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Posted Jan 14, 2005

Bitten By the aKregator

by George Staikos

Recently a new addition was made to the code that will become KDE 3.4. The application known as aKregator was imported. aKregator is a feed reader for KDE that supports RSS/RDF and Atom feeds. Many news sites offer this technology as a means to access the headlines and brief story summaries without loading the full content of the pages. OSDir, for instance, is one of those sites [OSDir RSS]. Since I like to follow many different news sites, this saves me plenty of time as the headlines are all packaged together in an easy-to- navigate format and if I want to read more, it's as easy as clicking on a link. Let's see how aKregator works.

There are two ways to use aKregator. One is as a stand-alone application, and the other is embedded in Kontact [screenshot]. I personally find it most convenient to use aKregator in Kontact since I use e-mail almost all day, everyday, so Kontact is regularly running. In either case, aKregator provides notification in the system tray of how many new articles have arrived, making it easy to see if it's time to open aKregator.

When launching aKregator, there are 5 default feeds, all KDE related. You will see them in the tree view on the left side of the window. If you're not interested in these, you can delete them. Feeds can also be grouped into folders and sub-folders, and managed with drag-and-drop. Use the menu or the context menu to add new folders and feeds.

To view the contents of a feed, simply click on it in the feed tree. The list of all articles in the feed will appear in the list view to the right, along with a synopsis of the feed. Selecting an article will display it where the feed synopsis was, and there will be a hyper-link to open the full article in a browser tab. If you're familiar with web browsers and graphical e-mail applications such as KMail, aKregator will feel very familiar. This is one of the strengths of aKregator in fact - it takes news feed technology and packages it into an application that feels just like the ones you already use!

The aKregator configuration dialog contains various settings such as article expiration, which browser to use, how often to download new articles from the feeds (also configurable per-feed), and what notifications you would like to receive.

If you're not already familiar with RSS feeds, you may not know where to find them or how they are accessed. In this case, if you use Konqueror as your web browser, you're in luck. aKregator provides a transparent Konqueror plug-in that automatically detects feeds while you're surfing and displays an icon in the status bar when they're available. Simply click on the icon and choose the feeds you want to add to aKregator! Feeds that aren't detected in this manner can be added to aKregator manually by right-clicking on the link and selecting "Add Feed to aKregator". Web sites typically indicate RSS feeds with an icon like this:

One of the biggest advantages to using an application such as aKregator is that it saves so much time. If you like to follow several news sites, blogs, or announcement lists, you'll love aKregator. Instead of having to check each site for new news on a regular basis, you let aKregator check for you and notify you when it arrives. It conveniently packages all the articles together in a searchable index, and you can keep track of which articles you have and haven't read, along with an archive of old articles. The integrated web browser lets you read more, respond to comments, and follow links in the articles just as though you visited the news site with your web browser.

In contrast to a news ticker style of RSS application, you don't need to constantly look at aKregator to see if there is new news. I have found that with news tickers such as the applet in KDE, I was constantly staring at the news feeds as they scrolled by and re-reading the same headlines over and over. With aKregator, I find I never look at old news as headlines that are read are conveniently grayed out and pushed down the list.

And so the power of KDE strikes again! aKregator is little more than a repackaging of KHTML and KDE's RSS parser in a more convenient form for reading news, and perhaps that's what makes it so nice. You can obtain a beta version of aKregator from , or wait for KDE 3.4 and get aKregator as a part of the kdepim package.

George is a software developer from Toronto, Canada. He has been actively involved with the KDE project for over 5 years, developing KDE code and attending conferences to discuss and promote KDE and Linux on the desktop. He is presently the North American press contact for KDE, and is still an active developer. George has contributed to many different areas of KDE including the libraries and I/O subsystem, Konqueror, KMail, and various other applications.

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