What is an RSS Feed?

If you are wondering "what is an RSS feed", please read on. You are about to learn the ins and outs of RSS Feeds and how to use them most effectively. The orange "button" in the upper right hand corner of this web page (in fact, all our pages) is the one that represents our RSS feed. You will find many websites that publish an RSS Feed in order to easily deliver content to their readers.

Do you have your own RSS reader?

Not sure how to use an RSS feed? Please read on to learn all about it.

More and more websites publish new content on a regular basis. Some examples are CNN's news site, Wallstreet Journal's financial information, weather channels or websites that publish DVD and music album releases. We also publish new Windows Tips and Tricks through our own RSS feed. If you are like most internet users, you probably visit a number of websites regularly in order to keep up with the latest news and trends about the different topics that interest you.

In order to keep up, you would have to visit each of your favorite websites every day, just to find out if something of interest has been published. I'm sure you agree that there must be a more efficient way to go about this.

So what is an RSS feed?

"RSS" means "Really Simple Syndication." It means that you can subscribe to a website that has an RSS feed. Once you do that, all the updates and news will come automatically to you. Centralized in one location.

What do you need?

Ok, in order to read an RSS Feed, you need an, um, RSS reader.

There are several free RSS readers that you can download and install, but my advice would be to avoid the extra software burden on your computer and use a free web service like MyYahoo!, MyMSN or Google:

Add to My Yahoo!
Add windows-help-central.com RSS to your "My Yahoo!"

My MSN 
RSS
Add windows-help-central.com RSS to your "My MSN"

Add to Google
Add windows-help-central.com RSS to your Google homepage

In this installment of our RSS Reader mini-course, I will follow the route of the Google Reader. Pick one of the options above and you will be taken to a page where you can sign up for a free account. Let's stick with the example of Google Reader. Clicking on the Google link above will take you to a screen like this:

What is an RSS Feed

You can choose between Google's RSS Reader or Google's Home page. Let's try the Google Reader option, it will take you to this screen ...

What is an RSS Feed

... where you can login if you have an existing Google account, or you can click the "Create an account" button to get started and um, create your account. Don't worry, it's free and you can do lots of other useful stuff with a google account.

If you already have a Google account, you can skip this section and immediately proceed to the part where I discuss what happens when you are logged on to your Google Reader with your account.

If you don't have a Google account, click the "Create an account" button from the previous screen, you will have to enter your current email address and choose a password:

What is an RSS Feed

Next you will have to choose your location, enter the graphical challenge (captcha) and accept Google's terms of service and privacy policy to create your account:

What is an RSS Feed

What will then happen is that Google will send an email with a confirmation link to the email address that you provided. Go check your inbox and click the activation link in order to get started with Google's RSS Reader.

Once logged in, you will see an overview of all your current RSS subscriptions in the Google RSS Reader on the left hand side of the screen, in the area indicated by the red arrow in the image below

What is an RSS Feed

The new items that are published on your subscribed sites will appear on the right in the Google RSS Reader, indicated by the red arrow below:

What is an RSS Feed

By simply clicking on your different subscribed sites on the left, you get a nice overview of all the new published items on all of your favorite websites.

You can click the "Add Subscription" link in the Reader in order to manually add more RSS feeds and you can click the "Manage subscriptions" link to organize or delete your existing RSS feeds.

The "Add Subscription" link in the Google Reader comes with a search function, but if you want to manually add a specific site, you just need to copy and paste the RSS feed of that particular site in the Google reader.

Apart from online RSS services like the one from Google, you can also use RSS Feeds in Internet Explorer.

Back to the Windows Tips and Tricks Homepage

Add to My Yahoo! Add to My MSNAdd to Google

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