We were recently asked to provide a high level guide on using WordPress RSS feeds from a user point of view (what they are, what you need and how to use them etc.) so we thought we’d tidy it up and share for everyone…
What is RSS?
RSS (most commonly referred to as “Really Simple Syndication”) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as WordPress posts in a standardized format.
RSS and web feeds are typically indicated on websites by orange, rectangular buttons such as the image to the left which link to a websites’ feed.
That’s nice…. but how do I use it?
You may have noticed that when you try to click on one of the orange, rectangular buttons (or a text link indicating a feed), you sometimes just get a scary looking page of code. That’s because RSS is written in XML (Extensible Markup Language), similar to html.
That’s all fine and good, but why can’t I read the feed? Well, that’s because you need a Feed Reader to make it work.
A Feed Reader (sometimes referred to as an aggregator) is an application that works like an automated e-mail program, constantly (or at set intervals) checking for updated content. Feed readers also format the scary looking code into something more readable.
When the reader notices that one of your feeds has been updated they typically notify you there is something new to read or view.
Feed Reader Choices
Feed Readers may be online (like a webmail account) or offline/desktop based (like an application installed on your personal computer)
Offline or Desktop Based Feed Readers
Offline or desktop based feed readers download web feeds to your computer system.
There are many offline feed readers available, including (but not limited to):
There are also a number of email applications and web browsers that handle web feeds that you may already use or have installed, including (but not limited to):
- Outlook 2007;
- Internet Explorer 7.0 / 8.0;
- Mozilla Firefox;
- Mozilla Thunderbird;
- Opera; and
Each of the above applications handles web feeds slightly differently so it is best to check the documentation provided with the software in order to make best use of its Feed Reader capabilities.
Online Feed Readers
Online Feed Readers are slightly different their desktop based cousins in that they are only accessible online using a web browser (like using Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or Gmail to send/receive your emails).
There are many online feed readers available, including (but not limited to):
What you’ll need to be able to use RSS
Once you have picked an RSS reader (be it online or offline) the only piece of information most Feed Readers will need is the link to the RSS feed you wish to subscribe to.
By default WordPress sites offer a number of feeds you may wish to subscribe to:
- Latest Entries or Posts – http://your.com/?feed=rss (or http://your.com/feed/ if using permalinks)
- Latest Comments – http://your.com/?feed=comments-rss2 (of http://your.com/comments/feed/ if using permalinks)
Simply follow the instructions for adding a feed to your chosen Feed Reader and when it asks for the feed address insert the address.
For example if I wanted to subscribe to the Finding Simple latest entries I would use “http://findingsimple.com/feed/” as the feed address.