Daniel Harris

Coding, The Cloud, and Tech

7. May 2013 19:26
by Daniel Harris

Utilising Office 365 as a Google Reader Replacement

7. May 2013 19:26 by | 0 Comments

With the demise of Google Reader looming, i've turned to outlook, and Office 365 to replace some of the most basic functionality, and surprisingly it does pretty much everything I need...

I personally didn't make use of many of the social features of Google Reader, which is why I think it's working so well for me.

Outlook has had this functionality for a long time, but with the affordability and convenience of Exchange Online via Office 365 it opens it up to many people, and if you already use Exchange (Not specifically O365) it won't cost you anything extra.

The key features that I needed in a replacement were:

  • Ability to maintain control over my data, with the ability to export my list of feeds if required
  • Track which posts I have read
  • Highlight a post as something to read later
  • Synchronise all this information in one way or another
  • Access my feeds from almost any device with an internet connection
  • Ideally it will have an app available for Windows, Windows Phone, and Mac OS X

For me, Outlook and Office 365 meet all these requirements. Below i've discussed how it meets some of these requirements.

Tracking posts I have and haven't read

This works the same as with emails when accessing my feeds via Outlook, or the Outlook web app.

Viewing a post in the preview pane will make the post as read, and if I want to mark a post as unread I simply right click and click "Mark as Read"

As i'm personally using an Office 365 subscription for my Exchange service the status of read posts is synchronised across the Outlook 2013 desktop app and the Outlook Web App.

Highlighting a post to read later

If there is a post that particularly interests me, but I don't have time to read it at the time, I can, like with an email flag it, and set a reminder, and just like an email this will be added to my task list.

I also use a Windows Phone, and maintain my current todo list in Exchange. This does add flagged posts to this list, which means they also appear on my phone, as well as on the web, on my Windows 8 PC and in Outlook on my Mac.

The Outlook Web App allows access to my feeds from almost any device

This was a key requirement for me, I could always use the Google Reader site via any web browser to quickly access my feeds, and see what's new.

The newest version of the Outlook web app is particularly nice, if you are already running on the 2013 version of Office 365 you should find the app to be a pleasure to use on most devices, including mobile phones and tablets.

It's not the primary way I access my feeds, but it's great as a backup, and requires nothing more than a web browser.

Outlook is available on Windows and Mac OS X

As I have said in previous blog posts, I bought a Macbook Pro w/ Retina Display in 2012, and use Windows on a daily basis, so I want to be able to access my feeds with a 'native' app of some sort from both Operating Systems.

For this I use Outlook 2013 in Windows 8, and Outlook 2011 on my Mac.

Both are available as part of a number of Office 365 subscriptions.

Synchronisation across my devices

I've mentioned a few times that Exchange keeps things synched across all of my devices, this includes my phone, tablet, PC and Mac.

My RSS Subscriptions Folder on Windows Phone and Outlook for Mac


This approach to managing your RSS Subscriptions won't be for everybody. Especially if you are looking for more social features.

For me it fulfils the basic requirements I personally have, and since I already have an Office 365 subscription and Outlook on my various computers, it just makes sense to take advantage of this.

If I want to export my data at any time I can do so via Outlook, this is exported into an 'OPML' XML file, similar to the file generated using Google Takeout.

Outlook may not seem like the most obvious way to manage your feeds, and it's a feature i've not used until recently. If you haven't tried it yet then give it a shot.

You can sign up to a free trial of Office 365 and see if it's for you.

If you've tried it let me know in the comments below, also if you have any tips or alternatives you think are better i'd love to hear from you.

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