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The best free and sophisticated RSS tools

Posted on Oct 18th, 2009 by

The past few weeks, I have been quite busy working with RSS feeds. I continue to be surprised about the possibilities RSS gives us, bloggers and web developers alike.

Here is an overview of the tools I discovered:

From RSS feed to Javascript: Feed2JS

If you want to spice up a page on your website, or integrate a feed into a blog widget, then have a look at Feed2JS. They offer an easy, fast and gratis way to convert any RSS feed into a simple Javascript. Each time the page with that Javascript is run, it displays the contents of the feed as if it were content on your page.

As an example, I took this feed from Humanitarian News:

http://humanitariannews.org/blog/9/feed

…and ran it through their feed2JS builder. You can customize the options: display the content of each feed item – or only the first x characters, open the links in a new browser window or not,… If you are really sophisticated, you can even customize the style sheet.

Hit “Generate JavaScript”, and you will get the code to integrate on your site. In my case, the code snippet looked like this:

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://feed2js.org//feed2js.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fhumanitariannews.org%2Fblog%2F9%2Ffeed&amp;chan=y&amp;desc=1&amp;targ=y" type="text/javascript"></script>

To see the script in action: I used this code to generate the latest “Aid News” updates on The Other World News.

Create an RSS feed for any website: Feedity

How about websites which don’t have an RSS feed? No panic, Feedity comes to your rescue. Their basic (free) service will generate an RSS feed out of any website. The only thing you need to do, is to jug in a URL for any website, refine which items you typically would like to include in the feed, and Feedity does its job.

As an example, let’s do something really interesting. Let’s create an RSS feed with the latest sites which link to The Road to the Horizon, one of my blogs.

The Google URL to search for in-bound links to this blog is:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22www.theroadtothehorizon.org%22+-site:theroadtothehorizon.org

When we feed this URL into Feedity and hit “Preview”, we don’t get much:

…but you have to “teach” Feedity what items on the page to look for before it can convert webcontent into an RSS feed: Use the “Simple Refine” drop down menu to select an example of what you are looking for, hit “Refine” and.. voila:

Hit “Get Feed” and you are done. In the example of the above case, the URL for the feed generated from this Google site search is:

http://feedity.com/rss.aspx/google-com/UlVQU1Bb

..which generates this result:

Now please tell me this is pretty neat?!

Feedity lets you define up to 10 RSS feeds for free, updated 5 times per day, and displaying a maximum of 10 items. If you want more, you’ll have to pay. Nonprofits, bloggers and humanitarian organisations get a significant discount.

RSS tools for all needs: xFruits

Moving on from geeky to geekier: xFruits offers a 11 sophisticated RSS manipulation tools for free:

  • Aggregate several RSS feeds into one
  • Generate an HTML webpage out of your RSS feed
  • Generate an HTML webpage suited for mobile users out of your RSS feed
  • Generate an RSS feed from Emails anyone sends to your xFruits Email account, or from the unread emails in your Email box
  • Create a PDF from any RSS feed
  • Generate an Email with the updates of any RSS feed
  • Convert RSS to OPML, and create a webpage compatible with mobile devices from your OPML
  • Publish your RSS feed on the most popular blog platforms, using their APIs
  • And last but not least, convert your RSS feed to Podcasts…

Let’s just take the last one to illustrate the power of RSS feeds. Let’s take the feed from Have Impact !, our micro finance project and run it through the RSS-to-Voice function. The web output looks like this:

It looks like my original RSS feed, but a podcast icon is added before every post. Give it a try and listen to the quality of the spoken voice. Good, hey?
Check out how the same RSS feed looks and sounds like in the Podcast output and mobile output.

The ultimate RSS tools: Yahoo Pipes

And going geekier. The geekiest of them RSS tools must be Yahoo Pipes. Pipes can do just about anything you want with an RSS feed. It can aggregate, edit, manipulate and mix RSS with content at your free will.

My Yahoo Pipes

I use Yahoo Pipes a lot for Humanitarian News, which aggregates content from 600+ different sites. The technique, I described in an earlier post: Each feed is filtered for lousy formatting, non ASCII characters, mixed with other similar feeds, sorted, truncated and output as a new feed which is imported into my news aggregator.

Yahoo Pipes is for free, supported by an active user forum, but definitively not for those faint of heart: “super geeks domain!”

And more RSS tools: rss-tools.com

And if you hadn’t enough yet, check out The RSS Tools Directory. If you can’t find an RSS tool there, it probably does not exist.

Icon courtesy of Insic Designs




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