June 06, 2011

Using RSS Feeds with Internet Explorer

Tonya Johnson

Are you following developments in your practice area or current events on the Web? Do you want to get this information without constantly visiting Web sites for updates or cluttering your e-mail in-box? If so, subscribing to RSS feeds can help. RSS feeds bring Web site updates to subscribers, eliminating the need to visit each site to monitor newly-posted content.

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way for Web site publishers to make their content—news, blog posts, site updates—available as a subscription. RSS feeds deliver headlines and/or short summaries with a link to the original source. A collection of RSS feeds creates a customized “newspaper” that is updated daily and delivered directly to you. These feeds are available for most blogs and news sites, both legal and general, as well as for a variety of Web sites that publish materials regularly. Many courts are now offering RSS feeds to allow lawyers to receive news about updated dockets, new opinions and news.

A feed reader is required to view RSS feeds. Feed readers such asRssReader or FeedDemon are downloadable computer applications. Others like Bloglines or Google Reader are web-based applications that allow reading of RSS feeds online, wherever the Internet is available. Popular Web sites such as Yahoo!, AOL andGoogle offer RSS readers that are incorporated into their home page. When users visit their My Yahoo!, My AOL or iGoogle page to preview mail, check local movie times or the weather, they can also review their RSS feeds.

Microsoft Internet Explorer version 7 takes the convenience of RSS feeds a step further by making the feed reader a part of the browser itself. IE7’s RSS reader feature can manage a number of feeds at once. IE even identifies if RSS feeds are available on Web sites as you surf them, allowing users to subscribe as they go.

If you are new to the RSS phenomenon, IE’s integrated feed reader is a great way to start. Let’s take a closer look.

In the IE7 feed reader pictured below, the left panel, called the Favorites Center, lists the user’s subscribed feeds. In this example, the Law Practice Management Section’s Law Practice Today is selected, allowing a view of the feed on the right panel. As it appears here, feed contents usually consist of headlines and a brief description of content. Users simply click on the headline to read the full article or post.

Identifying feeds

To find feeds, look for the glowing orange RSS icon on the IE tool bar (usually next to the home icon) or on the Web page itself. 

Adding / subscribing to feeds

Once you’ve identified a feed, simply click on the RSS icon in the browser toolbar and IE will preview the feed and provide an option to subscribe.  Click on subscribe to this feed.”

Be sure to create a folder for feeds that should go into a new topic during the subscription process. Subfolders can be created by right clicking in the feed reader panel and feeds can be dragged and dropped into different folders at any time.

Viewing feeds

Feeds are displayed in a column on the left side of the screen. To access the feed reader, click on the yellow star icon on the IE toolbar, which will open the Favorites Center. Alternately, go to “View,” “Explorer Bar,” then click “Feeds” on the browser menu. The most recent information appears on top with bold text indicating unread material. IE 7’s tab feature allows opening multiple feeds at once by right clicking on the feed item and choosing “open in new tab.”

Updating feeds

By default, IE7 automatically checks feeds for updates once a day, but you can easily change the settings to update as frequently as every 15 minutes or as seldom as once a week. Simply right click on a feed and choose “properties.” The following dialog box appears:

Choose your desired intervals and click “OK.” You can choose how many items to archive in the feed reader. The default is 200 and the maximum is 2,500. Any changes will affect the setting for all subscribed feeds. However, if an RSS feed is individually programmed to update more frequently, those settings will take precedence.

Finding RSS feeds

In the IE feed reader’s properties, you can set the browser to play a sound when a feed is found for a Web site. Additionally the orange icon in the toolbar will glow. So, as you surf the Web keep an eye, or ear, out for these indicators.  Finding feeds is simple with sites likeTechnorati, a popular blog search engine.  Some legal RSS feeds to get you started include ABA Site-tation Law Practice Today  and theABA Journal . Additionally, Justia offers RSS feeds for federal district court dockets . Simply run a search by party, district, and/or lawsuit type. When the results page loads, click on the RSS icon in the browser toolbar to add the feed to your reader.  Once you begin using feed readers you will see that this is just the tip of the iceberg for this great technology.

Additional resources

FYI: RSS - An LTRC introduction to RSS feeds.
This article first appeared in YourABA e-newsletter, a monthly publication distributed via email to all ABA members.  Learn more about the benefits of belonging to the American Bar Association.

Tonya Johnson