RSS Feed Reader RSSOwl

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 3, 2010
Updated • Jun 13, 2016
Software, Windows software

RSSOwl is a free cross-platform RSS feed reader featuring extensive customization options, search and filtering capabilities, and options to save articles for safe keeping.

RSS feed readers can be divided into the two major groups online and desktop feed readers, with desktop feed readers again divided into standalone applications and readers that are part of a software suite.

Prominent examples of feed readers are Google Reader in the online category, Microsoft Outlook or Opera in the integrated reader category, and Feeddemon or RSSOwl in the standalone category. Each category has its distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Online readers for instance have the advantage that they can be accessed without having to download a software first. They do however require an online connection to access the feeds, and they usually lack the advanced search and filtering options that offline readers offer.

Update: The rise of mobile computing produced another category of feed readers: those driven by apps.



RSSOwl was suggested as a viable alternative on the Feeddemon review here by a Ghacks reader. It is a desktop RSS feed reader that is compatible with Linux, Windows and Apple Macintosh computer systems unlike Feeddemon which is only available for the Windows operating system.

RSSOwl can import a feed list in opml format which should make the transition from one feed reader to it very smooth as most services support the exporting of RSS feeds to the format.

One thing that becomes obvious after importing a feed list is that the program feels more responsive than Feeddemon. Importing opml files is however not the only option to add feeds to the program. It is possible to add single feeds that have been copied from a website. A very interesting option is the addition of feed items by keywords that are entered by the user.

To do that the user would enter a keyword or phrase into a form provided by RSSOwl. The program displays suggestions which can but do not have to be used. It is then possible to select a source that should be searched for news items containing that keyword. Sources include Technorati, Flickr, Google News, Digg or Twitter. These news items are then displayed just like any feed in the program making it a very comfortable option of keeping up with news about a specific keyword.

The main interface of the program displays the feeds in a format known from email programs. The left sidebar lists the feed folders and feeds, the top right window the feed entries of the selected folder or feed, and the lower right pane the selected article of that feed. The overview that this interface provides is excellent and better than that provided by Feeddemon. There are several reasons for that:

Feeddemon offers three displays modes: A full article view that displays the full article, a summaries view that displays the first line of an article and the article title, and the compact view that displays only article titles.

RSSOwl displays the feeds in a table that uses columns like the post title, author, date plus additional filters like attachments, link or status. This makes it for instance very easy to sort the articles by author to read the articles by a particular author first, or to sort it by date or even category.

Feed items can also be grouped easily either by author, date, category, title and other which includes additional grouping options like ratings, state, label or feed.

rss reader

The search option works similar to search in desktop email clients. The user can search titles, all RSS items, authors, attachments or sources with the results being displayed instantly by the program.

Only the selected folder or RSS feed will be searched by default making this search very powerful.

The grouping feature works in combination with the search making this a very powerful way of displaying feeds exactly like the user wants them to appear. Searches can be stored and displayed like any other feed or feed folder making it similar to the keyword option in Feeddemon. It is for instance possible to save a search displaying all news that contain the term software in the title.

Other features offered by RSSOwl include:

  • Feed Sharing: RSSOwl knows about a number of communities like Delicious and Technorati to share your feeds and news entries with.
  • Embedded Browser: Use the embedded Browser to open the full content of a news entry from the originating web site. You can open as many browser tabs as you like and open any web site from the address field.
  • Labels: Use Labels to associate keywords with news entries. You can assign any number of labels and create new ones. Each Label has its own color to make it easy to distinguish labeled news from others.
  • News Filters: News Filters are likely the most powerful feature in RSSOwl. They allow to automate common actions like moving or copying a news into a news bin. You can create as many filters as you need. Each filter is made up of search conditions to match specific news and a list of actions to perform on them. Once created, the filter will work on downloaded news that match the search conditions. A filter can be executed on existing news as well. Use this feature if you want to update lots of news at once
  • Clean Up Wizard: With the help of the Clean-Up Wizard you can easily get rid of old news entries or feeds that have not updated in a while. Housekeeping made easy!
  • Notifier: The Notifier is a small popup that displays the headlines of incoming news even when RSSOwl is minimized. You can mark news entries as sticky from the Notifier to remember reading the full content of the entry at a later time.
  • Progress Windows: The Downloads and Activity dialog shows what RSSOwl is busy doing. Downloads (e.g. for Podcasts) are showing up as well as the progress of updating your feeds.
  • Protected Feeds: Using feeds that are protected by username and password? No problem, RSSOwl supports BASIC, DIGEST and NTLM authentication schemes. Since RSSOwl is storing usernames and passwords for protected feeds, you should consider some extra protection by setting up a master password.
  • Add-ons: You can easily install additional features into RSSOwl by using the integrated Add-on wizard. For example, the Newsgroup Reader makes it possible to read newsgroups in RSSOwl like feeds.

