RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Whilst this may sound patronizing at first, it’s a fairly accurate description of this particular way of publishing content.
An RSS feed will reduce all content in any section of your favorite site into easy to read text.
You enter any interesting RSS URLs into your reader of choice, which then automatically alerts you when a new article is posted. If the summary seems worthy of your attention, you click on it and read the entire article. It kind of works like an inbox for information online, saving you the hassle (or the pleasure, as the case may be) of wasting time visiting sites.
Whilst this is all very well and good, there’s no avoiding the enormity of the information on all of the sites that you visit, and the impossibility of reading it all.
If used correctly, an RSS reader should help you manage the influx of information.
As you might have guessed, there are hundreds and hundreds of RSS readers out there, so we’ve put together a list detailing the four most efficient, stress-less ones.
Originating as a blogging site, Bloglines also offers social bookmarking or ‘clippings’ and even music playlist services as well as an efficient ‘in-browser RSS service. It allows you to view complete entries, summaries, or just titles of articles and gives the option of displaying subscriptions publicly or privately. The site also offers a notifying program, as well as mobile-specific capabilities for those who are so inclined.
SharpReader is a desktop-based RSS application, for those of us who don’t see the point in having to have a browser open to keep track of articles. The appeal is in its simplicity: it’s very quick to use and notifies you of updates with unobtrusive task-bar pop-ups. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Mac.
3. Net News Wire
NNW is a nifty, email-style program for Mac that is fully in sync with Google Reader. Usefully, it archives news items as HTML files on your hard drive, which you can then view in any browser whilst offline. Unlike many of the other readers available, NNR goes for the ‘more is more approach. For this reason, it takes a while to get your head around all the features; the idea being that once you do, RSS management/consumption will be much quicker.
4. Google Reader
Yes, we can’t get away without mentioning Google and their aggregator. Along with the functional RSS stuff, it offers a service that lets you analyze your web browsing habits, make notes on pertinent articles, and share them with friends who also have Google accounts (which is everyone by now, surely?)
Like most of their current products, you have to establish and sign in to a Google account to use this one. It’s simple enough to use, but you do have to contend with the usual ‘sponsored recommendations’, specifically tailored to your feed keywords. Hey, taking over the world is expensive.
And remember, sometimes you just can’t read everything you want to. Even the editor in chief here at NETT# admits that occasionally he has to declare ‘RSS bankruptcy’, and just choose to neglect the 1001 unread items in his feed inbox.