In my last couple of columns, I've discussed some features of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007’s RSS implementation ("Changing Feed Locations with Outlook 2007's RSS Feature," June 27, 2008, and "Norway, and RSS feeds on your Windows Mobile Device," July 25, 2008). Now let’s take a look at another interesting feature, the Common Feed List (CFL), as well as a couple of other features, then finish up this topic by looking at some limitations of Outlook's current RSS implementation.
If the computer you’re running Outlook 2007 on also runs Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 or later, you automatically receive the CFL feature, which synchronizes feeds between IE and Outlook. You can disable this feature so that Outlook won't sync feeds from IE. In Outlook, go to Tools, Options, select the Other tab, then click Advanced Options and clear the Sync RSS Feeds to the Common Feed List check box. You might want to disable this option, for example, so that only your business feeds are available in Outlook, and you'd access your personal feeds in the browser.
But let’s take a look at what happens when Outlook imports the CFL if you don't disable this option. Every time you open Outlook 2007, Outlook checks to see if there's a CFL file available in your Outlook folder. The file is called .xml.kfl and is stored in your user profile in the following location: \Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. For example, on my Windows XP machine, I find it here: C:\Documents and Settings\Sigi\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. If you want to re-import the CFL from IE—say, for instance, you've deleted some feeds in Outlook that you want back—you just need to close Outlook, delete the .kfl file, then start Outlook again. Outlook immediately recreates the .kfl file with all the feeds currently stored in IE and imports the links. Don’t ask me why the CFL has a file extension of .kfl; maybe the developer was a non-native English speaker like me and made a mistake by spelling common as kommon (grin).
Have you ever found that sometimes your RSS feeds disappear or stop working? I'm also a victim of this problem. You can see all active feeds in the Account Settings dialog box, but you can easily identify a broken link even without going into Account Settings. Go to the RSS folder, open an item, and click Share This Feed. If the link is broken, you'll receive a message that says You no longer have a subscription to the RSS feed. When you find a broken feed, you can delete the folder from the RSS Feeds folder; to reactivate the feed, you need to subscribe to it again.
Did you know that you can enable Rules on your RSS feeds? For example, you can move messages of a specific topic from your RSS Feed folder to a folder that you check more frequently. To do so, you need to select the Enable rules on all RSS Feeds check box in the Rules and Alerts dialog box accessed from the Tools menu. After you enable this setting, you can create custom rules that are run every time an RSS item is downloaded.
Finally, I've found some limitations in Outlook's RSS implementation. First, you can't create RSS folder structures like you can in IE 7.0. In Outlook, your RSS list is always flat, which can be hard to manage if you have a lot of feeds. Just imagine 250 feeds in the list—this situation would really not be convenient. The next disadvantage is that you can't merge multiple feeds into a single folder; it’s always a one-feed-to-one-folder relationship. And you can't edit the URL of a feed; if the link changes, you need to delete the old feed and create a new one. Of course, this triggers a download of all items for that specific feed.
I recently discovered a problem when you change the RSS feed location, a process I described in my June column, "Changing Feed Locations with Outlook 2007's RSS Feature." If you've changed your feed delivery location and then add a new RSS feed by using the New button on the RSS Feeds tab in Account Settings on the Tools menu, Outlook still shows your default email delivery under Delivery Location for the new feed even though it should display the RSS Feeds PST. However, when you click OK, the feed is created correctly in the PST. This seems to be a bug; Outlook 2007 isn't aware of the default delivery change and so doesn't display it correctly.
The Outlook 2007 RSS implementation is far from being perfect, and I expect Microsoft will improve this feature in future Outlook versions. Yes, RSS works in Outlook 2007, especially if you don't have too many RSS feeds. But the more feeds you add, the harder it gets to manage them all. Check it out for yourself, and tell me what your experience is using RSS in Outlook 2007!
Sigi's Outlook Internet Site of the Month
This month’s feature is a tool from Microsoft to update your appointments because of time zone changes: Time Zone Data Update Tool for Microsoft Office Outlook. Remember, recurring or all-day appointments store the time zone information. You need to update these appointment if you permanently move to a new time zone or if your Windows time zone definition changes, otherwise they'll display incorrectly (i.e., in the “old” time zone). To run the tool, you need Windows XP or later and Microsoft Outlook 2000 or later. You can download it from the Microsoft Download center at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e343a233-b9c8-4652-9dd8-ae0f1af62568.
As always, if you find a link for an interesting new freeware tool or add-on for Outlook, let me know! Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.