10 Genuinely Useful RSS Tools

Updated: October 19, 2007

But this article isn't about the details of RSS structure or how to build an RSS reader, it's about what else you can do with RSS. Specifically, this article lists 10 of the very best RSS tools, both for producers and consumers. You'll find tools to help with output; serialize content; and publish, clean up, filter and aggregate feeds. Additionally, some of these tools can build RSS feeds out of almost anything.

Here's our list, counting down from No. 10 to No. 1.

10. RSS 2 PDF: This basic tool's functionality is pretty obvious from its name. Just enter an RSS feed's URL into the tool, set a couple of options and voilà: a PDF of the feed. This tool can be useful for dealing with technology dinosaurs who want to know everything available about a given topic but want a printout. It could be useful for email newsletters too — if you don't mind delivering the document as a PDF.

9. FeedCycle: This is a really interesting one: What if you publish a feed where the order of the information is important, one where subscribers should read the first item first? FeedCycle takes an RSS feed and makes it a serial, meaning that subscribers have to start with the first part (rather than the newest part), then get subsequent parts delivered at predefined rate.

8. AideRSS: AideRSS is more of an end-user RSS tool. It applies post-ranking technology from external sources to rank and rate individual items within an RSS feed and lets users chose to subscribe to subset feeds that only (for example) include the top 15 percent of items as defined by readership and ranking metrics. This program is useful for trying to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in large feeds.

7. Blastfeed: Blastfeed is very similar to FeedRinse (see No. 6) but with a slightly different set of options. The application also pulls in feeds from multiple sources and filters them, then lets users recombine the output into other feeds. Both FeedRinse and Blastfeed are routienly updated and are clearly ahead of other similar tools.

6. FeedRinse: The cute name is accurate in this case. FeedRinse lets you filter RSS feeds to remove unwanted items or elements. Users specify any number of source feeds, which the tool combines and filters on a wide range of criteria and re-outputs as a single stream. FeedRinse can be very useful when comined with other tools to let, as it can allow users to build complex solutions.

5. Ponyfish: What about sites that don't have a feed? Not everybody understands how an RSS feed can help their site (and surveys show that only about 5 percent of Internet users employ feeds), and some publishers don't want users to be able to access their content so easily. With a little help from the user, Ponyfish can look at a page of structured information and extract likely feed items. It tends to overdeliver a little, pulling out a bit more data than the average user might want, but it is very easy to use and works well.

4. Feed43: This is one of two tools in this list that lets you build an RSS feed from a Web page that lacks one. The difference is that while Ponyfish is extremely easy to use, it can't always get exactly what you want or handle very complicated pages. But if you are willing to take the time to use its macros, Feed43 can script and carefully designate page elements to bracket wanted content.

3. RSSinclude: What if you want to use an RSS feed on another Web site, not just in an RSS reader? There are lots of tools that let users do this, but RSSinclude stands out for its ease of use; plentiful options; and abilities to drop the feed into JavaScript, PHP or an IFrame.

2. FeedBurner: This hugely popular tool is essentially an RSS feed improver, cleaning up standard feeds and presenting them in a form that's readable by both RSS readers and in regular Web browsers. FeedBurner allows the owner to add advertising or other information to the feed, convert feeds to mobile formats, and much more. Recently acquired by Google, this tool is essentially a must-use for RSS feed publishers.

1. Yahoo! Pipes: For developers, Yahoo! Pipes is just about the ultimate RSS feed tool. Pipes is a visual programming tool for RSS feeds and other structured data based on XML that lets anyone visually connect feeds, manipulate feeds, mash them up with other services and much more. Yahoo! Pipes is worth a look for any developer involved in Web 2.0 coding and can extract data from search engines and e-commerce sites like Amazon.com and eBay.

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