In Part 1, I provide an overview of RSS as well as how to use Internet Explorer (or any other browser) to subscribe to RSS feeds from websites you choose. The weakness of browsers as RSS tools is you can’t aggregate content, i.e., combine feeds from multiple sources into one stream. Thus, the need for an RSS reader program/app or service.
The advantage of a Web-based RSS service is that you already know how to use the Web and your browser. Many of these services look and work like Google Reader. I see Feedly and Netvibes favored by many. In my quick search, I like the look of Commafeed. (It’s too soon to endorse any.) Disadvantages of services include interface issues, advertising, fees for services, limits on number of feeds, and more. Not to mention that a robust service may disappear abruptly (as in Google Reader).
RSS reader programs
As you get into RSS, as do 1 in 100 people (or 100 in 100 nerds), you need a reader, which is a program that fetches and displays feeds from multiple sites at once, allowing you to organize those feeds into groups. In fact, the right reader will inspire you to use RSS more. For millions of nerds, Google Reader has been the best for many years. However, GR is going away — never, ever, ever trust Google again, or any “free” service. (Everyone wants to monetize Web content, even me — please deposit $1 to continue reading. Waiting. Waiting.)
What tool will replace Google Reader? There are lots of opinions out there and even more distress as no equal emerges — and I think none ever will. I don’t think this is the death of RSS, but services may balkanize further.
I’m still looking for my GR alternative and I’ll be posting more about that search. Spoiler: I’ve been using a Windows 8 app for months to read my subscriptions: NextGen Reader. It’s excellent. However, it is the front-end, the reader, and it does not provide the back-end, the subscriber. NextGen is going to work with Feedly, which is emerging as a front-runner to replace GR. I’m still looking.
Export / Save from Google Reader
Some services or programs allow you to connect to Google Reader for the purpose of importing your selections with minimal effort. Regardless, everyone who uses Google Reader should export their subscriptions as a file for future use with reader services not yet imagined. In fact, users of any Google function — all of us, right? — should backup/save/export everything from Google for safekeeping. Google thoughtfully provides the means to do this: www.google.com/takeout . The full extent of Takeout is beyond this piece. However, follow these steps to save your Reader data:
Updated 06-12-13: I just learned that there is a much simpler method that obviates the following steps. Simply browse www.google.com/reader/subscriptions/export and you will be prompted to save subscriptions.xml. That’s easy. (Hat tip to www.commafeed.com.) However, you may need the following for other Google data. Moreover, a Mac user reports this didn’t work on her Mac; she would have to follow the steps below.
1. Browse www.google.com/takeout. Sign-in, if necessary.
2. Select Choose services (unless you want all of your data from all over Google).
3. Select Reader.
4. After a brief wait, you’ll see information on how many files are involved and their total size. Choose Create Archive.
5. The archive is created as a zip file. On the next screen, select Download. (You may be prompted to sign-in again as a security measure.)
6. When prompted, select Save. The file will be stored in the default downloads folder. In the strictest sense, you’re done — you have your backup. But, let’s have a look.
7. Open the zip file (from the prompt or from the Downloads folder). Open the second zip nested in the first, like Russian dolls, because Takeout can be used for multiple services, producing multiple zips containing multiple files. In fact, I found a third level — just keep opening until you see files.
For most of us, most of those files aren’t of value. The important file is subscriptions.xml, which contains all of the URLs for your RSS subscriptions. That file can be read by other RSS services and programs to spare you from recreating your subscription. You’ll need subscriptions.xml to switch to any service that doesn’t provide an easier method (and some do, at least until GR is shut down).
8. For easier access, especially with IE, move subscriptions.xml out of this deep folder, perhaps up into Downloads or somewhere you’ll remember. Use cut and paste, drag and drop, or extract al files. Just note where it ends up.
Import RSS feeds into Internet Explorer
Keep in mind that starting over from scratch can be liberating. I have many subscriptions that are no longer active and a few I no longer care about. Why carry those forward to the next reader? The fewer subscriptions you have, the more sense it makes to skip export and just start using something new.
We already know that a browser is a simple though less-than-ideal RSS reader. You can import your Google Reader subscriptions.xml file from the previous steps into your browser. To do so in Internet Explorer, follow these steps.
1. Start Internet Explorer on the desktop. (The Windows 8 version doesn’t support these steps.)
2. Select the Favorites star (between the Home icon and the Settings gear).
3. Select the triangle to the right of Add to favorites for a menu. Select Import and Export.
4. Select Import from a file, then Next.
5. For these purposes, select Feeds. (You can use the Favorites (Bookmarks) and Cookies options when importing browser settings.) Select Next.
6. Browse for subscriptions.xml. Recall that the file may be many levels down from Downloads. Select the file, then select Next.
7. Under Select a destination folder for your feed, select Feed, then Import.
8.This could take a while, if you have a lot of RSS subscriptions. You’ll be informed of success or failure. In either case, choose Finish.
9. To see what you have wrought: in IE, select the Favorites star, then the Feeds tab. You should see your subscriptions with indications of which have new posts. Select a feed or a folder for more feeds. Enjoy.
In Part 3, I’ll import this information into a RSS reader.