Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Open source alternatives to web apps: FreshRSS

App: FreshRSS

Replaces: goRead, The Old Reader, Feedreader

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Google pulled the plug on Google Reader (its RSS feed reader). When Google announced that Reader would be heading into the sunset, a lot of people whined and moaned about it. That’s in spite of giving users several months to find an alternative. I still hear the occasional echo of those whines and moans today.

Instead of complaining, I spent the months leading up to the shutdown to find myself a new RSS reader. I tried about half a dozen before settling on FreshRSS. It’s a self-hosted reader

Let’s take a look at it.

Getting started

The first thing to do is download FreshRSS from GitHub. You should check the requirements before proceeding.

Optionally, create a MySQL database on the web server where you are going to install FreshRSS. If you don’t, there’s no need to worry. FreshRSS will use a SQLite database instead. The latter is easier to maintain, especially if you have limited technical skills. However, a MySQL database is a better choice if more than one person will be using the instance of FreshRSS that you install.

Next, unzip the archive you downloaded from GitHub and then upload the files to a folder on your web server. If you created a MySQL database, you’ll need to rename the file config.default.php to config.php. Then, edit config.php to point to your database.

Using FreshRSS

The first time you follow the URL to the version of FreshRSS you installed, you’ll be asked to create an admin account. That will be also be your personal account. You can create accounts for friends and family as well.

Obviously, you won’t have any feeds in a newly-minted installation of FreshRSS. You can add feeds in two ways: individually, or (if you’re moving to FreshRSS from another RSS reader) by uploading an OPML file containing your feeds. Most RSS readers let you export your feeds as an OPML file.

To add feeds, click Subscriptions management. If you’re adding an individual feed, copy the link to the feed. Then, paste that link into the Add a RSS feed field and click the + button.

Adding a feed

If you’re uploading an OPML file, click Import/export. Click the Browse button, find the OPML file you want to import, and then click Open. After that, click Import.

Importing a feed

Once you’ve done that, click the Go back to your RSS feeds link. In the main FreshRSS window, click the Refresh button. After a few seconds, the content of your feeds loads.

Adding a feed

Depending upon how the feed that’s pushing content to FreshRSS is set up, you can either:

  • Read complete articles in FreshRSS. Click the heading to expand the article
  • Jump out to the site by clicking the icon to the far right of an item in your feed

Customizing FreshRSS

FreshRSS is usable right out of the box — well, after you’ve added a few feeds, anyway. If you feel the need, you can customize it.

If the default look and feel of FreshRSS doesn’t do it for you, click the gear icon in the top-right of the window and select Display. Choose one of the six pre-installed themes. Then, click Submit.

You might be one of those people who subscribes to a large number of feeds. It can be challenging to go through those feeds. Why not break your feeds up into groups of feeds on similar topics? To do that in FreshRSS, just create categories. In the main window, click Subscriptions management. Then, in the New Category box, type a name for the category and then click Submit.

Creating a category

Stay in the Subscriptions management window. Add existing feeds to the category by clicking the gear icon next to the name of the feed. This pops out properties information for the feed. Select an option from the Category list and then click Submit.

Creating a category

Your categories appear on the left side of the main FreshRSS window. Click one to filter your

Final thoughts

It takes a bit of work to get FreshRSS up and running. But that work is worth it. It’s an easy to use RSS reader thatdoes its job nicely.

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