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5 Unlikely but Great Ways of Reading Feeds

If you like to catch up on your favorite sites using a feed reader, you are most likely using Google Reader or Bloglines. If you prefer an offline (installable app-based) feed reader, you may be using Newsgator’s FeedDemon or some other standalone app. However, in this article I will introduce you to 5 ways of reading your favorite feeds that you may not have thought about!

rss2email, which is an open source project that uses Python …

Use Your Email Client

This is actually a fairly popular alternative to reading feeds in a standalone app or online. FeedBlitzLogoA lot of email clients now support RSS feeds directly, such as Microsoft Office Outlook, Thunderbird and Mac OS X Mail. But even if you use an old-school email client like Eudora, you can still get your RSS feeds delivered by email. The easiest way to do this, of course, is a feed-to-email service such as FeedBurner, Feedblitz, Feed Mailer, or RSSfwd.

But you can roll your own RSS to email as well. One of my close friends uses rss2email, which is an open source project that uses Python to parse and repackage RSS streams as emails. Then, you can use pretty much any email client (even web mail clients!) to read your feeds.

attensaLastly, there are plug-in RSS feed handlers for big email clients such as Outlook that handle single feeds or full corporate feed systems. One such company is Attensa, which actually produces a whole vertical line of RSS feed products, from a corporate server on down to a free client app.

Use Your TV

Some people are all about bringing their PC use to the living room. They have their media server set up, and they do everything from web surfing, DVR use, and video games to watching podcasts. Of course, something that rolls right in to this is feed viewing.

A popular option here is an extension of Windows Media Center creatively named MCE RSS Reader. They have a version for Windows Vista Ultimate as well. Both these products install nicely with Media Center and run a small external app to gather your RSS feeds and display them on-screen. They also work great with podcast RSS feeds, giving you a full-screen view of whatever podcast video feed you want to add.

The roll-your-own solution MythTV has a plugin for feed viewing which looks very nice as well. Both these products are geared to your TV resolution — so the fonts are extra-big and navigation is accomplished easily with a remote control.

Use Twitter

Twitter is blowing up right now, especially with the Gen Y set. There are a lot of startups and application developers taking advantage of this new medium to build extra functionality. Obviously, with Twitter’s 140-character limit you won’t be getting full feeds. However, it is perfect for getting new post headlines.

One service that lets you push feed headlines out in Twitter is Twitterfeed. Create a new twitter user, connect Twitterfeed to that user and voila, instant feed headlines. Get creative and use Yahoo! Pipes to pull several feeds together, and then push that to a twitterfeed account and you have yourself a twitter-based headline clipping service.

Listen to your Feeds

TI_SpeakSpell_no_shadow Text-to-speech translation has come a long way since the original speech synthesizers of the 1970′s. If you spend a lot of time in a car, train or plane, and you love your iPod, why not listen to your RSS feeds? Everybody knows about podcasts, but there are a few services out there that will actually translate an RSS feed from straight text to a very pleasant voice, in MP3 or other convenient format.

powered_odiogo_smallI have just added odiogo support to this blog while researching the links to be used in this article. It plugs in to WordPress really nicely and allows each article to be converted to speech from within the browser, or through a RSS subscription (mine can be found here).

And, for just a taste of what I found on the first page of a Google search, you can have fun with the Apexoft RSS to Speech Widget (iGoogle or Standalone), Blogbard, and Speakwire (thought I couldn’t get the service to work for me).

Watch a Ticker Tape or Screen Saver

This may be the least-useful ways of viewing feeds of the bunch, but often they are also the prettiest.

First, let’s look at Snackr. This is a brand-new Adobe AIR application that gives you a slick ticker tape that can be docked to any side of your screen and slowly scrolls posts from your RSS feeds. You can either add feeds manually or import an OPML (or compatible XML) file from your favorite feed reader. That’s it! It will list random posts at a user-configurable speed which you can click on to get a snippet, or open the post in a browser.

There have been several efforts at making fun screen savers that use your RSS feeds as content. Probably the best-known and most successful of these attempts is the one that comes built-in to Mac OS X 10.4 and newer. Not much to look at in a screenshot, but you get an idea of it if you watch a video.

There are similar screensavers for Windows, with rsssaver being the imitating the Mac version most directly. However, you can get nice savers from nuparadigm, RSSmore, even from some MSDN developers.

If anyone has a favorite that they have vetted out, please link it up here in the comments! I’m always looking for a decent, non-crashy new screensaver to try.

Wrap Up

There are a lot of options out there for you. Obviously, these alternative paths aren’t going to be for everyone. In fact, they probably won’t be for a majority.

But, if you have a Mac at work that you want to show your blog articles off on while you are at lunch, there’s a screen saver for you. Or, if you spend an hour on a train every day, pick up an audio podcast of your favorite feed and off you go.

If you know of any novel RSS feed apps out there (or entire categories) that I failed to cover, please hook them up in the comments below. Thanks!


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  • http://macrolinz.com BlueCockatoo

    One service I use is http://SimplyHeadlines.com. It creates a daily email with the most recent posts from the feeds you select and mails it to you at the time of day you pick. Of course it won't be great if you read hundreds of feeds a day but if you have 10 or so “core” ones you always want to see it's nice. Funny as I was just telling someone else about this tool today!

  • http://shegeeks.net Corvida

    Great post Phil! Now, I so wish I could use my TV!

  • http://www.svartling.net/ svartling

    Great article. I use my mobile phone with Google Reader mobile. Works like a charm :)

  • http://www.scribkin.com J. Phil

    Hey, that looks like a really nice product! And they format the feeds into a “newspaper-style” output, that's pretty cool, definitely a cut above the rest. Thanks!

  • http://www.scribkin.com J. Phil

    I'm still waiting for my TiVo to get on the RSS bandwagon! It currently supports downloading select podcasts, but no support for text feeds yet. Grr.

  • http://www.scribkin.com J. Phil

    Thanks! I've tried using google reader mobile but I am too addicted to using J and K in the full Google Reader site.

    Did you know this site has a mobile page plugin? Just visit it with your cell phone and it should autodetect, unless you have an iPod. I might write some PHP to have those folks automatically redirect to my mofuse page.

    Man, I really should write an article about how many plugins I am using here. It's a LOT.

  • http://www.scribkin.com Phil Glockner

    Hey, that looks like a really nice product! And they format the feeds into a “newspaper-style” output, that's pretty cool, definitely a cut above the rest. Thanks!

  • http://www.scribkin.com Phil Glockner

    I'm still waiting for my TiVo to get on the RSS bandwagon! It currently supports downloading select podcasts, but no support for text feeds yet. Grr.

  • http://www.scribkin.com Phil Glockner

    Thanks! I've tried using google reader mobile but I am too addicted to using J and K in the full Google Reader site.

    Did you know this site has a mobile page plugin? Just visit it with your cell phone and it should autodetect, unless you have an iPod. I might write some PHP to have those folks automatically redirect to my mofuse page.

    Man, I really should write an article about how many plugins I am using here. It's a LOT.

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