RSS tips #1: follow Research Support Hub using Outlook

Flexible access to information is a cornerstone of blog technology. In this post I’ll demonstrate how to keep up to date with Research Support Hub  in Microsoft Outlook, using RSS – the behind-the-scenes technology that binds the modern web together. With RSS, you won’t have to check our website to see new content – when something new appears, Outlook will fetch it for you and let you know.

RSS icons

I’ll be providing instructions for Outlook 2007, which is the version commonly found on university PCs. Microsoft have a number of guides on using RSS in all versions of Outlook.

You should note, however, that Microsoft’s advice usually involves using Internet Explorer to subscribe to feeds. I’ll be subscribing from within Outlook itself, so these tips will work whichever browser you use.

1. Preparation:

Before you can subscribe to a feed, you need to know where it can be found. In future posts I’ll take a look at more advanced subscription methods (Outlook’s is a little archaic and atypical), but for our purposes you just need to know that the address for the Research Support hub RSS feed is:

http://researchsupporthub.northampton.ac.uk/feed/

- copy that for the next step.

2. Adding the feed:

In Outlook, RSS feeds are kept in a folder just like emails. Even if this is the first time you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘RSS feed’, you’ll have an RSS folder in Outlook, patiently waiting to be called into action. The folder lives below the Inbox folder in the left-hand panel and features the standard RSS icon:

RSS folder in Outlook

- so let’s add our first feed. Right-click the RSS Feeds folder and click Add a New RSS Feed. A small window will appear, asking for the feed address. Type or paste it in:

Adding an RSS feed in Outlook

- and click Add. Next Outlook will ask you to confirm that you want to subscribe to the feed:

Confirming a new RSS feed in Outlook

Yes is the option you’re looking for here (you can trust us). And the job is done!

3. Using the feed:

You’ll  now see a folder inside RSS Feeds named Research Support Hub, and if you click on it you’ll see a list of our recent posts, looking very much like emails:

Viewing Research Support Hub in Outlook

And – like an email – you just double-click an item to read it. The folder gives you a count of unread items (10 in this example), so you can see when we’ve added new content. You can now follow the blog without having to remember to visit our homepage.

When you open an item, you’ll see a View article… link at the bottom that will open the original post in your browser should you want to do that, but this is optional – Outlook will show you the full content. You’ll also be able to use standard Outlook tools to flag, forward and file the item should it be of sufficient interest, and the trusty Delete icon to remove it should it not be.

4. Next steps:

You can subscribe to any RSS-ready web resource in the same way, if you know the feed – often this can be found on the website itself. If you use Internet Explorer you can follow Microsoft’s instructions on subscribing using that – just click on the RSS Feeds folder in Outlook and follow the built-in guide.

Here are some other feed addresses you might like to add for practice:

http://www.northampton.ac.uk/rss/news – University of Northampton news
http://www.northampton.ac.uk/rss/events – University of Northampton events
http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/rss.xml – BBC News

There are thousands and thousands and thousands of thousands more, but as you come to appreciate what RSS can offer Outlook will soon be outgrown. Future posts will take a look at more effective ways to leverage the power of the feed.

Credits: Original RSS icon image by Mozilla Foundation, from Wikimedia Commons. Coloured icon grid by the author (Creative Commons).

Posted on October 12, 2012, in Library and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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