UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Outlook 2007 – A User-Friendly Interface To RSS?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 February 2007

Outlook 2007 interface to RSSI recently suggested that services, such as R-info, which provide an email delivery service for RSS feeds could be a useful way of maximising access for users who are not comfortable using a dedicated RSS reader.

However having noticed Michael Webb’s posting on Outlook 2007 – the killer RSS application? perhaps the much-needed simple interface will become more widely available as MS Office 2007 becomes more widely deployed.

As can be seen from the accompanying screen image (taken from Michael’s blog) Outlook 2007 seems to provide an interface which will be familiar to users who make use of folders to organise their blog postings.

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14 Responses to “Outlook 2007 – A User-Friendly Interface To RSS?”

  1. AJ Cann said

    Interesting, except that as a Macintosh user, it’s of no value to me directly.
    It’s not exactly “river of news” though, is it?

  2. I’ve been very happy with BlogBridge.

    It organizes Feeds into “Guides” (just like folders of feeds), and you can easily make dynamic feeds which are a keyword controlled distillate of a load of other feeds. Most importantly for me, in synchronizes my subscriptions between all my machines (a mixture of OS X and linux, but it also works on windows) without me having to cart OPML files around the place.

    I know you’re particularly interested in ease of use. If you copy the URL of a blog post to the clipboard and hit “Subscribe to Feed…” in BlogBridge, it grabs the clipboard URL and goes to work out the corresponding feed URL. Very handy since Firefox doesn’t allow you to drag and drop feed icons in the way you might hope it would. Probably not as smooth as the integration between IE7 and Outlook, but it does work with any browser.

  3. Ross Gardler said

    Mozilla Thunderbird has sported RSS integration for quite some time. Is Outlooks support better in some way?

  4. Hi Ross: I don’t think it’s a question of whether Outlook 2007’s support for RSS is better than Thunderbird – it’s more an issue of which email client is more likely to be more widely deployed within institutions across the public sector. My point being that if institutions roll out MS Office 2007, this will be a useful opportunity to promote greater takeup of RSS. The MS Office vs Open Office + Thunderbird issue is a separate issue.

  5. Jim, you should be able to drag and drop any RSS link onto either of the Guides or Feeds panes in BlogBridge. I think BlogBridge is ‘OK’ but then again I think most aggregators are pretty poor.

  6. Ross Gardler said

    Brian,

    It’s a shame I mentioned the Thunderbird support, it clearly led you to believe my question was a Thunderbird Vs. Outlook one, that was not my intention.

    In my opinion, a basic RSS reader (such as live bookmarks in Firefox, or to a lesser extent the RSS support in Thunderbird) will do nothing for the acceptance of RSS. However, a reader with powerful aggregation and filtering is a different thing altogether.

    My question is better phrased as “does the RSS support in Outlook provide a usable set of features?”.

  7. ajcann said

    All the new software has “a usable set of features”, but that’s not what RSS needs. RSS needs a “killer app”, just as Mosaic (for those of us old enough to remember it) was the killer app for HTML. Outlook ‘aint it, for a variety of reasons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaic_%28web_browser%29

  8. Peter Miller said

    Hi Alan

    Yes, a few of us are old enough to remember Mosaic (and Gopher and Veronica for that matter).

    Killer app or killer content? The problem is that for most users RSS competes with email (e.g. eTOCs, announcements) and search engines for content. Reading blogs and news feeds would be seen as a distraction for many/most. Our library has just started notifying the arrival of new books via RSS and I’ve added a range of feeds for seminars (very simple to do using dabbleDb).

    I guess the point about RSS in Outlook is that it provides a simple vehicle for the majority of users and something that computing services can endorse if they already use Outlook. Experience suggests, however, that few students use RSS at present and my guess would be that it doesn’t play well with the likes of Facebook. However, many mobile phones do provide readers and I think the kind of stuff Tony Hirst is doing with OpenLearn content is very interesting. I think HEIs might also want to look at start pages such as Netvibes and YourMinis as more attractive ways of promoting RSS to students.

  9. ajcann said

    Now you’ve depressed me Peter – it feels like all the youngsters are hanging out and commenting on Brian’s MySpace post while us oldies are keeping this nostalgic thread alive! ;-)

    I think your point about RSS via homepage widgets rather than dedicated software is a good one though – I’ve been seeing a significant number of hits originating from Google homepages in the last few weeks.

  10. Hi Ross – I would agree with AJCann; its not a question of which application has the best set of features (if that were the case, everyone would be using FireFox rather than Internet Explorer). Rather, as Peter Miller suggests, I think it may be a question of the simple application which doesn’t have the mental overload of another application to understand and master. So possibly a “reader with powerful aggregation and filtering” may be too complex – although maybe the RSS reader which is embedded within an email client may provide the ‘training wheels’ and once the benefits of RSS have become appreciated, users will exopect richer functionality. That’s what I would hope.

  11. Hi AJ – When you mention Mosaic are you demonstrating that you’re not as old as you make out – you could have talked about Viola-WWW (see screen image taken from a document I wrote about early Web browsers. (I would agree, though, that Mosaic was the killer application).

  12. Ajcann – I think RSS is its own killer application.

  13. I far prefer web-based RSS solutions. Especially since my PC broke and had to be reformatted, and although backed up, I lost lots.

  14. We’ve just posted a free public beta of Attensa for Outlook 2007.

    There are at least 14 reasons users will find the feed reading and management experience in Outlook 2007 better using a dedicated feed reader in Outlook.

    You can read about them here. http://www.attensa.com/blogs/attensa/2007/03/attensa_for_outlook_25_beta_th.php

    And you can download the beta here. It’s free.
    http://www.attensa.com/beta/

    Let us know what you think. Thanks.

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