All About RSS Feeds and How-to Use Them

RSS feeds are a great way to save time and still keep up with all the blogs you like to read. With an RSS feed reader, you can subscribe to all of the websites you want, and view them in one place. No need to visit 20 different websites just to see if there’s something new and interesting to read. With just one quick scan you can check all the latest stories from all of your favorite sites.

Let’s find out more, shall we?

What is RSS exactly?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Syndication, depending on whom you ask. Basically, it’s a type of web code put into a standardized format for easy distribution across different browsers. The RSS document, or “feed,” usually contains headlines and full or partial text of recent posts.

How-to Use an RSS Feed

If you visit a site and you see a graphic image that looks like this, or similar to this , that site has an RSS feed. On some sites, if you were to click on this button, you would be presented with a long page of code that wouldn’t make any sense. This is because in order to read an RSS feed, you need an RSS feed reader. (More on that soon.)

If you click on the RSS feed button for Useful Things, however, you’re taken directly to Feedburner. You can find that button in the upper right-hand side of your screen. Go ahead, click on the bubble. Do you see something like this?

Feedburner is an RSS feed enhancer, and is intended for use by content publishers. As a content reader, you need to first choose a feed reader. As you can see in the above image, Feedburner asks you which feed reader you want to use.

After you choose a feed reader, you will need to “subscribe” to the websites you want to keep up with via your feed reader. Say, for example, you choose Google Reader. Google Reader gives you two options–you can add your feeds to your Google homepage, or you can add them to Google Reader, a site you create a password for and log into to view your feeds.

If you don’t want new content clogging up your email inbox, select the Reader. Once you’re registered with Google Reader, you can start subscribing to feeds. In the screen shot below, notice the green box on the left-hand side that says “Add Subscription.” That is where you insert the url for the feed you want to add.

Important: The feed address is different from the website address. In order to get the correct address, right click the on the site’s RSS feed button, and select copy shortcut. For Useful Things, the feed address is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/UsefulThings.

You can see from the above image how the content will appear in the feed reader. In Google Reader, new content is displayed as headlines and a brief text excerpt. Other readers may vary.

Let’s get into feed readers now, shall we?

RSS Feed Readers

There are literally a hundreds of feed readers available for you to choose from. First, decide how you want to view your feeds. Do you want new content updates delivered to your email? Your homepage? Or do you want to visit a separate site to read everything? Though many RSS feed readers support different options for delivering content, not all do.

What are the best feed readers? According to a survey conducted by ProBlogger, Google Reader took the top spot.

Other popular readers include: Bloglines, Yahoo, Firefox Bookmarks, Feed Demon, Netvibes, Newzcrawler, Newsgator, Rojo, Pluck, and RSS Owl. Select one that best fits your needs, subscribe to all the blogs you like, and you’re on your way to saving time without having to compromise your reading needs.