Many websites that are regularly updated have an RSS feed, also known as a ‘news feed’. This allows you to see updated content quickly and easily without having to navigate to the actual site. ‘RSS’ stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’.

Once you’ve subscribed to an RSS feed, the information that it consists of will be downloaded on to your computer using a program called a ‘feed reader’. Internet Explorer, Firefox and other browsers have built-in feed readers. If you have a Google account, you can use the Google feed reader. This has the added advantage that you can sign into it on any computer, not just your own.

In this article, we’ll be looking at how to use the feed readers in Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox.

The RSS icon

In Internet Explorer, the RSS icon is in the toolbar. When you visit a site that has an RSS feed, it will turn orange.

In the latest versions of Firefox, the RSS icon – known within Firefox as the ‘Subscribe’ button – no longer appears automatically at the end of the address bar. To put it on your bookmarks toolbar, click View, then Toolbars, then Customize. Scroll down until you see the ‘Subscribe’ button. Drag it to the bookmarks toolbar, where it will automatically park itself at one end.

To subscribe to an RSS feed, all you need to do is click on the icon when you’re on a website that has such a feed. This will take you to a page where you can subscribe to it.

Using the Internet Explorer 8 feed reader

Step 1: You first need to find a website that has a feed. For the purposes of this exercise, use the one on the BBC News site. Click the RSS icon. This brings up a page where you can subscribe to the feed.

Step 2: Click Subscribe to this feed. As part of the subscribing process, you can also choose to have a link to that specific feed in your Favorites Bar. In the box that appears when you click Subscribe, make a tick in the square labelled ‘Add to Favorites Bar’.

Step 3: There’s now a link to the BBC News feed in the Favorites Bar. When you click this, you’ll get a list of all the feeds – that is, news stories – from that site. All you have to do is click on an item to read the full story as it appears on the site.

Step 4: To see all the feeds that that you’ve subscribed to from different sites, go to the Favorites Center and click Feeds. Here, you’ll see that the BBC News feed has been added.

Using the Firefox feed reader

Step 1: Again, for the purposes of this exercise, go to the BBC News site and click on the RSS icon there. When asked, say that you want to subscribe using ‘Live Bookmarks’, which is the Firefox feed reader. 

Step 2: You’ll now see a box listing the website whose feeds you want to access. Click Subscribe.

You should now see an icon in the bookmarks toolbar. Click it to see the list of stories from that newsfeed. Click any link in the list to go to the site and read the full story.