Safari's RSS Puzzle

by Scot Hacker

OK, geek boys and girls, pop quiz: How do you use Safari's built-in RSS reader as a feed aggregator? Go ahead, take a minute to figure it out. Take 5. Whatever you need. I've got time.


2007-09-08 00:21:45
I agree that the situation is ridiculous, but to be perfectly accurate, you can also use the bookmarks menu to "View all RSS articles" and your Bookmarks Bar folder also has the "Autoclick" option under Show All Bookmarks which makes it a one-click operation.
2007-09-08 00:23:32
When I heard about RSS in Leopard Mail, I was totally befuddled, and I sure hope there's a way to turn it off. Seems to me that feed aggregation is something totally conceptually different from e-mail reading. e-mails are generally targeted towards specific readers, i.e. the recipients, whereas RSS feeds get their content from web sites, which tend to be out there for whoever wants to read them.

I'm sure there are some people who value feeds in their mail client, since several aggregation services offer the option, as does Thunderbird. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense as a use of a communications app. And it's especially weird for Apple to do it, since they've kept all the PIM stuff, even the address book, out of OS X's Mail the whole time.

Just because the 3-pane layout works in both contexts, it doesn't mean mail and feeds belong together.

Pedro Melo
2007-09-08 00:43:09
I don't see Safari RSS as an aggregator. If Apple thinks of that as an aggregator, I only have this words for them: Dude, crack kills...

It is useful to check some feeds before putting them in NetNewsWire.

Regarding mail, I was using a rss2mail system for more than a year until NNW3, then switched back. I still prefer using my mail client to read my feeds, it is much much better. Apple Mail RSS will be very good, *but* it must support IMAP folders out of the box. That is to say, they can aggregate on my, but they must store the items in a IMAP folder. This will allow me to see them on all my macs.

If that is not possible, I'll stick to my current rss2mail solution, thank you very much :).

Oh, I'm using Plagger by the way, but newspipe is also very good, specially the hacked version by Rui Carmo, of fame.

2007-09-08 02:12:58
I've never even used Final Cut Pro, but for whatever reason, I've been using Safari's as an aggregate RSS reader since it rolled out in Tiger. I didn't really have any problems sorting it out; I heavily use my Bookmarks Bar as is, so I simply created a subfolder to in each of the folders to hold the RSS feeds, and then simply right-click each of the folders and click "View All RSS Articles." That said, even then, I knew it was complicated, but I never had any problems with it and I can't argue with it being free and included. I also vastly prefer the interface compared to some other RSS readers out there.
2007-09-08 02:40:57
I agree whole heartedly that when you press the RSS blue button in Safari it should give you a choice of book marking it or not, I would add one more thing to that is that it should also categorise it into the correct category for you.
Its limited in many ways as an RSS aggregator.
But for quick checking of the days news and stuff it is quite handy especially if you take the time to group the RSS feeds into categories like 'news' or 'fun stuff' etc.
2007-09-08 05:08:43
I was rather surprised by this article. I guess I'm in the minority here, I love the way Safari handles RSS. I even loaded the Windows beta version on my work computer, just to have access to it. I've tried separate aggregators and other RSS integrated browsers, and as far as I'm concerned, none of them compare.

I don't find the setup at all difficult. I just add a few folders to my bookmark bar for different subject areas. Once that's done, I can mix RSS feeds and web pages within those folders. I almost never use the main bookmark list--everything goes into a folder in the bookmark bar. This lets me organize all my web-based resources in an organized and easily accessible manner..

Also, I don't see the problem with viewing a feed before I subscribe to it--I actually prefer to scan through a feed before deciding to keep it. And bookmarking is so easy, I really don't see the need for a one-click solution. I'd much rather see one-click bookmark deletions. As far as I know, deleting a feed or bookmark requires opening the main bookmark list, then opening and editing the proper folders and subfolders. This does get a bit tedious.

I definitely don't want a separate application--I have two many applications running already, and I don't want another distraction. I appreciate the way that Safari seamlessly integrates my web browsing and RSS subscriptions. In particular, I love how Safari displays the number of new messages in the bookmark bar. It's a non-disruptive notification. It doesn't distract me while I'm working, but the information is immediately available whenever I want it.

Of course, this all might be a matter of style. I tend to be picky about the feeds I subscribe to. I prefer to follow a few, high-value feeds, rather than wading through hundreds of high-noise feeds. But, for me, Safari works very well.

