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Feed your appetite

Feature available since Lotus Notes version 8.0

Feeds are often seen as something for the geeks and power users (or the geeky power users), but they’re actually simple to set up and use, and a great way to get a summary of information. Wikipedia describes feeds as “used to publish frequently updated works – such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video – in a standardized format”. In other words, a summary of a web site that you’re following.

The most commonly-encountered type of feed is RSS, which stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ or ‘Rich Site Summary’, depending on whose definition you believe – actually both are valid. There’s also another feed type, Atom, which for the purposes of this article really achieves the same thing. In many web sites you’ll see the orange RSS icon, and if you’re using a browser such as Firefox or Safari you’ll see an indicator in the address bar, like so:

Lotus Notes provides it’s own feed reader, sitting in the sidebar (see below, click to see a larger image). Okay, this is not the most functional feed reader available, but it has a couple of advantages… it’s easy to use, and it sits in the sidebar so it’s easily available within your collaboration client. Oh, one more thing… although the sources are on web sites somewhere, the summaries downloaded to the feed reader will be available when you’re off-line.

But how can you get your feeds into it?

One option is for your Notes administrators to set up a standard set of feeds, and then you can click on the ‘Subscribe to Preset Feeds’ button. Easy. But chances are you’ll want your own collection.

The first option is to manually add a new subscription – let’s use notesiscool.com as an example. The URL of the feed is http://www.notesiscool.com/feed – press the first button (Subscribe to Feed) and add the URL to the dialog box. Press GO and the feed address will be verified – you can then set the options for name, updates and retention, and press OK.

You can also add a feed via drag and drop. You could use that specific feed address, or in many cases the process will work out if there’s a feed available from the home page. From either the Notes browser or an external browser, highlight the URL, drag it to the Notes feed reader and drop. If you use http://www.notesiscool.com you’ll see that it has both RSS and Atom feeds available:

Again, set the options and press okay. notesiscool.com articles will now show up in the feed reader.

Advanced topic – OPML… which stands for Outline Processor Markup Language. If you’re already using a feed reader, you may be able to export your current selections of feeds to an OPML file. But how do you then get this set of feeds into Notes? Look for a file in c:notesframeworkrcpdeployextras (or the Mac or Linux equivalent) named presetfeeds.opml – this is the file that Notes will import when you select the ‘Subscribe to Preset Feeds’ option. So, take your new file, rename it to presetfeeds.opml, drop it into the extras folder, and press the ‘Subscribe to Preset Feeds’ button.

Nov 12, 2010
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