RSS basics - Thunderbird
Like the Firefox browser, Thunderbird can be used to access websites that make content available through RSS feeds. Unlike Firefox, however, which gives you access to RSS feeds through Live Bookmarks, Thunderbird lets you view RSS content in a way that is very similar to reading email: the RSS feeds that you subscribe to will be listed in the folders pane, the individual article titles or "headlines" will be displayed in the message-list pane, and when you click on a title the article content will be displayed in the message preview pane.
What is RSS?
RSS is a Web content syndication format. Its name is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication
Creating an RSS News & Blogs account
Before you can subscribe to any RSS feeds, you first need to create an RSS account. To do so:
- Go to the "File" menu and select "New -> Account". Alternatively, you can go to the "Tools" menu and select "Account Settings", and click on the "Add Account" button.
- In the dialog box that pops up, select "RSS News & Blogs" and press the "Next" button.
- Enter an account name, press the "Next" button, and finally press the "Finish" button. This new account will now appear in the folders pane in the main Thunderbird window.
Note: if the option to create an RSS account does not even appear, it is probably because you chose a "Custom" (rather than "Standard") install of Thunderbird, and you did not select to include RSS Support in your installation. In that case, you should uninstall Thunderbird and reinstall it, making sure to include the RSS option this time.
Subscribing to an RSS feed
You subscribe to a feed through the "RSS Subscriptions" dialog (screenshot), which can be accessed in any of these ways:
- Right-click on the account name in the folders pane and select "Manage Subscriptions".
- Click on the account name in the folders pane, and then click on the "Manage Subscriptions" link in the main Thunderbird window (screenshot).
- Go to "Tools -> Account Settings", click on the account name in the left-hand pane, and then click the "Manage Subscriptions" button.
Once you've brought up the "RSS Subscriptions" dialog, all you need to do to subscribe to an RSS feed is click the "Add" button, enter the URL for the feed into the box, and click "OK" (screenshot). After the feed is verified, it will then appear in the "RSS Subscriptions" dialog and in the folders pane under the account.
In the same way, you can add more feeds under a single RSS account. If you subscribe to numerous feeds, you may wish to create more than one RSS News & Blogs account, each with multiple subscribed feeds.
Other RSS settings
For each RSS account, there are some basic settings available through "Tools -> Account Settings -> [Account Name]":
- Check for new articles every ___ minutes
- Check for new articles at startup
- By default, show the article summary instead of loading the web page (for feeds that make a summary available).
For each subscribed RSS feed:
- To have the articles for a feed stored in the same folder as the articles for another feed: open the "RSS Subscriptions" dialog, select the feed you want to change, click the "Edit" button, and then use the drop-down list to change the destination folder.
- To rename a feed: right-click on the folder in the folders pane and select "Rename Folder" (or select the folder and go "File -> Rename Folder"), and then type in the new name.
- To change the default character encoding: right-click the folder in the folders pane (or select the folder and go "Edit -> Folder Properties"), and change the encoding as desired.
Using Saved Search Folders with RSS accounts
You can create Saved Search folders for your RSS accounts and feeds. For example, if you subscribe to Yahoo! News but you're only interested in reading the Los Angeles Times stories included among all the Yahoo! News articles, you can create a Saved Search Folder to display only those articles. This is especially convenient when the feed provides a lot of articles but you are only interested in a specific subset of them. Or when you just want to see what's new on the site without actually loading it.
Password protected feeds
The password wizard will enter a saved password for you but you have to press the OK button (or press Enter), unlike other types of accounts. There is a very old bug report requesting this be fixed.
Save contents for offline use
Thunderbird doesn't support the ability to download and read material offline. It was requested in a Offline RSS/save feeds feature request bug report in 2005. The "Great News RRS reader" and the free version of the Awasu feed reader support that. Another possibility would be to convert a news feed to a ebook using Calibre, and read the ebook offline. The Feedly news aggregator worked with the NewsToEbook web site to do something similar. NewsToEbook is gone, but Feedly appears to support that feature with Facebook. The GrabMyBooks add-on for Firefox supports saving content from web sites and feeds into an ePub or mobi (kindle) file for your eBook reader.