Blog Post

How To: Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail

I never quite understood Apple’s decision to include RSS support in Safari, but not in Apple Mail. Other mail clients such as Thunderbird have offered this support for years, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use them. They had never offered the power Mail did, with built-in smart folders and the way it had always played so nicely with iCal.

When I first heard that Mail would be offering RSS support in Leopard my first thought was, “finally”. After installing Leopard I immediately opened up NetNewsWire and exported my subscriptions as an OPML file, only to find out that Mail wouldn’t accept it. Mail isn’t alone in missing this very important feature, Safari doesn’t offer OPML importing either.

If you have been using Safari as your application of choice for reading RSS feeds you will be fine, it’s a simple mouse click away to bring them into Mail. But Safari for the most part is nowhere near powerful or feature rich enough for most of us.

So what do I do now? Am I stuck with individually re-subscribing to all of my several hundred feeds all over again? At first this seems to be the case, but the long answer is: no. It involves a little jimmy-rigging and taking the long route but it is possible.

If you haven’t already, hop on over to Mozilla’s home page and download yourself a copy of Firefox. Once you have Firefox loaded visit their extensions page and install Sage, an RSS aggregator plugin for the Firefox browser.

Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail

After it is installed the Sage plugin logo will now be present in your menu bar. Export your subscriptions from your current feed aggregator as an OPML file. Once that is done simply click the Sage plugin toolbar icon and select the “OPML Import/Export” item in the options menu. Locate your subscriptions file and import them into Sage.

At this point you will notice that your feeds are now stored as bookmark files inside of a Sage directory in your bookmarks menu. Select “organize bookmarks” from the Firefox bookmarks menu and then select “export” from the File menu. This will place a bookmarks.html file on your desktop.

Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail

Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail

You are now ready to open up Safari. Select “Import Bookmarks” from Safari’s file menu and bring your recently exported Firefox bookmarks into Safari. A newly imported folder named “sage feeds” will now be added to your bookmarks. Weed out your other Firefox bookmarks leaving only the Sage directory and add it to your bookmarks menu.

This is the point in which it gets a bit scary. Make sure you select Safari as the default RSS feed reader in Safari’s preference panel, other wise this will not work. You will now browse to the sage feeds directory in your bookmarks menu and select “Open in Tabs”.

Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail

Depending upon how many RSS feeds you are subscribed to, Safari may take a few minutes to finish this task. It is important that you complete this step, if not Safari will only see your feeds as bookmarks, and not RSS feeds thus rendering them invisible inside of Mail.

Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail After this is completed close Safari and open up Mail. At the bottom of the screen click the + and select “Add RSS Feeds”. In the pane that pops up, select “Browse RSS feeds in Safari Bookmarks”. At this point it is as simple as select the feeds you want to bring into Mail. After they are imported you can delete the feeds from your Safari bookmarks, and remove Sage as well.

Although it is possible to find a way to import all of your feeds, Apple made it nowhere as easy as it could be. Hopefully we will see this issue resolved in a future update of Leopard.

22 Responses to “How To: Import RSS Subscriptions into Apple Mail”

  1. Great post. thanks so much for this. I was pulling my hair out trying to figure this out. MADNESS not to include a simple ‘import OPML’ option. MADNESS.

    Ah well – mate thanks so much!

  2. Hello and thanks for a really great site. Can anyone help with an OS X Mail RSS and Xserve problem? We can use Mail to read 1,000’s of sites but it can’t access our own Xserve without constantly being fed a user name a password. It’s driving us mad! Surely there’s a way around this. I’ve tried authenticating and using remember me keychain using Safari and then browsing the feeds in Mail. I’ve tried diddling with the keychain stuff but all to no avail. This is just such a small but HUGE problem. Because our guys can’t seen new feeds added to Mail, nobody bothers to click the exclamation mark and then go through the authentication process. The Apple site delivers RSS without authentication and they surely use Xserves so how come it’s so hard to find an answer to this problem. Appreicate any (secure) ideas. Thanks, Norm

  3. So first of all, how you even came up with this workaround mystifies me, but I am totally impressed. It’s very inventive.
    I thought you might want to know that I found a much easier way to do this elsewhere:

    It’s still a bit clunky as you can’t export just a few folders of feeds from Google Reader, so if you want to get rid of some you have to do it before exporting the file, or after putting it in Mail, but it’s super simple.

    The only thing the directions at the link doesn’t mention is that you have to cd to the folder where you saved the OPML file that you exported. then run the script.

    anyway, just a hint for those who are trying to do this.

  4. Jeff having RSS functionality built into Safari, but there is no way to see a concurrent list of all your new feeds, is the only drawback that makes it useless for somebody like me who has several hundred feeds to keep track of.

  5. “But Safari for the most part is nowhere near powerful or feature rich enough for most of us.”
    Funny…. I love Safari; always have. In fact, the RSS implementation is the main reason I’ve continued to use Safari instead of switching to some other browser. I can load up a bunch of feeds into a single folder, right-click on that folder, and presto! Full-screen RSS!
    To each his own, I guess. :-)

  6. Stephaniemar

    I also tried RSS in Apple Mail. I was excited to see it in mail so I could just check my new feeds while checking e-mail. Unfortunately, it kept crashing my mail application. The feeds would update, but as I would go through my new feeds, I would get the beach ball of death. I just started using google reader instead. So far I like it, and I can see everything on my iphone.

  7. For those of you using NetNewsWire or NewsFire dragging the feeds as Sean suggested works great, but if you use bloglines or a similar service, my work around will be your remaining option, as dragging will not work from the web.