Use Firefox as an RSS Reader with NewsFox

It’s been a little over a year since Google Reader shut down. Most people migrated to other RSS readers; a popular choice is Feedly. However, there are still users who keep looking for new solutions. If you’re a Firefox user, the add-on that can do the job is NewsFox.

You can install NewsFox from the official website and open it either from the Preferences menu, by clicking the NewsFox icon in the toolbar, or by typing “chrome://newsfox/content/newsfox.xul” into the address bar.

The interface might remind you of an email client. A list of RSS feeds is on the left (2) with the main toolbar (1) on top. The central area (3) is where the articles from a selected feed show up. Feed settings are controlled from the feed toolbar (5). The reading pane (4) is where you’ll read the articles (unless you open them in a new tab).

newsfox-interface

If you dislike this layout, you can switch to the vertical one:

newsfox-vertical-layout

The main toolbar (#1 in the screenshot above) controls the RSS feeds and global NewsFox options.

newsfox-main-toolbar

The icons represent the following actions: refresh all feeds, add/delete feed groups, add/delete RSS feeds, and manage Live Bookmarks. The last three icons from left to right are actually small menus for Options, Help and History.

To manage each feed individually, you’ll use the feed toolbar (marked as #5).

newsfox-feed-toolbar

This toolbar works only when a feed is selected and includes: homepage (opens in a new tab), refresh feed, tag articles, mark all articles as read/unread and delete selected articles. The last button opens the Feed Options dialog.

To modify feed options, first add some feeds to NewsFox. If you want to transfer subscriptions from another RSS reader, save them as an OPML file and import it by clicking the Options button in the main toolbar and selecting “Import OPML” – “Add to existing feeds” – “from file.” To manually add feeds one by one, click the “Add feed” button and paste the URLs.

The NewsFox icon in the Add-on Bar will change color when it detects RSS feeds on websites. You can then subscribe to them by clicking and selecting the desired feed. Also, if you used Live Bookmarks to follow RSS feeds, NewsFox will pick them up when you click the Manage Live Bookmarks icon.

NewsFox is surprisingly powerful when it comes to sorting your RSS content. There are several levels of categorization.

Groups are basically folders into which you can divide RSS feeds. Create groups by clicking the “Add Group” button in the main toolbar. Note that you can add one feed to multiple groups. Regular groups have no particular options except drag-and-drop reordering. Search groups are much more interesting. They function as a persistent search filter which shows all the articles that satisfy your criteria.

newsfox-search-group

Tags are like groups for articles. To apply them, just select articles in the central area and click “Tag selected” in the feed toolbar. This is useful when researching something or collecting notes. When you want to delete a tag, select it and click “Delete group.”

newsfox-tags

Another similar way of collecting articles is Storage. Create it via the “Add feed” button in the main toolbar. Storage behaves like a local RSS feed into which you can dump articles from other feeds.

If you want to track keywords, use the Keywords option from the NewsFox Options dialog. You can add up to five keywords, and articles containing them will be highlighted. This makes it easier to further categorize them.

newsfox-keywords

You can flag as many articles as you want to mark them as important. Just click on the dot in the “Flag” column before the article title – it will turn into a star. The green dot after the title means the article is unread; you can toggle this by clicking the dot or choosing the “Mark as read” option from the right-click menu. To remove columns, select the icon at the right end of the column bar.

Global NewsFox options are in the Options menu in the main toolbar. You can set the date style, turn off notifications and tooltips, and set the RSS refresh interval. The “Global” tab contains options for automatic deletion of unread and old articles. The “General” tab will let you enable horizontal layout, favicons for your RSS feeds, and interest filter – a Bayesian filter that estimates how much you’ll like certain articles and displays the number in the “R” column. Other options include custom keyboard shortcuts and printing articles directly from NewsFox.

newsfox-global-options

These settings are applied to all feeds by default. If you want to specify different settings for a certain feed, select it and click the “Feed Options” button in the feed toolbar.

newsfox-feed-options

You can encrypt the feed and lock it with a password in the “Security” tab. The “Web Filter” tab lets you define how the articles will be shown in the reading pane (without photos, without JavaScript elements, text-only…). If you know CSS, you can modify the textview.css file in your “.mozilla/firefox/profile/NewsFox” folder to change fonts and colors.

NewsFox might seem complicated, but it’s easy to get used to – just give yourself time to explore it. If something goes wrong, there’s always the Restore Backup option, and importing feeds from other RSS readers is effortless. Everything is in your browser, and you don’t have to register for a new account.

The downside is that your feeds aren’t accessible from any computer, as there’s no online sync option. Also, NewsFox lacks official documentation and support, so if you get stuck, it might be hard to get help. Still, it’s an all-around RSS reading solution, and it’s my default RSS tool since the death of Google Reader.

Which RSS reader do you use? Do you prefer online services or local apps for this purpose? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: RSS logo