How to Create RSS feeds with Dreamweaver

By Ronald Northrip

To create a new feed you click the New Feed button in the toolbar at the top of the panel. The panel will change and you will create the settings for the new feed. You'll go through 5 panels with various settings that affect how your feed will work. Don't worry, you only have to do this once, when you create the feed. These settings stick with the feed and are used when you process the feed to control its content. We'll talk more about processing the feed later on. (Note: If your window doesn't show the Next and Cancel buttons you may need to make it taller — I would have done it automatically for you but Dreamweaver doesn't allow it).

The first panel collects descriptive information about the RSS feed. You will need to enter the Title of the feed. You will also need to enter a Description for the feed. As an option you can include a graphic or icon to be used to represent the feed, but only in aggregators that support RSS v 1 formatted feeds. If you specify a graphic you it's a good idea to stick to RSS v1 for the format of your file (specified in a different step). Once you're happy with your content you may click the Next button to proceed to the next panel in the series.

The second panel defines what files to summarize when creating the feed. You can set this up any number of ways, depending on what you want to accomplish with your feed. The settings I'm going to outline here are best for summarizing a single page, such as the home page or a blog-style page. Set the first popup to make a summary of a Page. Then you need to tell it which page will be summarized - you could type in the file:// url for the page, but what I recommend is to click the little folder icon to the right of the text field. You'll be presented with a dialog box to select an HTMLl file — pick the index.html file in the root directory of the site (the home page) and click choose. Sub-directories only applies to directory summaries, not to files, so it should be turned off. You'll want to add entries to the RSS feed for all changes to this file so set Capture changes to File Modifications. Enter the base URL for the website you will be publishing to, as it will be used to create the links in the RSS feeds (RSS feed links are full URLs because you never know where the feed will be republished). Set Max stories to 30 because we don't want the feed to contain more than 30 news entries — this is arbitrary (and what I wanted when I created it). You can set it any way you like, or leave it blank and there will be no limit. Be forewarned, though, unlimited RSS feeds just keep accumulating content, which is probably not what you want.

The third panel determines how the headline will be extracted from the HTML page. The headline was within a TD tag with a CSS style (called a CLASS) of HPStoryRevHead applied. The content of that table cell should be used as the headline of the story in the RSS feed. Set the Match Tag to be TD (it's not case sensitive). Set the CLASS attribute to be HPStoryRevHead to further identify the item we want. Extract the Tag Content to be used as the headline.

The fourth panel determines how the story will be extracted from the HTML page, in a similar manner to the way that headlines are extracted from the page. The story was within a P tag with a CSS style of HPStoryContent applied. The content of that paragraph should be used as the story in the RSS feed. Set the Match Tag to be P. The paragraph to include follows the headline, so set the Location to After the Headline. Set the CLASS attribute to be HPStoryContent to further uniquely identify the item we want. Extract the Tag Content to be used as the story. You may alternatively specify a maximum length for the content in characters or words, but as the stories a pretty short blurbs already there really isn't a reason to here. You also might want to strip any HTML tags from the story (like the P tag or BR tag). Some aggregators have problems rendering HTML content. Good ones will just ignore the tags, but bad ones will actually display the HTML tags.To be more compatible you would want to check Strip HTML.

The fifth and final panel determines where the file is saved and in what RSS format. Tell it where to save the RSS file you are creating — click the little folder icon to the right of the text field. You'll be presented with a dialog box to save a file — go to the root directory and type in "indexfeed.rss" and click save (you can call it whatever you want, but you should end the file with RSS or XML). Then, pick which version of the RSS format to use — Version 1.0 is the most popular, DreamFeeder supports 0.9.X, 1.0 and 2.0. Older formats are more broadly compatible, but newer formats support dates and times for each story, and graphics for the feed. Finally, click the Save button and the RSS file will be created and added to your list of feeds.

After completing these steps the file for your feed has been created and is now listed in the list of RSS feeds. The list entry indicates that it has never been updated — that means that the feed doesn't have any stories in it yet. Also, the entry lists that there is 1 new story to be processed (actually, 1 modified file to be processed, but who's counting?).

To process/update the feed you can simply click the Update button and the settings you defined before will be used to identify and extract new content which will then be added to the feed. To try it out, select your feed from the list and click the process/update button. The RSS feed will now have content that you can examine in your favorite news reader.

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