If you haven’t started taking advantage of RSS (short for Really Simple Syndication), you’re missing out on one of the most convenient and timesaving features the Internet has to offer.
Think about how you surf the net today. You have your favorite sites. You check on them periodically to see if there’s any fresh content. If you visit a site and there’s nothing new, you’ve wasted valuable time. What if the websites came to you, notifying you when there’s new content? It would save a lot of time, right?
Thanks to RSS, your favorite sites do just that, delivering the freshest content right to your digital doorstep. Now your time can be spent absorbing the content you want rather than seeking it out.
Getting started is easy, but it does require a few steps. Getting everything set up is by far the longest part of the process. Even so, it should take you just around five minutes. After you’re set up, your work is done. To sign up for RSS feeds from your favorite sites only takes a click per site. Read on for the simple instructions.
Finding a Reader
The first step to start using RSS is to find a reader. That’s the website or software you will use to…well…read your RSS feeds. Once your reader is ready to go, adding new sites and accessing your subscriptions will be fast and simple.
There are dozens of RSS readers available – most of them free. Some are downloaded onto your computer, others are just pages you bookmark in your browser. Some nice, easy-to-use options include Bloglines (web-based), NewsGator (for PCs) and NetNewsWire (for Mac).
I want to make this tutorial as universal as possible, so to illustrate I’ll be using Google Reader, a web-based option and my personal favorite.
Go to http://www.google.com/reader (link open a new window). If you already have a Google account (gMail, iGoogle, Google Docs, etc.) just use that to sign in. If you don’t have one, simply create an account. It’s quick, easy and free.
Once your account is set up and you’re logged in, you’ll be on a page that looks like this:
Go ahead and Bookmark or add this page to your Favorites. You’ll need to come back here to get your updated content. IMPORTANT: The new posts or news stories are not emailed to the email address you used to sign up – the email address is just your login information. This is good news, because your inbox won’t get flooded with notifications. Instead, they’re all kept at Google Reader, just waiting for you to come and get them.
Next, click “Settings” in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Then click “Goodies.” Scroll down to “Subscribe as you surf.” If you’re on a Mac, just follow Google’s instructions. If you’re on a PC, right-click the small “Subscribe…” and add the link to your Favorites. You may want to rename the link “Subscribe to Google Reader.”
Now that everything’s set up, it’s time to add some sites. To test everything out, head over to a blog or news site – http://gretemangroup.com/blog or http://cnn.com for example. After the page has loaded, click the “Subscribe” link you just added. You’ll instantly be transported back to Google Reader where you’ll see this:
NOTE: It is possible that you’ll get a pop-up telling you about some new Google Reader feature. Read it if you’d like, then close the pop-up.
Just click “Subscribe” and you’ll be subscribed to your first blog.
One more thing. Not all sites have RSS. How can you tell which ones do? Look in your address bar (where you type URLs) and at the end of the bar you’ll see a small icon that will look something like the icon to the right. If you don’t see that icon (some browsers don’t always show the icon), simply copy the URL, go back to Google Reader and click the “Add Subscription” link on the left-hand side of the screen. Paste the URL into the box and Google will let you know if it can find a feed.
That’s it. You’re done. You’re now a part of the wonderful world of RSS. Now get out there and start subscribing!
Remember, to get your updated content, you will have to go back to Google Reader. Your subscriptions will be listed, and any sites that have new content will be bold and will show how many new articles are available.
Any questions? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.