Managing Your RSS Feeds Within Your E-mail App

Without revisiting the idea of the universal inbox, there are times when you want to create a single point of contact with as much information as possible. A good example of this can occur when you integrate your RSS feeds into your e-mail client.  I spend a lot of time discussing RSS in the text, so I won’t retread that ground.  You may prefer to have your RSS news and other subscriptions in a dedicated RSS reader, for particular features or functionality.  The benefit of bringing your RSS into your e-mail program is that you can use the interface you are probably already comfortable with for e-mail and apply it to RSS.

For example, say you add an RSS feed to your Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client.  If you want to mark items as read, you can hold down your SHIFT key and hit C, which will mark e-mail or RSS items as having been read.  This means you have one fewer program to learn when managing your subscriptions.  Similarly, if your e-mail client has a search function like Thunderbird or Microsoft’s Outlook, you can search across your e-mail and RSS all at once.

RSS in Microsoft Outlook 2010

In Microsoft Outlook 2010,which I’m currently using in beta, you will see an entry for RSS feeds under your Outlook Data File.  Right click on the RSS feeds entry and you can Add a New RSS Feed individually or as a group, using the OPML format (and a file in that format that you will have exported from your RSS reader).

RSS in Mozilla Thunderbird 3

The same works in Mozilla Thunderbird 3, although you have to create the folder to store the RSS.  To do so, to to your Account settings and select Account Actions at the bottom of the window.  You should see choices to add a mail account or an other account.  Select the option to Add Other Account.  You will be prompted to add either newsgroups or blogs and feeds; select the latter.  Give your blogs and feeds folder a name, and it will appear in your left hand panel.  To add a new RSS feed or import (or export) a group of feeds in OPML format, right click on the blogs and feeds folder and select Subscribe.

Here is another opportunity to leverage integration built into your Windows system.  If you use the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser (versions 7 or 8 so far), you can subscribe to RSS feeds from your Web browser.  When you do so, they are stored in what is called the Windows Common Feed List (CFL).  This list of RSS feeds will automatically appear in Microsoft Outlook if you have selected to have Outlook access the CFL.  This might be an advantage for you, if you are used to subscribing to RSS in your Web browser and don’t want to have to re-subscribe from within Outlook.  You can turn on Outlook access to the Common Feed list by clicking on File, selecting Options, and then selecting Advanced.  Click on the box next to the CFL option.

Secure RSS Feeds:  How to Authenticate

This is especially important if you subscribe to authenticated RSS feeds that require a username and a password to access.  A good example of this would be your RSS feed from your Twitter account, if you have one.  It is not available to just anyone.  In Thunderbird, you will be prompted for the Twitter username and password before you can access the RSS feed.  Microsoft Outlook will not prompt you, and will return an error message suggesting that it can’t find the RSS feed.  It can’t, because it cannot pass authentication credentials.  But Internet Explorer will allow you to pass credentials to the RSS feed security, so subscribe to the RSS feed from your Web browser and it will be saved into the Common Feed List.  When you open up Outlook – and have CFL support turned on – it will synchronize the feeds to which you subscribed in Internet Explorer, and present them to you from within Outlook.

As many stand-alone RSS software applications seem to be disappearing in favor of Web-based RSS readers, and some of their functionality is disappearing as well, your e-mail app may become a powerful alternative.

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