Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Safari and RSS

If you don't use RSS, you really need to. Rather than wasting your time going to your favourite sites to see if they've updated yet, RSS allows you to subscribe to the feed for your favourite sites,. When something new is added, a little number will pop up saying "there's a new article at one of your favourite sites".

It saves time, and it allows you to not miss an update at your favourite sites.

With 10.5, RSS has come to Mail.app, but with Safari 3.1, RSS is handled much more elegantly.

How to use RSS.

Easy Peasy. Open up your favourite site in Safari. If the page has an RSS feed, there will be a little blue RSS in the right hand corner of your address box.

Click on that. The page will suddenly roll over, and you'll see a white page with text and maybe some images on, but it doesn't look like the website at all. Don't worry. This is the feed, which pushes out the content of the page, not the design. You will see a shortened version of all the articles on the page, followed by a "read more." If you click on read more, or on the title of the story, you will be taken to the actual page of the actual website, where you can read the full story.

Now over on the right hand side of the page, you will see some options.

Search Articles: Allows you to search articles for key words. Like iPhone, or Classic.

Article Length: Allows you to determine how much or little of the feed you will display, ranging from just the headline to the full article.

Sort by: Allows you to determine how you sort the articles. I like to sort by New, so that new articles show up at the top.

Recent Articles: Allows you to determine how long you are going to look back for new articles, and how long they articles are going to remain in your RSS reader. I usually choose seven days.

Source: Where is this feed coming from. Clicking on the link allows you to go back to the main page for your favourite site.

Actions: Allows you to do things with the feed. Default is Mail Link to this page, which is pretty useless. Click on it to open up a mail message with a list of feeds.

Okay. But what good does this do you? You're looking at a graphically poor version of the page that you were just looking at.

Well, here's how it works. Take and drag the little grey box beside the feed URL down into your bookmark bar. Type a name for the bookmark. Now, any time your favourite site adds a new article, a number will appear in brackets beside the name you put in the bookmark bar.

But what if you're like me and have a hundred different places you have feeds from? Again. Easy enough. Simply right click in the bookmark bar and select new folder. Give the folder a name, like "feeds". Now, instead of dragging new articles down into the bar itself, drag them into the folder. This creates what is known as a feed aggregate, which is simply a collection of feeds organized into one place. To view them, you can left click or right click on the folder. I prefer to right click, as "View All RSS articles" is the first option, whereas if you left click, it is the second to last option.

If that is too course an aggregation for you, you can do what I do: I create multiple folders. News goes into one folder, photography related news into another. A third holds all my mac news, a fourth, design, a fifth personal.

Here is the actual tip, though. Open up Safari:Preferences RSS, and you can set a variety of options here. Default RSS Reader, Automatically update articles in: Check for Updates, Remove articles, and the new one: Color New Articles. This is new to Safari 3 or 3.1, and it allows you to color all the new articles since you last checked. This means that if you have a feed like digg, which has 100 new articles a day, you can see where the new ones end, and the old ones begin.

You will note that this page right here has one of those fancy RSS feed icons in the corner. Go ahead. Give it a try. And let me know how it works.

Have any questions? Suggestions for a Tuesday Tip? Leave a comment.

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