How to use an RSS Reader

Dennis Faas's picture

"Extra, Extra, Read all about it!"

The corner Newsy has long since gone, replaced by the Newsstand with its wide variety of publications and sensational headlines hoping to attract the attention of a passerby. Times have changed, and with them, so have ways of communicating.

To keep up with the events and happenings in the world of today, we often visit our favorite 'newsstands' via the web. If we visit one or two news sites on a regular basis, it's not difficult to keep track of events. A capable browser and set of bookmarks take care of that problem; but when there are a dozen or more sites to visit, it can become a daunting task.

Introducing RSS: A News Technology designed to make life Easy

Depending on who you ask, RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication' or 'RDF Site Summary'. RSS is a tool used to display headlines -- much like the newsstand -- so that you can stay informed and up-to-date with your favorite news sites.

Originated by UserLand in 1997, RSS has evolved into a popular means of sharing content between web sites. RSS solves myriad problems webmasters commonly face, such as finding ways to efficiently increase traffic and distribute news and information. In short: RSS leverages the web's most valuable asset (content) and makes displaying high-quality relevant news as easy as 1-2-3.

Collecting and Reading RSS News Feeds with an RSS News Client

Most RSS news readers (also known as "clients" or "aggregators") use a consistent method of presenting new content. The process of subscribing to and reading from a news feed boils down to a few simple steps:

  1. Locate the RSS News link on your favorite web site. Most RSS links are denoted by the RSS graphic symbol, or one that reads "XML".
  2. Right-click over the image link, and select "Copy Shortcut". This will copy the RSS link to your clipboard.

    Side note: Make sure you select "Copy Shortcut" and not "Copy" -- or nothing will appear when you "paste" into your RSS Reader (Step #4).
  3. Launch your News Reader.
  4. Paste the link into the Reader.
  5. Scan for news headlines (usually automated); when content is available, you will be notified.
  6. Click a link to read the news.

Choosing a suitable RSS Reader

With so many freeware RSS Readers available today, choosing which aggregator to use is a matter of personal preference.

That being said, most (but not all) Windows-based freeware RSS Readers require a compulsory software "plugin" from Microsoft, dubbed the ".NET Framework". In a nutshell, .NET defines a basic set of instructions utilized by countless Internet-based applications (including RSS Readers). For this reason, you are encouraged to download .NET Framework, even though it is significant in size.

I have spent the past few weeks looking over and testing a number of RSS clients. Here are a few of my favorite picks, based on ease-of-use and functionality:

  • RSSReader [Dennis' Favorite Pick]: RSSReader is by far one of the most popular freeware news aggregators available on the 'net today -- and for good reason. RSSReader is simplistic, very intuitive, and most importantly: it gets the job done! RSSReader works in the background and scans news feeds for new content. When news is available, a tiny alert notification in the system tray will appear. From there you can click a headline to read the content within RSSReader, or view it in a new browser window. If you're an RSS dummy, it is highly recommended you try this news reader, first! RSSReader is compatible with Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP and requires .NET Framework (free from Microsoft).
  • OmeaReader [Doug's Favorite Pick]: OmeaReader has a very nice GUI (graphical user interface) and is very flexible. A few key features include: reads RSS feeds, Atom feeds, newsgroups and bookmarked web pages; desktop search functionality; subscribe to feeds directly from your browser (without any 'cutting and pasting' RSS links); download podcasts directly through Omea; plus many helpful extras. OmeaReader is for more advanced users and is compatible with: Windows 2000/XP/2003 and requires .NET Framework (free from Microsoft).
  • FeedDemon [Very Popular]: FeedDemon is one of the best all-around RSS readers available with a ton of features and has a beautiful interface. Some features include: Pre-configured with dozens of popular feeds; easy-to-read newspaper displays the latest news from dozens of sites; built-in podcast receiver downloads audio to your iPod or other media player; watches alert you to items of interest so you don't have to look for them; news bins store your favorite items for future reference; search channels which integrate with Feedster,, Flickr and other popular RSS services; and a built-in tabbed browser. FeedDemon is compatible with Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003, and does not require .NET Framework. You can click to read an in-depth review of FeedDemon through our site.

    FeedDemon Review
  • FeedReader [Popular / Somewhat buggy]: FeedReader is a free, lightweight news aggregator and works with all versions of Windows. FeedReader's functionality is focused on the main task: reading and organizing RSS feeds and offering a seamless user experience. And best of all: FeedReader is only 1.5MB to download! FeedReader is compatible with Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP and does not require .NET framework.

    Caveat: One problem I had while testing FeedReader -- and for the same reason it wasn't mentioned at the top of this list -- is the fact that I could not get feeds to open in a new browser window (even though it was selected in the preferences). Nonetheless, it is possible to bypass this problem by right-clicking on the link to have it open in a new browser Window. Another problem I encountered was the fact that FeedReader seems to steal mouse focus anytime new content was available [a serious issue considering there are over 20 feeds pre-packaged with the program -- all of which can be deleted]. Overall, however, FeedReader is a worthy program!


RSS makes life simple by enabling us to stay informed and up-to-date with our favorite news sites. RSS is easy to use and helps to keep information organized in a simple and straightforward manner. In short: RSS is here to stay; in fact, RSS has already been heavily implemented into the next version of MS Windows (Source:

So if you haven't gotten the picture yet: RSS is a good thing. And to make sure you aren't missing out on additional news and information from our ever-growing list of contributors, we strongly suggest you subscribe to the Infopackets RSS news feeds without delay!

Free Downloadable RSSReader Video Tutorial (How-To)

To make sure you're not completely lost in the dark, Dennis has put together a video tutorial which explains how to download, install, and use RSSReader with infopackets news feeds (link below). Now you don't have an excuse to get started right away!

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