State Cartographer's Office Web Feeds
By Jim Lacy   

In simple terms, a Web “feed” is a convenient way to automatically stay current with your favorite Web sites. Sites that support a web feed standard, such as Really Simple Syndication (RSS), literally feed you information based on your preferences.

So what? Let’s say you routinely visit a half-dozen sites to keep up on current events. You can certainly bookmark and visit all these sites one-by-one, but Web feeds offer the following advantages:

  • Feed readers collect, or “aggregate,” information from many sites into one common view with consistent formatting.
  • Most feed reader software keeps track of content you’ve already visited, similar in concept to how your mail reader marks messages as read.
  • Web feeds typically contain only headlines and a brief synopsis of the new content. This simplified view makes it easier to browse information more quickly.

What do you need?

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RSS icon in Mozilla Firefox

For starters, you need a piece of software that can grab Web feeds. All readers essentially operate the same way, so what’s “best” depends on how you like to work.

Many people opt for free online services like Feedly. Using these services, you log on to a central site to manage and view your subscriptions. This is a good option if you travel a lot, or don’t want to manage feeds across multiple computers. 

The real trick with Web feeds is you may not always know whether a given page has an associated Web feed.  Recent versions of Firefox, for example, require you to manually add a Feed subscribe button to your navigation bar.  (Right click on the nav bar, choose customize, then drag the “Subscribe” button up to the bar.)  Once added, the icon changes shades to let you know the page supports a Web feed.  

Similarly, users of the latest versions of Internet Explorer can add RSS feeds to your favorites center and/or favorites bar simply by clicking on the RSS icon on the IE command bar. 

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RSS icon in Internet Explorer

Give web feeds a try! If you have any problems, please feel free to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .





Last Updated on December 30, 2014