Abstract Electronics by penywise at Morguefile.com

Convert Excel to RSS

I am a long time fan of macros, first in WordPerfect and then in the Microsoft suite. But I don’t use them as often as I should, nor do I know as much as I should about them. So when I began to look for a way to create RSS-compliant XML files using Microsoft Excel, I figured there had to be some fancy footwork involved. There was – thanks to AutomateExcel.com – but once you get under the hood, it’s a pretty straightforward macro you can hack to your own needs.

Note that this posting at AutomateExcel is from 2004.  It’s obviously not news to people who know!  I have been coming at RSS from the automatic syndication side – blogs, wikis, etc. – for so long that generating it new ways wasn’t on my horizon.  But a project came up where I had (a) data that was tabular, (b) that met the typical RSS content buckets, and (c) was time-sensitive.

If you use the AutomateExcel spreadsheet, you’ll get the primary buckets.  But there are other ones that can be useful if you’re going to manipulate your RSS later.  I found this Harvard Law Review site as one of many examples on Google that set out the elements you can use for RSS 2.0 feeds.

I ended up adding a few columns to the original spreadsheet, simplifying the output file process, and tweaking the macro.  For example, I added a date field (that gets merged into a <pubDate></pubDate> element) and a category field (that becomes the content in the <category></category> element) so that I can time-eliminate and category filter items in the RSS file.

Why go to the trouble?  This particular data wasn’t something that worked well by reproducing it in a blog or other RSS-generating environment.  Since it was already being placed into a spreadsheet, I’d be duplicating data entry to put it somewhere else.  And the spreadsheet gives me the flexibility to hide columns if I want to collect more information than goes in my RSS, or if I want to output the file for print formatting.

As I indicated, this isn’t rocket science – so long as you know how!  I didn’t, but once I had a starting point, customizing it was a piece of cake and it will hopefully remind me of the simple power of macros the next time I’m in this situation.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.