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My Sidebar as your sidebar

Aug 06, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Integrating news feeds into a panel

Last week, I discussed a system for building Explorer panels (also called “sidebars”). Here’s another tool that allows the integration of news feeds into a panel. Published by (see links below), My Sidebar for Internet Explorer creates a panel that can display news summaries provided in a number of formats.

The formats include RSS (Rich Site Summary), RDF (Resource Description Framework), CDF (Channel Definition Format), WDDX (Web Distributed Data eXchange), ScriptingNews and OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language). rather gushingly claims that “My Sidebar for Internet Explorer will keep you connected: business, computer and entertainment news, Web forums and picture galleries, Internet auctions, stocks and blogs will always be near you.” Right-ho.

Installation is simple although you’ll have to restart Windows as My Sidebar integrates with Explorer. Because Microsoft’s browser architecture is so ridiculously intertwined with the operating system a restart is mandatory (this is one of my pet peeves with software vendors particularly Microsoft).

Anyway, once installed and your system restarted you’ll discover a new entry, “My Sidebar,” in the Explorer menu – clicking on it adds the sidebar to the main window.

Now if you visit a site with a compatible feed, for example, the link named “We got yer RSS feed right here” on VitallyImportantInformation’s home page, you can now right click on the link and select “Add XML news to My Sidebar.” A new tab is created in My SideBar and selecting that tab reads and displays the news feed in the sidebar.

Selecting a news item link in My Sidebar loads the item’s full story into the main browser window.

You can also browse news feeds and add them to My Sidebar with the included news feed browser although I found this to be in need of an improved user interface and unstable (it crashed on me twice in six runs).

My Sidebar is pretty useful if you monitor lots of news feeds but its greatest value might be found on intranets where linking to corporate resources could be a powerful way to distribute information organization-wide.

There is one particular aspect of My Sidebar that I would like to see changed: The default sidebar page that appears to be built-in is ugly and as far as I could determine can’t be altered. My Sidebar also refers in its default panel to Netscape’s sidebar documentation which seems irrelevant as Internet Explorer and Netscape use completely different system to support sidebars.

Priced at $19.95 per copy with a 30-day free trial, My Sidebar is worth taking a look at.


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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