My Feed Wrangler workflow

Subscribe and manage RSS feeds on the iPhone

One of the big changes in 2013 was migrating my Google Reader RSS feeds to a new home that could offer reliability and a realistic business model. If you are reading this post, chances are you got yourself a Feed Wrangler subscription or are exploring the platforms out there not happy with your current choice. In my case, I chose _davidsmith's from the first day, using the official iPhone app at first and moving to Reeder as soon as support for the service came out.

Although this was briefly mentioned in a previous post about Feed Wrangler as a discovery tool, I just want to elaborate a little bit more and explain how I combine different apps to subscribe, organise and read my feeds directly on my phone. This doesn't involve any automation at all. In fact, the whole point is to craft those lists manually and understand where everything is going. The idea is simple: import with a Safari bookmarklet → Manage stream with Feed Wrangler app → See changes on your RSS app.

In my case I discover most of the content — new sites and authors I wasn't aware of — primarily via Twitter or other blogs. Skimming through my Twitter timeline I would normally save to read later any interesting link to Instapaper. For RSS, I tend to do this directly from Reeder or save to Instapaper too if I don't have the time. Regardless of the app you use, there's probably an easy way to check the original source by opening the link on the web browser. That's where we want to get to.

Start with the Safari bookmarklet

The key element of this workflow is to be able to add new feed subscriptions to Feed Wrangler via Safari using a bookmarklet. Doing this on a desktop computer is as simple as logging in to your account dragging a button to the browser's bookmark bar. Of course, this dragging method is not going to work on iOS — you can only tap to open — so you can either synchronise bookmarks or create one from scratch on iOS 7.

Simply launch Safari on your iPhone or iPad and tap on the Share button at the bottom centre to create a new bookmark. This is going to be a placeholder so don't worry about the site you are bookmarking; we are going to replace the URL address now. On the next 'Add Bookmark' screen you will be given the option to rename the bookmark and to edit the URL. That http://... address has to be replaced with a javascript: command that looks like this:

javascript:javascript:%20(function%20()%20%7Bvar%20jsCode%20=%20document.createElement(%27script%27);jsCode.setAttribute(%27src%27,%20%27https://feedwrangler.net/add_bookmarklet.js%27);document.body.appendChild(jsCode);%7D());

Once you save this bookmark all you need to do is to invoke it from the bookmark menu and possibly log in to your account.

The cool thing is that you can now add new feeds to Feed Wrangler without having to launch the app. Is this reason enough to uninstall it? Of course not! You want to have the app installed to manage the most useful feature of the service, which has to be Smart Streams.

Why adding the to this workflow? It turns out that every time you hit the bookmarklet you will be redirected to the Feed Wrangler site. There you will see a message confirmation that the feed has been added successfully. Do you know those annoying banners that keep appearing on the top of websites suggesting you download an app? Feed Wrangler has one of those too. If you have the app installed already, the download button is changed for an 'Open', giving you an unexpected and very convenient shortcut.

Organising with the Feed Wrangler app

Although the official Feed Wrangler app is very basic for reading, it gives you a lot of functionality to manage your feed subscriptions. It's just the ideal way to group feeds together on a Smart Folder or remove the ones you don't want anymore.

What I like to do with my new subscriptions immediately after using the bookmarklet is to put them in a folder specially made for new feeds. The setup is so simple you can do it in a couple of taps: Tap Edit → Select the Smart Stream → Tap on the blue 'Feeds' text → select the new feed you just have subscribed to. Playing around a bit with it you can easily create new streams and even get them to show posts from specific sites that match certain keywords. So there you go, after some fiddling with the bookmark creation, you can curate a list of interesting sites directly on your phone.