2007-09-08 05:13:06
The way you approached the usability of Safari as an RSS aggregator was very misleading. The concept of creating a folder to save the RSS feeds, then having that folder live in the bookmark menu was dead easy, and not terribly byzantine. Yes, there are improvements possible. Once you have that aggregating folder living in your bookmark menu (I have 5, for different topics), its very nice to select a topic, see the new and old feeds, then command-click or right click an article into a new tab or a new window. Great way to have 80 to 100 articles sitting there open for your casual reading (better yet when you're on a laptop and away from an internet connection.

2007-09-08 05:50:48
I totally agree with the uselessness of Apple's RSS capabilities, and the seeming pointlessness of including them at all, with that kind of functionality. But, as you addressed your article, this is of interest to "geeks boys and girls", and as much as geeks love Apple these days, Apple's target is your average Joe, not geeks. They gave a feeble start at bringing RSS to the masses, as has Mozilla, but despite the enormous usefulness of it, RSS is still a niche geek tool that has completely failed to gain the interest of internet users at large. So I think that is why Apple's interest is minimal.
2007-09-08 06:47:53
Using this hack, one can create multiple aggregate RSS feeds. And it's quite easy:

Create autoclick an folder, for example "Demoz" in Bookmarks Bar.

Add an RSS feed to the folder

"View all RSS Feeds" for this folder

Create a bookmark of the result. For example, I bookmarked a news site and called it "Demoz."


(I suspect the Safari-generated "uuid:" does the magic.)

Move the Demoz folder out of the bookmarks bar and place it where you want.

One can now add multiple RSS feeds to the Demoz folder, and the Demoz bookmark that's still in the Bookmarks Bar will automagically pic this up!

Thus, if I bookmark the MacDevCenter Blog and add it to the Demoz folder, it will also be added to the Demoz bookmark, even though it doesn't appear in the URL.

The Demoz bookmark can also be placed anywhere but I use the bookmarks bar for quick access, using [cmd] key + keys [1] to [9]

I've got a Feeds folder, containing several aggregate feeds using this technique.

Hope this helps. Apple, sort out your browser.

Scot Hacker
2007-09-08 08:18:50
The way you approached the usability of Safari as an RSS aggregator was very misleading. The concept of creating a folder to save the RSS feeds, then having that folder live in the bookmark menu was dead easy, and not terribly byzantine.

Gord (and others who think the current implementation is good): My original question still stands - when you first started using it, how long did it take you to figure out how to use Safari as an aggregator? Honest answer. I'm betting it took five minutes or more just to figure out how to do it - and you had to proactively LOOK for a way to accomplish what you wanted, because there are no interface queues telling you it's possible and no mention of it in the documentation. And that's really my point - if Apple can't find a way to make it totally intuitive, it's not going to get used by the masses.

2007-09-08 09:40:39
Like rwarren I have my rss feeds in auto-click folders. Most of my browsing is based around these feeds. Having a separate app seems overkill because often you need to go to the actual webpage to read the whole article as opposed to a summary which would involve switching apps.
Also having them in auto-click folders doesn't stop you from clicking and holding to get the pop down so that you can read an individual feed.
As far as browser vs. mail client I think that it depends on the individual. My girlfriend lives mostly in her email client so this would make more sense for her whereas I don't use email much. In a way feeds are similar to mailing lists so I think they fit into Mail just fine.

2007-09-08 11:15:35
You're forgetting one of the potential uses of RSS: notification. For people like me, who monitor fewer than 50 sites and don't do much reading outside those domains, RSS simply becomes a way for me to be told when something new is available, rather than having to check every two hours (which is what I used to do).
2007-09-08 11:59:29
Let us not forget that Safari 3 is till in "beta". When it is out of the beta version, most probably we see lot more functionality.
Sebastian Lewis
2007-09-08 12:09:17
Bleh, Browser based feed readers in general are useless. I prefer to just drill through them using the arrow keys in Vienna.

As for the blue RSS button, it's quite useful if you have a default RSS reader set. Clicking it will add the feed to whatever reader you happen to use.


2007-09-08 13:37:28
What's with this "View all RSS articles", it makes a dog's breakfast of the process?! I have 5 themed folders in the Bookmarks Bar, each with 5-10 RSS sites, that keep me informed as to how many new listings have been posted. I select "Open in Tabs" to have all the sites in that folder open in their own tabs in the background. It keeps things much more manageable.
Gustavo Delfino
2007-09-08 17:09:22
You should check out OmniWeb's RSS feature. It is much more useful than Safari's implementation.
2007-09-08 18:29:40
Like a few others in these comments, I really do like the Safari RSS system - It fits my needs.

