I’ve been a faithful user of RSS since the very beginning when I had a successful personal blog way back in the day. I lived through the shutdown of Google Reader and continued being a power user when most people forgot about RSS altogether.
Now RSS is back in fashion to a certain extent as the RSS feed reader made the jump to the mobile market as a feature-packed application, though your mileage may vary from reader to reader. I’m thrilled at this chapter of RSS’s evolution especially now that it’s graduated into being a versatile productivity tool that adapts easily to the needs of business users.
I’m particularly interested in how you can improve your overall use of RSS feed readers by using their browser extensions to the fullest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Time to talk a little bit about RSS.
What is RSS?
RSS is a web feed format used to publish and follow frequently updated works. Think of articles in online magazines, blog entries, and news headlines. All this is done in a standardized format – an RSS feed. Feeds are XML files located in the site’s code and contain the most important details about a new post: publication date, author, URL, title, and a snippet of the text. That last part has certainly changed because now you can read full articles in your RSS feed reader.
Feed readers are the applications, which retrieve recently published content from the sites of your choosing and display them in order of publication date. I don’t know about you, but I dearly love the chronological timeline. The RSS reader does this by crawling the feeds in your subscriptions. That’s the gist of it.
What is the RSS Feed Reader extension?
The browser extension differs from a web-based feed reader. I just want to make that clarification. The browser extension gives you certain features of your reader of choice, while you’re on an open tab and is quite suitable for multitasking without toggling multiple browser tabs. I’ll get to how they help you in a lot of ways in the points below.
How can this extension be useful for you?
Save pages while you browse
Perhaps the best possible use for RSS browser extensions is the ability to subscribe to feeds on the tab. Why is this so convenient? Subscribing to an RSS feed is not quite as easy as it used to be since RSS is generally not quite as widely supported or advertised.
Firefox dropped support for RSS as a whole and most websites don’t really showcase RSS buttons for easy subscription. Even with today’s RSS feed readers, if a feed is not already indexed in its database, the process of adding a feed to your subscriptions is not as easy or straightforward.
Browser extensions can detect RSS feeds directly on the tab you’re on, making it easy to do it with a simple click. It’s the main reason I use the Chrome extension of Inoreader, which I consider to be the best all-around RSS reader available to users right now. The extension not only subscribes you to the feed but gives you the option to tag it so you don’t lose sight of it. This comes in quite handy when you have accumulated a high number of feeds.
Collect useful information
This feature I would say works only when you update to a paid account. RSS readers have moved away from simply syndicating written content and into the social media game with Facebook and Twitter at the helm, though really the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating web feeds.
So it’s the best way to supplement your text-based subscriptions with information from all around the Internet. Open your extension to see what feeds are available and then go right ahead in adding them. It’s this versatility that allows RSS readers to be used in all sorts of situations from research for a paper to performing valuable marketing work like social media listening among others.
Have everything in one place
Last but not least, you keep everything in one place. I know… You’ll say that the bookmarks are there for that function as well, but honestly, who regularly checks their bookmarks. In my personal experience, once a site finds itself in my bookmarks it’s very well forgotten.
Whereas here you have your subscriptions, living, and breathing, in a tool you regularly use and can access with the click of a button. Having everything in one place is the unique value proposition that propelled RSS into ubiquity at one point and has then helped it hang on for two decades now. That’s no small feat.
Check updated subscriptions much easier
I have to say that the best use for the browser extension is to give your subscriptions a quick check to see whether you’re missing an important update, but you don’t want to leave the tab you’re on at the moment. You already see the number of unread articles as a counter on the extension’s button as it is, but that doesn’t give you the titles. You can simply click the menu down and have a quick look around the different feeds available to you. There’s quite a lot to enjoy about this tool.
I find that it saves quite a bit of time without the temptation to get sucked into my feeds. Yes, my focus is that bad sometimes. This is a standard feature of many RSS feed extensions. An additional piece of advice – if you’re waiting for a particular article, then consider setting up a way to notify yourself when it arrives.
Most RSS feed readers will give you the option to either save it on apps like Evernote or even send you an email. Inoreader also enables push notifications on your phone, so that you really don’t miss out on what’s important to you.