The features that are provided by RSSOwl are comprehensive, and make it an excellent desktop RSS feed reader. The sorting and grouping options coupled together with feed exploration, extensive keyboard shortcuts configuration and customization make RSSOwl my new desktop feed reader of choice. Hello RSSOwl, goodbye Feeddemon.

RSSOwl is available as a portable version and installer for Windows, Linux and Mac.

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  1. BGM said on June 5, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I have been using RSS Owl for several years now. You were right to mention that it’s filtering system is very powerful – indeed, you can filter ANYTHING to ANYWHERE!

    Another downside that you didn’t mention (unless I missed it) is that internal rendering is done with an OLD embedded version of Internet Explorer – which means that some things don’t render correctly that were designed to display in modern browsers.

    The interface is a little clunky looking, and you can’t get the share (by email) button in the main toolbar.

    I like RSS Owl, also, because it saves my feed content locally so that the data is available to me when my machine is offline.

    I look at all the coming RSS readers, and haven’t yet found one that will rule them all.

  2. Rui Monteiro said on April 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Excellent program. It has Search folders, or Filters, or Saved Search, something rare and precious at the same time! Google don’t have this amazing tool :-) And over all that, it has the possibility of using Labels… Same as Tags! A Must.

  3. Pol said on January 4, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Great software but greatnews is becoming open source!

  4. Apinder said on January 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    On linux, the latest version opens. But unable to do anything after that. Feed-import/new feed dialog boxes open, but the NEXT/FINISH buttons don’t respond!!!!

  5. libeco said on January 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I’ve been using Snarfer for about a year now. It’s quite fast and is enough for me. It has some ‘bugs’ though. It always opens its own page as the default, I’m not interested in that, but it cannot be turned off. And sorting by date just doesn’t work properly.

    I just tried RSSOwl and although it seems to be packed with options I decided not to switch yet.
    – Startup is very slow compared to Snarfer.
    – I want a column for the feed next to the headline, seems it can’t be done.
    – When I click on a folder, I want to see all titles from that folder. Doesn’t work.
    – I want to be able to mark an article as unread, not possible.

    So although it seems nice, I won’t make the switch (yet).

    1. Martin said on January 4, 2010 at 12:42 am

      Libeco here is whatI have found out so far:

      #I want a column for the feed next to the headline, seems it can’t be done.

      If by feed you mean blog title then this can be done by customizing the headers. The column you need to activate is called Location (not sure why they have named it that way).

      #When I click on a folder, I want to see all titles from that folder. Doesn’t work

      I experienced the same. a right-click and the selection of aggregate news and cancel will do the trick, as will pressing Ctrl Enter.

      #I want to be able to mark an article as unread, not possible.

      If you mark them read again they are marked as unread.

      1. libeco said on January 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

        @Martin: Thanks! Exactly what I was looking for. I still find clicking on a folder easier than this method, but it’s worth a try.

      2. Martin said on January 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm

        They apparently want you to save it as a search instead which works but feels a bit redundant to me..

  6. Mike_D said on January 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I am Fan of simple solutions..

  7. Rarst said on January 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Features seem very impressive and I like that there is portable version… But no sync between computers. I searched forums and it may be getting that as well in future versions.

    I’ve considered moving off FeedDemon lately. It is one of the very few non-portable apps I use (thus requires separate backup routine, etc) and need to constantly cleanup+compact database or it gets really slow.

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