The Best RSS Readers

Staying current with your favorite RSS feed requires a top RSS reader. Here are the best choices among desktop, Web-based, and plug-in options.
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Need to stay on top of the latest news and information but don’t want to continually visit web sites or sort through announcements in e-mail in-boxes? Of course there is a better way and it’s known as an RSS feed. Depending on who you talk to, “RSS” stands for “Rich Site Summary,” or “Really Simple Syndication."

These days, most major news and information outlets provide updates via RSS feeds. To tap into them, you’ll need an RSS reader – software that collects the latest data from your designated sources. To determine if an outlet offers an RSS feed, just look for the orange RSS icon.

When using an RSS reader, you can peruse daily headlines and click on those that you want to read. Instead of looking for information, the information effectively comes to you. And plus, many outlets offer options for receiving general feeds that cover a broad area, or only those that fall within specific topics.

While many uses rely on RSS readers to obtain specific news, say on sports, politics, hobbies or blogs, RSS can also help you stay on top of developments in your industry and stay current with the latest hardware and software information and driver and patch updates.

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Control and Choices
With an RSS reader, you designate the types of articles and information that you want to receive. And if you’re unhappy with a particular feed, you can quickly remove it. (Try doing that with unwanted e-mail – and good luck!)

Configuring most RSS readers is easy. Once you find the RSS icon on a provider’s site, you can click or right-click on it, and, depending on your reader, paste-in a special code or direct the reader to it. Many RSS programs can organize feeds into folders as well as sort by keywords and dates, much as one can do with e-mail in Outlook.

On the other side of the coin, your firm can rely on RSS to make content available to others in your industry or those in your customer base. With an RSS feed, you won’t have to hope that readers visit your site and discover your announcements. And overall, RSS is probably more efficient than an e-mail newsletter.

RSS readers come in three basic types: desktop applications, web-based readers/aggregators and plug-ins.

On the Desk
A desktop reader is an application that you download, install on your computer and run. It works much like an e-mail client that runs in the background and looks for incoming e-mail.

Among desktop readers, the Windows-based FeedDemon is quite popular. The program lets you customize the manner in which feeds are organized and displayed and suggests feeds based on keywords. The program also offers integration with YouTube, Digg and Windows LiveWriter. You can download a 30-day free trial version to check it out. The full version costs $29.95.

Another powerful desktop application is News Crawler, which serves news in intuitive ticker and balloon formats, searches by keywords and organizes channels in a customizable tree structure. This application is available for $24.95.

And before you spend any money, there are free RSS readers. Omea Reader offers solid organization and search capabilities and lets you work with clippings and excerpts from larger documents that can be filed, searched and linked. Other well known free readers include RSS Bandit and Awasu Personal Edition.

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