How’d I miss this? Apple just turned Apple Mail into an RSS news reader

Talk about losing something in the shuffle. I totally missed any mention that a part of the Leopard upgrade would include the integration of RSS into Apple Mail. However, I just noticed the feature when Apple Mail auto-upgraded (is that a term?) the first time I used it with Leopard. There is now a default folder called “RSS” in the left column to which I can add RSS feeds. In other words, RSS feeds can be subscribed to and organized within the Apple Mail (Apple’s desktop e-mail client) environment. I know (see: Steve Rubel) there are many ways to accomplish e-mail/RSS integration via all sorts of clever hacks (and the feature is old-hat to NewsGator/Outlook users), however, by making RSS integration a default feature of its email client, Apple has done something that is akin to what they did when they integrated RSS into iTunes (i.e., they made subscribing to a podcast an easy-to-understand concept).

This may seem like a redundant waste of time for anyone who uses a newsreader, but for the 95% of the world who doesn’t (warning: I just made up that statistic – I have no idea what percentage of computer users regularly use an RSS newsreader), perhaps this no-brainer feature will finally help them understand what the whole RSS thing is about (i.e., it comes in just like the e-mail newsletters you subscribe to, but you can turn off the subscription whenever you want — and, wow, if you think someone is spamming you via their RSS feed, click, they’re gone forever).

At first glance, the RSS subscription process seems a little clunky when done via Apple Mail as it is a pull-down menu command requiring (apparently) that you know the exact URL of the feed. However, the feeds you subscribe to with Apple Mail can automatically sync with feeds you subscribe to via Safari (and vice versa) — and subscribing to a feed via Safari is a one-click easy thing to do. (Note: I’m a creature of habit, so I still think the NetNewsWire/NewsGator sync will be my go-to solution.)

Unlike the iTunes/RSS integration, this is a bit less revolutionary as the market share of computer users using Apple Mail is tiny compared to the market share of computer users using iTunes, however, it will be an interesting development to watch.

Note for the geeks who have made it this far: I don’t see a means to import an OPML file directly into Apple Mail (however, I’ve spent less than five minutes looking and it’s too beautiful a day outside to be messing with this stuff now), but I recall one can import an OPML file into Safari and there’s a one-click way to sync your Safari and Apple Mail feeds.

Here’s what Apple says about the feature:

“Subscribe to an RSS feed in Mail and you’ll know the moment an article or blog post hits the wire. Even better, you can choose to have new articles appear in your inbox alongside your latest email messages. Sorting your news is easy, too. Use Smart Mailboxes to organize incoming news articles according to search terms that pique your interest. Mail shares its unread RSS feed count with Safari, so your reading list always stays in sync.”

Update: I’ve changed the the title of this post by taking out a part of it that suggested the “syncing to Safari” feature is the same as syncing to an “online newsreader.” As I was thinking about this later, I realized that the feeds are being sync’d to desktop software, not to a web-based reader.)

Here’s what this post looks like via Apple Mail: