I’ve been a fan of RSS feeds since the early 2000s, even before the distinctive orange RSS badge began appearing on RSS-enabled websites, and way before Safari or Mail featured built-in RSS readers. RSS has made it much easier for me to stay up-to-date with the massive amount of ever-changing information published on the web. Some of this information is trivial, but some is important for staying up-to-date, creative, and connected.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it’s basically a way for websites to announce and distribute recently updated content, including full or summarized text and images. You can subscribe to a site’s RSS feed in an RSS reader, which makes following dozens of favorite websites as easy as checking email. RSS readers basically come in three varieties:

1. Desktop RSS Readers. These are stand-alone applications that you launch like any other program on your Mac. They scan your RSS subscriptions for freshly updated content, which you can then browse directly in the desktop RSS reader. They’re fast and easy to use, and can even be rather elegant. I use NetNewsWire for reasons I explain below. Previously I used the excellent (and well designed) NewsFire which would be my favorite reader but for NetNewsWire’s killer feature. Cyndicate and Vienna are other popular desktop RSS readers.

2. Web-based RSS Readers Web based RSS readers offer a single webpage where you can follow subscriptions to dozens of websites. Google Reader and Bloglines are the most popular. The advantage of web-based RSS readers is that you have universal access to your feeds from any web-connected computer. That’s important to me. The disadvantage is that web-based readers tend to have fewer management options than desktop readers, are often somewhat harder to read.

3. Applications With Integrated RSS Readers. In Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, both Safari and Mail offer the option to subscribe to RSS feeds. The idea is great – read your email, then scan your RSS feeds. For many people, the Mail application is active all day. However, I’ve never gotten in the habit of using Safari or Mail to read RSS.

Again, my preference is to use a desktop RSS reader, but I often needed to check my RSS subscriptions at work or while traveling via Google Reader. That meant my subscriptions were always out of sync.

That’s when I discovered NetNewsWire’s killer feature: the ability to sync their desktop reader with Newsgator’s web-based RSS reader. When I mark an item as read in the desktop reader, it shows as read in the web-based reader. When I add a new subscription in the web-based reader, it appears in the desktop-reader. My RSS subscriptions are finally in sync. It’s all free; all you have to do is download the latest version of NetNewsFire (by clicking here), and create an account at Newsgator (by clicking here). Once your account with Newsgator is active, input your account setting in NetNewsFire.

There is also a version of NetNewsWire for the iPhone / iPod touch, which you can read about by clicking here.

Note: This is not a product sells or receives commission from, it’s simply a Mac-friendly service that I’ve found very useful.

Small Dog does have a number of useful RSS feeds, which you can view and subscribe to by clicking here.

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