RSS is maturing as a fast and easy way to get information from dozens and dozens of web pages brought right to your screen. It’s so easy you don’t even have to do anything.
First, RSS is a simple technology that allows headlines and summaries from web sites to be brought right to your Mac. RSS stands for (depending on who you talk to) “Really Simple Syndication.” Or, “Rich Site Summary.” Or, “RDF Site Summary.”
Regardless, Mac developers have made RSS ridiculously simple and easy to use and now I can’t imagine browsing without it.
Second, I’ve been a big supporter of NetNewsWire from early days. It’s an RSS news reader on steroids. Now I’m using something that’s even easier, more Mac like, even more elegant, and the perfect way for an RSS “newbie” to get started using RSS.
This is one of the sweetest RSS readers I’ve yet to see on the Mac. Simple, elegant, intuitive, and it gets the job done. Without much effort on your part, NewsFire can be set up to literally bring you the news headlines and summaries from hundreds of web sites on the Internet.
If Apple were to design a stand-alone RSS newsreader, NewsFire would be it. I can’t imagine a simpler, more elegant, thoughtful, and complete way to get web information.
The only trick is, the web site you want information from needs to have an RSS feed. Fortunately, most news and information web sites “get it” these days and finding that RSS feed couldn’t be easier with NewsFire.
Downloading NewsFire is simple. Go to the NewsFireRSS web site and click the download button. The latest version is 0.24.
Once you’ve downloaded NewsFire and opened it on the desktop, drag it to your Applications folder. Then double-click to start it up.
What you get is a simple application in the middle of your screen. In the left side column is a list of web sites with RSS feeds. Don’t worry if those don’t interest you. They’re easily changed.
To the right side is the larger window which will display the web site’s headline and summary.
Click on a selection in the left column. The headline will show up in the right side window. Click on the headline and you get a summary and a link to the full web page. Click on the headline again and the web page will open up in Safari (or whatever happens to be your default browser).
Now, imagine for a moment that the left hand column lists 50 of the web sites you visit most often. How many “clicks” would it take you to get through the list? The answer is too many. In Safari, you could open perhaps a dozen in tabs and click between the tabs. Even organizing that gets messy.
You could just leave the bookmarks in Safari’s bookmarks menu and select each one, one at a time. Then you have to wait for the page to load for each of the 50. Then you scan through the page, each one, to see what’s new and what’s not. You just have to remember which is which.
You see, there’s gotta be a better way and that’s what RSS brings you.
Back to the left column. Imagine your 50 web site bookmarks in the column. And the most recent headlines and summaries for articles on those web sites have ALREADY been downloaded for you.
For example, if you clicked on, say, MacMinute (a favorite news site; updated many times during the day), the right hand window would show the most recent headlines from MacMinute. Click on the right hand window headline, and that instantly changes to both a headline and a summary.
Then, a little set of arrows shows up in the upper right corner of NewsFire. That lets you navigate quickly from headline to headline. Click the “green” button and the whole article opens up in Safari.
This little method lets you scan through dozens or hundreds of web sites in 10% of the time you’d spend by clicking through bookmarks in your browser.
Getting those bookmarks into NewsFire must be a pain, right?
Au contrair, mi amigo. It’s easier than finding Windows users in a cubicle farm at 10:00 AM on Monday.
The Mac is drag and drop and so is NewsFire. For example, open up a browser window in Safari to this web site’s home page. It has a number of RSS links embedded in the home page.
You can do this a bunch of ways.
1 – Find the “RSS” link in the lower left corner, drag it to the left column in NewsFire. That’s it.
2 – Drag the URL from Safari’s address window (at the top of Safari) into the left column in NewsFire. That’s it.
3 – Click NewsFire’s “Feeds” menu, and select “Discover Feeds for Current Site in Safari…” That’s it.
Now, #3 requires that the page you want to “bookmark” in NewsFire be opened already in Safari. How hard is that?
It took me about 15 minutes to create a few dozen RSS “bookmarks” in NewsFire. Then I set Preferenes to check for new updates every hour. NewsFire will notify you with both sound and a number in the Dock whenever a site gets updated.
Is that slick, or what?
Give it a try. Many other Mac web sites have RSS links. MacMinute, MacCentral, MacUpdate, VersionTracker. The same goes for many news and information sites, too. Find the link, drag it into NewsFire, set the preferences, and you’re good to go.
It makes life much easier and faster to view dozens of web sites this way instead of relying on the Bookmarks menu and clicking through them one at a time.