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RSS technology, final take

May 24, 20044 mins
Enterprise Applications

Over the past two weeks we’ve been delving into Really Simple Syndication, and this week we’re going to wrap it up with a cool tool that relies on another cool tool.

For all you Outlook users, we have an add-in called NewsGator for Outlook that integrates RSS feeds with your Outlook folder system.

Because users tend to spend a lot of time in Outlook, it makes sense to have NewsGator deliver your newsfeeds into the same environment, providing a powerful way to integrate information.

When you install NewsGator (a painless process), you choose a base folder under which NewsGator creates a subfolder for each feed you want to follow. When you select the base folder, you will see the default NewsGator summary page listing in the right-hand document pane. On the left side of the pane is a list of the most recent items from all feeds with a list of all unread items below. On the right side, all of the feeds are listed with a count of the total number of new items in all feeds and the number of new items for each feed.

You can click on any of the individual items and news feeds to go to the item content or list of items in a feed. You also can force a refresh of the summary page, run the feed search wizard to add new feeds to NewsGator or customize the program.

Customizing lets you change how often feeds are refreshed, how the base folder presentation is laid out, define blog posting attributes, connect to the NewsGator on-line subscription services or change how NewsGator looks by specifying a new eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformation file for NewsGator to apply to its output.

NewsGator can aggregate RSS and Atom feeds along with Net News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) sources. Subscription-based NewsGator services also are available that provide feeds based on keywords or a specific item’s content (these services also can be accessed via Post Office Protocol clients or Web browsers independently of NewsGator).

When you select an item from a news feed you can forward it, set follow-ups, search, print – in fact, do most of the things you can do with any e-mail item.

NewsGator also supports its own plug-ins, which let you do things such as post to NNTP groups, archive NewsGator posts to SQL databases and post directly to Weblogs (blogs) that support the Blogger API (for example, Blogger), those that support the MetaWeblog API (such as Radio Userland), pMachine and BlogX.

Our only complaint with NewsGator is that, although you can forward a feed item by e-mail, the program does not treat feed items like e-mails. This is important because it means you can’t apply rules to feed items – a real disappointment.

If you test or buy NewsGator you may notice that under the menu path “Tools|Options|Other|Advanced Options|Add-In Manager” there is nothing about NewsGator. There is, however, a new add-in called Redemption Helper Outlook Extension, also known as Redemption Library or just Redemption (although a previous application might have already installed this library). This is our other cool tool. Redemption solves a number of problems that anyone seriously programming Outlook will have come across. Chief among these problems are the access limitations inherent in Office 2002 and 2003 and created by applying the Outlook Email Security Update (released in 2000) or Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Office 98 and 2000.

The security changes add e-mail attachment filtering, which blocks executable code, Visual Basic scripts, photo images and Internet shortcuts. It also requires that you confirm each time an application tries to access Outlook’s address book.

Redemption is a COM library that uses Microsoft’s Extended Messaging Application Programming Interface to replace the features the update blocks. Once registered on the system, Redemption’s services are accessible to any programming language, such as VB, VBA, VC++ and Delphi.

Among its other features, Redemption gets around another Outlook limitation by giving access to a number of functions and properties that aren’t exposed in the Outlook object model, such as direct access to the RTF body of any Outlook item, Internet message headers and sender e-mail addresses. But we digressed . . .

We really like NewsGator. It is stable, works well and, being integrated with Outlook and supporting blog posting, is really effective. It is a steal at $29. The Redemption library is free.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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