Route

Since writing the above Microsoft Outlook has got its act together and built in an RSS capture feature into recent releases. This also applies to some other e-mail client providers. So check your Outlook's help file and see if you are up-to-date. If so follow the directions to get Outlook et al to automatically collect your RSS feeds for you.

However, if this doesn't happen for you, then here is the manual route:

Find the RSS feed you want to capture, (as you can see on the WritersReign header above) and right click on the RSS logo or the actual words - Poetry Competitions - and choose 'Copy link...' or 'Copy Link location'. This will put the link into memory. Now go to Outlook.

In Outlook, on the Tools menu, click Account Settings. If your version of Outlook doesn’t have a Tools menu, click File then Account Settings.
On the RSS Feeds tab, click New.
In the New RSS Feed dialog box, type or press CTRL+V to paste the URL of the RSS Feed. For example,

Click Add.

Click OK.

Look for a check box which says “Automatically download enclosures for this RSS feed.” Check this.

That's it. Job done.


I hope this article has inspired you to start using RSS feeds and has given sufficient information to get you up and running with them. If you think there are aspects of the subject I haven’t covered, or if you have any questions, then please email me:

editor (@) writersreign.co.uk

As I said at the beginning, RSS has taken off as a means of getting you the information you really want. It is advert free, spam free and virus free, which can’t be bad. Having said that, who knows what the devious spammers will get up to in future. But for now, it’s clean - so take advantage of it.

© WritersReign.co.uk - What is RSS?

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