Something I learned when using Attensa, but that works very well in our current (test) implementation of NGES, and should work in any RSS/Atom feedreader that dumps blog entries into subfolders in Outlook. I've been using what I've found to be a very efficient way to read Atom/RSS feeds within the folders in Outlook, but it requires Outlook 2003: use a very simple search folder.

NGES, by default, puts each feed into a separate folder under a top-level "Feeds" folder. Normally, you'd have to open each folder individually to read it, which doesn't lend itself well to the type of "skimming" reading that many feeds require (I'm looking at you, deli.cio.us/popular).

Here are the steps:

  • Right-click on "Search Folders" in Outlook 2003, select "New Search Folder"
  • Select Custom – Create a custom Search Folder Click "Choose" to specify search criteria
  • Call the new folder whatever you want (e.g. "All Feeds") Select, for the folders that will be included in the search folder, the NGES "Feeds" folder only, and leave "Search in Subfolders" turned on
  • Click "OK" on the warning that you have not specified any criteria
  • When the search folder populates, make sure that the view is arranged by folder (top of the view)

Voila! A single folder with all of your unread RSS/Atom feed items. You can select a "feed"/"folder" by clicking on the sorting group title (which has the feed name), and actions performed against that title are performed against all the feed entries: you can catch up on a feed and delete all items, for example, by selecting the folder and hitting "Del". You can go from item to item by using the space bar. Since the search folder is just a view, whatever you do to the entries in that folder is done to the original items.

Advanced capabilities:

  • hitting the space bar will go through the items and to the next unread entry, but depending on how you have Outlook configured, the item may or may not be marked as "read" automatically (mine is configured to not "mark as read").
  • Because this is a search folder capability, you don't need to limit yourself to just one view: the filters can be customized even further, and you can have separate, independent views of your feeds. You can aggregate from all your feeds only entries with specific keywords (I have an "enterprise architecture" and an "XML" view) into a single view, or categorize your feeds into groups by using search folders that only view specific subfolders under "Feeds".
  • You can categorize and search by date, subject, author, anything you want, and the view is populated automatically by Outlook's quite powerful search folder capabilities.
  • You can see how many unread items are in your entire set of feeds (the NGES "Feeds" folder only allows you to see how many unread items there are in each feed)
  • If you're really geeky and are using the GTD Outlook add-in, you can even create tasks and events off blog entries ("Read this later", "Comment on this blog")

Important note: remember as you're investigating possibilities here, that each entry in an NGES feed is a "Post" item, not an email item. I found this out the hard way after trying to troubleshoot a search folder that relied on an email-specific property, when the fact that the icon for the entries is a "post" icon. In my defense, I had the icons turned off at the time.

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