Until recently, a large number of news reading platforms existed giving readers many options to aggregate and read news from many sources through the “magic” of RSS. Until Google Reader developed their subscription synchronization service, moving subscriptions from one reader to another required the export/import of an OPML file. OPML – or Outline Processor Markup Language – is an XML format used for outlines. It has proved to be useful for several other uses including a format for moving subscription information from one newsreader to another. Take a look in the Settings area of your newsreader and you’ll likely see an Import/Export feature. This is where you can save (Export) your subscription information to your computer as a backup, to share with others or to move to a different newsreader application.
Why am I bringing this up now? With all the reading apps – desktop, iOS, Android, etc. – offering some truly amazing reading experiences, I’m looking at ways to collect select feeds and organize them to take advantage of these reader’s capabilities. While Google Reader – and my iPad’s Reeder app that synchs with it – is still an important research tool for processing large numbers of search and update feeds, it doesn’t let me sit back and enjoy my favorite blogs and columnists like The Early Edition app. So, as I build my personal news magazine, I’ll putting OPML to work again to make it happen.
An OPML file isn’t pretty, but with a closer look, you’ll see how well-defined its parts are. In the example shown here [WARNING! This is an old screenshot and many of the displayed sites have moved or disappeared.] you’ll see
<outline title=”Genealogy” text=”Genealogy”>
This is the beginning of a category of feeds – in this case the genealogy category. What you don’t see in this screenshot is the </outline> tag that closes this section. All of the feed items listed in between these two tags will be feeds for genealogy-related sites. The outline tags inside this category have a “type” attributed that identifies them as rss feeds, a title and the URL (address) to their RSS feed.
You can create an OPML by exporting your existing subscriptions in Google Reader. Go to the Reader Settings page and choose the Import/Export tab. Now all you do is click once to export all your subscriptions as one file. If you want to take a look at it, you can open it in Notepad or TextEdit. If you’re like me and have hundreds of subscriptions, the result will probably be overwhelming. It will all be run together instead of each tag having its own line like in my example. If your goal is to winnow out a few select sources, you might be better starting from scratch.
Now, open your newsreader application and look for the Import/Export feature – usually found under Settings or Preferences. Follow your newsreader’s instructions to import this file into the newsreader application. It won’t wipe out any existing subscriptions, just add these to yours.
One important tip . . .
Not only do OPML files make it easy to move from one newsreader to another, it also offers a way to share subscriptions with others. You can export your subscriptions and send your OPML file to others so they can then import them to their newsreader. Life is good.