RSS Feeds and Podcasts

Here’s a rather geeky overview of how I subscribe to various RSS feeds and Podcasts.

“What is an RSS Feed?” I hear you ask. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and it is a way of monitoring your favourite web pages or blogs or Podcasts for any changes. Rather than have to visit your favourite sites on a regular basis to find out if new articles have been posted you can use RSS feeds to alert you when a change has been made.

First things first, you need an RSS reader program that you use to keep track of all your subscribed RSS feeds. There are many of these available but I use Google Reader.

The next thing is to add subscriptions for your favourite pages to Google Reader. When you visit a page that supports RSS you will see (in Firefox) a symbol in the address bar. Other browsers will handle it in a different way but you should find it somewhere. What you want to happen is that when you click on this icon Firefox will automatically add the RSS feed to Google Reader. You can ensure this happens by going to Tools, Options, Applications and setting the Web Feed option to ‘Use Google’. Now when you click in the icon you will be shown a ‘Subscribe to xxxx Feed’ option. Select this and the feed will automatically be added to your Google Reader account.

You can do the same for Podcasts. The Podcast page will either have the RSS icon or, in some cases, it will give you a list of possible RSS readers and Google Reader should be one of them.

Having subscribed to some RSS Feeds and Podcast your Google Reader page should now show them all in a list. You can group similar feeds in to Folders by clicking on the small down arrow beside each feed and either creating a new folder or selecting an existing folder.

By default Google Reader will show all the entries for each feed, both read and unread. You can set it to show only the unread entries by selecting ‘Show updated’ on the Subscription heading. I have also selected ‘Show unread count’ here so that it shows how many unread entries there are for each feed.

When you select a Podcast feed you can either listen to the podcast via streaming or you can download it to listen to later.

I use iGoogle to create my home page. There are various gadgets that you can add to show your RSS feeds on your home page but none of them appeal to me. Instead I have set up a new Tab which enables me to show the Google Reader page in full. To make this work, first create a new Tab, next add the Any URL gadget and then customise this Gadget to show the Google Reader URL http://www.google.co.uk/reader/view/?hl=en&tab=wy#overview-page. I find that this method works best for me as it enables me to have a Home Page with a number of tabs that I can easily switch between.

Here is what my Google Reader home page tab looks like at the moment..

RSS Page
RSS Page

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