Getting Started With RSS

RSS is a smart way to keep up with your favorite blogs and news sources. We'll walk you through the steps to get you up and running with this must-have technology.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 12, 2005

7 Min Read

Organize Your Feeds
As you add more feeds, you'll find your feeds list getting more and more unwieldy. You've got general news, tech blogs, politics, humor, sports, and who knows what else all in one big list. It's time to get organized.

  1. Click the Edit link just under the My Feeds tab. A checkbox appears next to each feed in your list.

  2. Check all the items that you'd like to group within a folder. In the Choose Action drop-down menu, select Move To: New Folder, hit the Submit button, and type in a name for your new folder.

    All the items you selected are now grouped under your new folder. Repeat until you've got all your feeds nicely organized in folders. When you're done, click Finished.

Before and after organizing feeds into folders.Click to enlarge.

Click the plus sign to the left of a folder to see all the feeds within that folder. If you want to see the items from a single feed in your main window, click on the feed name. If you want to see all the items from all the feeds within that folder, click on the folder name.

You can also change the order your feeds appear in the feeds list by selecting the Reorder/Sort link to the right of the Edit link. Have them appear in alphabetical order or its reverse, put the feed with the largest number of unread items first, or sort your feeds by date. When you're done, click Finished.

Customize Your Feeds
Still not satisfied with how your feeds are appearing? We're not done yet. Bloglines and other powerful news readers let you control the behavior of your feeds.

Click the Options link to the right of the Reorder/Sort link. Here you can control whether articles you click on will appear in your current browser window, a new window, or the same new window over and over. You can have folders in your feeds list open by default or closed until you open them, you can have newer items appear before older items or vice versa, and you can choose to display entire postings, headlines and summaries, or just headlines.

Finally, you can have all your feeds always appear in your feeds list, or you can have feeds appear only if they contain new items. Click the Save Changes button when you're done.

Incidentally, many of the options you see when you initially subscribe to a feed (the ones we ignored earlier) are related to the organization and customization features we just learned about. Next time you subscribe to a feed, you can put the feed into an existing or new folder and control how it appears on the page.

Export/Import Feeds
Thinking about trying a different RSS reader? If you already have a good list of feeds, most readers let you export your subscriptions to an Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) file, then import that file into the new RSS reader to subscribe to those same feeds. If you're exporting from Bloglines:

  1. Under the My Feeds tab, click the Edit link. Below your list of feeds you'll see a section marked Extras.

  2. Click the Export Subscriptions link.

    Your OPML file will open in a new browser window. Select File > Save As (or File > Save Page As) from your browser's menu bar, rename the file if you wish, and save the file to your computer.

Now your OPML file is ready to be imported into the new RSS reader. If you're importing to Bloglines:

  1. Under the My Feeds tab, click the Edit link, then click the Import Subscriptions link in the Extras section.

  2. In the main window, you'll see a box where you can enter (or browse your hard drive to find) your OPML file. Click the Import button.

If you're just getting started with RSS and you know someone who has a great list of subscriptions, you can use this same method to import their entire subscription list.

In fact, we've prepared a couple of OPML files for you to download. Right-click each file and select Save Link As (or Save Target As) from the pop-up menu to save the file to your computer. Then follow the steps above to import the file.

Valerie Potter is Features Editor for the TechWeb Pipelines.

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