Newsfeed aggregation-tool alternatives
THIS EDITION of NetSpeak takes a look at the various tools and techniques available for collecting and properly displaying RSS (Rich Site Summary) based newsfeeds being published regularly by web sites and blogs.
As discussed in an earlier column, many frequently updated web sites and blogs regularly make a file containing the summary of their new content details in an XML-based standard format known as RSS (Rich Site Summary) and publish them on their sites. Generally the link to this file or newsfeed is published with a small orange button with a label named "RSS or XML''. The significance of this format is that it enables you to track your favourite site without visiting it every now and then. That is, to get abreast of the latest postings of your favourite sites or blogs, you just need to read the RSS newsfeeds available on these sites using tools/services that can read and comprehend this format.
There are several means to collect and read RSS feeds spread across the Net. One method is to use a news aggregator software (example: AmphetaDesk http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/ discussed in an earlier issue) that automatically downloads and displays on your desktop the contents of the subscribed newsfeeds.
Another mechanism to read the RSS-feeds is to use a web-based service that lets you subscribe to newsfeeds specified by you and regularly cull and display the contents on a web page. Reading all newsfeeds together on a single web page helps the user save a lot of time and effort as he will get to know the latest information appearing on favourite sites by just checking out one web page. Apart from this, as the service is web-based, the feeds can be read from anywhere on the web.
Though the services mentioned above have their own merits, they have some shortcomings as well. Reading RSS feeds through a web-based program is fine and effective if you have enough time and are always on the Web. The desktop-based solution becomes unsuitable if you are a mobile person.
RSS-feed via e-mail
We know that the Net service that is used by the majority of Netizens is e-mail and once the mails are downloaded from the mail server, we can read them off-line. Also, most of the e-mail users check their mailboxes several times a day. That is, a service that can send the subscribed RSS-feed updates to your mailbox regularly will certainly be useful. One such service that can dispatch RSS feeds to email addresses is Bloglet (http://www.bloglet.com). To avail this free service, you need to register with it and submit the URLs of your favourite RSS-links.
RSS channels in Mozilla sidebar
If you are a Mozilla browser user you must be aware of the Mozilla sidebar, the small window that is used to display such details as History, Bookmarks, related sites and so on. To view the sidebar in Mozilla, press the F9 key or access the option `Sidebar' from the Show/Hide menu option available under the `View' button of the main menu. Some web-based services are available that enable you create the Mozilla sidebar panel for RSS feeds of your interest.
For example, try out the `Install a Mozilla Sidebar' service available here: http://www.theonering.net/ staff /corvar/cgi-bin/sidebar-inst.pl
Enter your RSS-feed at the appropriate box and press the `Submit' button. The service checks the validity of the RSS link and presents a preview of the feed, which will give you an idea of the feed's content. If you are satisfied with the feed, press the `Install' button and you will immediately be able to see the feed's name displayed on the Sidebar panel. Now onwards, whenever you want to view the contents of the feed, just click on the feed's link available on the sidebar.
Syndirella: A versatile news feed aggregator
It is likely that you have already experimented with some of the desktop aggregators featured in this column. Here is another feature-rich newsfeed aggregator that can download and disaplay both RSS feeds and Web pages. Unlike the browser-based news aggregator AmphetaDesk that requires you to switch to the web browser to read the feeds, Syndirella has its own interface to display the feeds. By just pressing the `space' bar, one can move from one news item to the next one. Apart from presenting a window to display newsfeeds, the program's interface provides tools that let you add feeds and web links.
Another highlight of this program is that it supports the `Auto RSS Discovery' feature, which allows the user to subscribe to a web site's RSS feed by just typing in its web address instead of the RSS-link address. This feature becomes quite handy, if you want to keep track of a site whose RSS-feed URL is unknown to you. For example, if you want to read the major headlines of the on-line magazine, Wired News (http://www.wired.com), but are not aware of its RSS-link address, just type in the web address of Wired and Syndirella will automatically locate the URL.
This cute, open-source, free program can be downloaded from: http://www.yole.ru/projects/syndirella/ One pre-condition for this program to work is that the `.NET Framework' has to be installed in your machine.
The Microsoft .NET Framework can be downloaded from the link: http://msdn.microsoft.com/ downloads/default.asp?url=/down loads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/829/msdncompositedoc.xml
Another RSS aggregator desktop software worth trying out is Aggie, which also requires Microsoft .NET Framework to be installed in your machine.
For more details on this program, check out: http://bitworking.org/Aggie.html
Avant Browser: An alternative web browser
Apart from the mainstream browsers like IE and Netscape, there are many alternative browsers available on the Net. NetSpeak has already featured some like Opera (http://www.opera.com), Netcaptor (http://www.netcaptor.com) and the great open-source project Mozilla (http://www.mozilla.com). The IE-based web client `Avant Browser' is another free product of this kind worth testing. Being an IE-based product, it has all the features of IE and more. This browser, which loads web pages reasonably fast, has features such as as POP-up window stopper and tabbed browsing, which helps you load multiple web pages inside a single window without opening a new browser window each time.
Another notable feature of this browser is the built-in `Search' box that can be used to invoke a search service directly from any web page. Apart from the usual tools/facilities, there are some innovative mouse-features. For example, by holding the right-mouse button and clicking at the left button, one can move `Backward'. Likewise, clicking a link with the middle mouse button will result in opening the page in a new tabbed window.
For more details, check out: http://www.avantbrowser.com/
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