KC Lemson

By KC Lemson [MS]


Make Newsgator and Outlook work even better together

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My aggregator of choice is Newsgator, as it pulls my RSS feeds into Outlook which is where I'm already spending most of my day. If I didn't have Newsgator and has to use another program, I probably wouldn't read my feeds nearly as frequently as I do.

Scoble mentioned over the weekend that he tracks hundreds of feeds using Newsgator. When I read this over the weekend I made a note to myself to add a tip to my blog on how to use search folders in Outlook to make this even easier, but Greg Reinacker beat me to it (by several months :-). So I figured I'd "do my part" by providing the step-by-step details on how to do what Greg mentioned.

Search folders are a new feature in Outlook 2003*. A search folder is a special folder that contains a 'view' of items in other folders. That view is the result of a search request. Outlook ships with several search folders by default that do things like:

  • Display all large mail in your mailbox store (mail > 100kb)
  • Display all unread items in your mailbox store
  • Display all items flagged for follow up in your mailbox store

You can customize the search criteria used in these default folders (say for example if 100kb seems tiny to you, and you want the large mail folder to only contain items over 1mb) by right clicking on the folder in the folder list, choose "Customize this search folder" and click "Criteria".

You can also create your own search folders that search on your criteria and search only in the specific folders you want to search. With the way Newsgator works (creating a "News" folder and putting all feeds beneath that folder by default), this makes it really easy to create a search folder that shows you all of the unread items from your RSS feeds in a single location:

1. File | New | Search Folder
2. Scroll to the bottom and choose "Create a custom search folder"
3. Click choose
4. Name the search folder (mine is 'Unread RSS')
5. Click criteria
6. On the more choices tab, click "only items that are unread"
7. OK changes
8. Click choose
9. Uncheck the root of your mailbox store, and check your 'news' folder'
Click OK a bunch of times to save your changes

Note: In step 9, you can choose any number of folders, so if you only wanted to create this search folder for a few select RSS feeds, you could select the folders for each of those feeds.

Now you'll have a folder in your folder list that when you click on it, shows you all of the unread items in your News folder as well as any subfolders. As newsgator polls for new items from those feeds, the unread ones will automatically show up in this custom search folder. To state that in another way, the search isn't performed when you click on it; as items are delivered to your mailbox store, if they match the search criteria, they show up in the search folder on delivery. That way there's no performance hit or need to wait if you click on the search folder multiple times.

* Actually, the thing that's new in Outlook 2003 is that they're exposed with a friendly user interface. Search folders have been a part of the Exchange/Outlook diet for years and are used for underlying functionality such as reminders and advanced find. I'll describe that in more detail sometime in another blog entry.

  • great blog! i just followed your instructions in Office 2K and it works great! :) i'll have to hunt around, but i wouldnt mind seeing some screenshots of Office 2K3 with Newsgator, and how it works..... find myself curious.

  • see www.leesoft.co.uk/Newsgator.htm. Maybe somebody will do a proper job :)

  • Don't forget to use "Arranged by" feature in the folder - grouping by each blog

  • i have an oss file that i use to do something similar - i also use at to schedule it to fire up any unread emails I've received this day, 30 minutes before I'm due to go home - that way I can quickly see if there is something I need to action before leaving. I also have a "unread items received yesterday" I can look at when I arrive back at work the next day. Works very well.

  • I have been doing this since Outlook Beta 2. It makes life so much easier!

  • Andy - glad that you use OSS files, I think most folks don't know they exist, so I've got a note (in OneNote of course) to blog about them in the future.

  • Finding them was from Sue Mosher on the 15th Feb 2002 - it was figuring out how to run them from a scheduler that was the toughie but a post from Vince on the newsgroups at http://tinyurl.com/s0fw sorted it out. I'm looking forward to the article though.

  • Not related to newsgator, but search folders don't seem to work with the IMAP mail provider... There's simply no option of saving one that looks at my IMAP stored folders, only my personal folders which I don't store any mail in..

  • Try this...go to www.feedster.com, write a query, then do the search. The resulting RSS feed can be aggregated inside NewsGator. It will blow you away! 1,000,000 bloggers become your intelligent agents for stuff you are interested in. Buzz

  • Yikes...I hate to see NewsGator getting slammed in an article. I'd like to respond to the "problems" the author,...

  • KC, I remembered your post on this subject and was wondering if you see a way around the problem that I describe.

    I do like seeing what's unread, and it's great seeing a top-level number of unread messages, but I think I've finally realized the flaw with search folders in this context: I find that I'm constantly expanding the folders to see what's in them, and sometimes contracting them to be able to look at another feed.

    I think it would be far more efficient to be able to see the folders names (those with new content) in the first column rather than the second column, and then simply click on the folder you want in the first column to see all of its new messages appear in the second column -- in short, just like what happens when you click on your Newsgator home folder with the NewsPage feature disabled (which can be done in Newsgator's Options). The problem there is that it's not a search folder, so you're looking at all folders and all messages all the time.

    I wonder if there's a way to get search folders to behave this way? I suppose I could make a new one for every single RSS feed, but that would be a lot of work up front and then a lot of maintenance.