Of all the modern technologies that allow me to tolerate the pain of perusing the internet for information, it’s RSS.
It’s a simple technology that’s in use almost everywhere on the internet, except not by most Mac users. Think of RSS as a simple, built-in Mac service which brings updated web site news and information to you. Wonderful, right? What has happened to RSS?
Really Simple Stuff
RSS started life back in the last century as RDF Site Summary, then became Really Simple Syndication, and now it’s just RSS. To read an RSS document or fee, you need an RSS reader.
Fortunately, your Mac has an RSS reader built-in to Safari. And, there are a dozen or so standalone RSS readers with even more features.
I’m serious. Safari has a way for you to collect, manage, and view dozens or hundreds of RSS feeds.
You won’t need to bookmark a gazillion web sites, or click through bookmark after bookmark trying to find the latest headlines. With RSS, all that information comes to your browser and usually within minutes after publication.
So, what’s wrong with RSS, and why don’t more Mac (and Windows PC) users use RSS?
Basically, RSS is a bit complicated to set up for the average user. You have to look for the RSS link in the URL bar. It’s not exactly jumping out to grab your eyes.
Click on the RSS button and the Safari page expands to display all the recent headlines and summary text for a specific site. Most will look like this:
Repeat that process on your favorite web sites, and you build a collection of RSS feeds in Safari. After that, all you do is read the feeds. Safari takes care of the downloads for you.
RSS Reader Apps Gone Bad
Standalone RSS reader apps range from free to not very expensive. They work much like Safari, but add useful features, including sync with Google Reader (Google’s online RSS app), tabs, drag and drop, thumbnails, and full web pages.
What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the state of Mac RSS readers leaves many new users in the cold.
One of the most popular Mac RSS readers was NetNewsWire, which, due to a variety of owners, hasn’t had much to say in recent years, except yet another new owner. NNW was one of the best of the best.
Another good one is Reeder for Mac, perhaps the most attractive and easy to use RSS reader. Alas, it’s got a price tag and it’s Mac App Store only, so there’s no try-before-you-buy option.
The same goes for NewsRack for Mac. I use this one on both Mac and iPhone. It syncs with Google Reader, comes with tabs and drag and drop and thumbnails. All the basic bells and whistles you need. It’s less expensive than Reeder but also Mac App Store only with no try-before-you-buy option.
Free Is Good
That leaves free which means Vienna, a venerable, feature-laden RSS reader that’s been around a few years. Don’t let the boring web site (especially when compared to the eye candy from Reeder or NewsRack) slow you down. Vienna works.
It’s got built-in tabbed browsing, search, auto detection of RSS feeds on web pages, multiple reading layouts, both Atom and RSS feeds are supported, as are podcasts. You control the folders to organize your feeds.
Vienna isn’t as pretty as the other RSS readers. There’s no Google Reader sync or iPhone version, either. But it’s feature rich and free, so it’s not a matter of try before you buy. Try it and keep it.
If you click your way to a few dozen web sites each day, please try an RSS reader instead. It’s much faster to scan through headlines and summaries without clicking to each site. RSS feed downloads are handled automatically by the reader. And the price starts at free.