RSS for beginners Part 2 - Web-based readers

Yesterday I talked you through what RSS is and why you might want to use an RSS reader.

Now I'll talk you through how to set up and start using a web-based RSS reader. There are a few around, but for this walkthough, I'll use Bloglines.As we discussed yesterday, once you decide to start using RSS feeds to personalise and centralise your news and blog viewing, you have a few options for how you'd like to read it. This is largely a matter of personal choice - you can view RSS feeds through your web browser, your email program, or through an online RSS reader website like Bloglines. If you chose the latter option, which is what we'll look at today, it means the Bloglines website becomes the place you visit to read your blogs.

The first thing you'll need to do is set up an account at Bloglines (it's free) - you'll need to enter your email address, create a password and nominate your timezone (so it can show you blog entries in your local time).

Once you've created your account, you'll arrive at your personalised page, called "MyFeeds".

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For now, it's empty.

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But once you've decided which news feeds or blogs you'd like to add to your feed, they'll be here for you to look at.

Now you get to decide which news feeds or blogs you'd like to add to your RSS feed. An easy way to get started is to to visit the "Most Popular Feeds" page. It lists 200 of the top newsfeeds and blogs - so you can browse through and see if anything catches your fancy. bloglines_top200.png

If a blog on the list catches your eye, you can preview it, view related blogs, or hit the subscribe button, which will take you to this screen of subscription options:

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The first, drop down menu lets you decide if you'd like to see all your blogs in one place, or if you'd like to create different folders for them. If you'll only be reading a few and don't need them organised into different groups, leave this as "Top Level".

I decided to create two folders, one marked "Work" and one called "Fun". This way I can check up on the news I need to read at work, without being tempted to read my friends personal blogs when I'm on deadline!

You can also choose how you'd like Bloglines to show you entries on your RSS feed. The display option lets you choose to show the whole entry, a partial entry (which will usually just be a paragraph or two) or even just the title of the post. Some people like to see just the partial entry or title so they can decide on a case by case basis if they'd like to open up the particular blog entry and read the whole thing - so that's a personal choice for you.

Once you've finished subscribing to a few (or a hundred!) newsfeeds and blogs, they'll show up on your MyFeeds page.

Now your RSS feeds are set up, so you're just about ready to start reading! All you need to do to get reading is click on the little "+" next to the Folder you want to look inside. This will expand and show you each blog you've placed in that folder, like so:

Blogs with posts you haven't yet viewed will display in bold, with the number of new posts in brackets. As you can see, I've read all the recent updates to blogs in my Fun folder, but I have 134 unread posts in my Work folder. So it's a normal day for me. :)

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So that's everything you need to do to set up a basic newsfeed for yourself at Bloglines. If you decide you've added too many blogs and you're not reading them all, remember it's easy to delete them from the MyFeeds menu. Hit the "Edit" up the top of MyFeeds, single click onto the name of the blog you want to dump, then hit the trash icon which is just above where your list of blogs starts. Easy!

Once you've gotten confident using Bloglines there are a few ways you can customise it to suit how you'd like to read. I'll offer some more suggestions in a later post.

Next week I'll walk you through some other options for RSS reading - including using your web browser and email program to see RSS feeds. Til then, have a good weekend!


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