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.