However, you mention that configuration is not necessarily intuitive. If I recall, the default bookmarks for the browser actually have a demonstrated use of RSS feeds in a bookmark bar folder. So I think Apple's intention is that you would see an example of how it works on day one.

Of course, that is assuming you don't migrate/import bookmarks from another source on day one - or have upgraded from a prior non-RSS version of Safari.

Scot Hacker
2007-09-09 00:34:24
What's with this "View all RSS articles", it makes a dog's breakfast of the process?!

I should clarify - by "aggregation" I don't necessarily mean I need to see ALL of my feeds mashed up into one. What I do want is a good interface for controlling what gets viewed in an integrated manner and what doesn't, like you have with any standalone RSS reader.

I can see how you would accomplish something akin to that with the Bookmarks Bar, but then your BB is filled up! I want to keep using my BB for links to the sites I use the most - I don't want to give it over to RSS management.

2007-09-09 20:03:22
there is a tab called news in the bookmarks bar which has several news feeds that I deleted and replaced my own feeds. to get your own feeds in there you just go to your favorite websites that are rss enabled, then click on the rss symbol and the page will load the rss feed. then you click and drag the url into that news tab. continue with the rest of your favorite sites that have as rss feed.

as you get all your feeds in the news tab, you'll notice that a set of parentheses beside this news tab which contains a number. This number is the number of new unread articles of all your feeds.

After you get all your feeds in there, go ahead and click on this news tab and hold and activate the open all in tabs item at the bottom of the drop down menu.

All your feeds will appear in their own tab with unread articles colored orange.

You can adjust how much the article is shown down to just the title. You do this with a slider control at the top right of the page. You can search and sort by date or title or new. You can see all the articles or just today's articles.

You can also view all the articles as a flat list by just clicking on this news tab.

Well that's how I use Safari as my rss reader

Scot Hacker
2007-09-09 22:12:47
Daniel, that's the best (and simplest) explanation of how this thing works that I've seen. Thanks for that.
Gerald Buckley
2007-09-11 10:37:21
Scott, don't hold your breath on that Leopard thing. Safari 3.0.3 is our baseline standard and it's not pretty. As Google Reader and NetNewsWire and endo turn up the heat... Safari (as a newsreader... just lost me, literally, today). FireFox + Google Reader (which is how I found this post) is already proving WAY better (for now).

BTW, Apple's hiring a Safari Technologies Evangelist. Whoever gets that gig has their work cut out for them.

Scot Hacker
2007-09-11 10:56:06
Re: Whether RSS belongs in the browser or in email: Leaving the philosophy of it aside for a moment, the 3-pane layout that already provides is ideally suited for RSS reading. Also, think about how elegantly lets you either view individual mailboxes or view them "aggregated" just by clicking either on mailboxes or their parent folders. IOTW, exactly how RSS aggregation works in "real" aggregators like NetNewsWire.

Of course, they could build such a view into Safari. Just sayin' that already has an ideal view for aggregation in place.

2007-09-12 01:08:43
Wonderfully, p-e-r-f-e-c-t article. You've managed to take the last few years worth of related words right out of my head.

I could not agree with you more on the goal-line fumble that is Safari's RSS feature. I'm a web developer who absolutely adores Safari. Sure I'm in small company, but that fact actually compounds my reason for loving the surfin simpleton-first less component clutter, now less people. Ahhh. The simplicity of Safari is what I revel in. One day I was using Firefox, thinking I enjoyed all of the nifty little developer addons (ahem, make that, "adhdons"), debuggers, plugin trinkets and baubles, when it hit me that the means had insidiously grown to impose upon the end. Safari gives me fast, uncluttered, lightweight access to content without the insidious drawbacks of Firefox, most notably the ADHDons and the fact that it feels way too much like a chincey, hollow Windows app. I too love the Safari 3 text search highlight, but just like you, I've been awaiting a sensible RSS implementation. Safari's current RSS feature is utterly ridiculous. RSS isn't the answer as in order to delve into the full story of some feeds a browser window needs to be opened, hence if I'm using mail for RSS, I now have to open yet another app and toggle back and forth, back and forth, argh! I'll never understand the Great Apple Puck Paradox (aka "the Apple GAPP") that allows them to consistently create powerfully elegant tools, all the while remaining faithful to a consistent occasion of an utter blindness that enables them to produce their lineage of metaphorical hockey puck mice.

Dear Apple, please pull your RSS reader out of your A**, (and don't turn around and stick it in mail either, although it's probably too late for that).
Thank You.