56. Information in a
Using RSS newsfeeds
By Andrew D. Wright
The Internet's greatest strength, and also its greatest weakness, is that
there is just so much of it. Finding the information or news you want and
then keeping track of new developments or updates takes too long.
Suppose you could keep up with news and updates from a dozen different web
sites in less than a minute without having to visit each one? With RSS
news feeds, that is exactly what you can do.
RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way for a website to tell you what
is new, when it was new, how to get to more information and sometimes a
brief description. For instance, a news site like CBC will have an RSS
news feed with the latest headlines. This is handy, but it gets better.
These feeds are also divided by province, subject and sub-heading so you
can select just the news you want. These days most news websites and blogs
have RSS feeds.
RSS news feeds are written in XML, Extensible Markup Language. These files
usually have the extension .xml or .rss. To make proper use of them,
you'll need a program which can read the XML and present you with the
information. I'm going to show you two ways you can access RSS news feeds
using Open Source (free) software.
If you use Mozilla Firefox as your web browser, then you may have already
noticed that when you are looking at some websites an orange icon appears
in the lower right of the Firefox window. This icon looks like a little
dot with sound waves coming from it and if you put your mouse on it, a
popup window says: "Add Live Bookmark for this page's feed". Clicking on
it will show you the name of the RSS feed with the option to subscribe to
If you do, this Live Bookmark is added to your bookmarks and will show you
the current headlines from the RSS news feed. Clicking on a headline will
take you to a webpage with more information. They're called Live Bookmarks
because they are automatically updated every time you start Firefox. While
easy to set up, Live Bookmarks only show you the headlines from the RSS
RSSOwl is a free Open Source RSS feed reader that runs on Java so it works
with Windows, Macintosh and Linux. It comes with a tutorial and already
subscribed to a variety of news feeds. You can add or remove feeds easily.
To view a new RSS feed not already in your Favorites, simply type in (or
copy and paste) the address of the feed into the Address bar of RSSOwl and
To subscribe to a feed, simply drag and drop the icon for the feed into
your RSSOwl Favorites. RSSOwl shows the entire feed - country of origin,
description, etc. and can be set to open a number of feeds automatically
when the program starts. You can check the top stories from a dozen
different sources in under a minute.
Some RSS news feeds:
Chebucto Community Net:
Government of Canada RSS Feeds: news.gc.ca/cfmx/CCP/view/en/index.cfm?categoryid=12&category=Choose%20Your%20News
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email email@example.com. If we use your question in
a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 20 March 2005