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OPML Reader: OPML Auto-Discovery Extension for Firefox

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Sergio Longoni just informed me that it’s now safe to announce, review and discuss OPML Reader, an OPML Auto-discovery Extension for Firefox: this plug-in positions itself in your Firefox status bar as a tiny OPML icon. As soon as a user opens a website that links to an OPML file, the icon turns blue. Sites that do not link to an OPML file make the icon turn grey. Clicking on the OPML icon allows you to display the OPML file in Grazr or using the Optimal OPML browser. You can also opt to download the OPML file to your local hard drive.


I tested Sergio’s extension and confirm that it works fine on Firefox versions 1.5 and 2.0. Note that as usual you need to restart Firefox before the extension works. For those who understand Italian, I suggest that you read Sergio’s own blog post OPML Reader per Firefox.

About Sergio Longoni
Sergio ‘Kromeboy’ is a prolific Italian geek blogger who recently provided Sterling Camden with constructive feedback on Sterling’s OPML blogroll widget for WordPress
(original conversation on James Corbett’s post OPML Autodiscovery), so it made perfect sense for me to connect to Sergio a few days ago. We exchanged quite a few messages over Skype and I’m proud that my bookmarklet inspired him to create this nifty extension. Some Firefox users happen to prefer extensions over bookmarklets so this is a perfect complement to my earlier efforts. I
know Sergio is eager to finetune his extension. Contact him directly by
looking for his ‘Contattami’ details on his blog KromeBlog if you’ve got some constructive feedback to share, or scroll down here to the comments section.

Making your site "OPML auto-discoverable"
It’s quite easy to add a link to an OPML file to your website, as long as you have access to your website’s template or source code. Go to the <head> section and insert the following (x)html tag:

<link rel="outline" type="text/x-opml" 
="Title of Your OPML File"
href="" />

so, in my case, my site’s source code contains this tag:

<link rel="outline" type="text/x-opml" 
title="Marjolein's Writings"

(Split across lines because of column width)

Update 2006-10-27: By Randy Morin’s request, after a lively discussion over on Tom Raftery’s I.T. views blog between Randy and Tom Morris, I’ve changed the type attribute to "text/x+opml".

Update 2006-10-28: The debate on the proper content of the type attribute isn’t over yet. See James’ Holderness’ contribution over at Randy’s post Understanding Auto Discovery. Relying on Randy’s good judgment I changed all occurrences of type to "text/x-opml".

Suggestions for improvement

Web pages can link to multiple OPML files. At this moment the OPML Reader extension is only capable of displaying a single OPML file: it picks the last OPML file that was linked to from the <link> tag in the page header. In the case of CleverClogs this is my Marjolein’s Writings OPML, which is fine, but I can imagine other people usually list their OPML files in order of importance. So, until the extension features an OPML file selector (hint, Sergio!), I suggest that the extension selects the first one from the list.


Other OPML Viewers

New OPML viewers are bound to be launched anytime soon. In addition to the ones I mentioned (Grazr and Optimal), there’s also Bitty Browser, for example. I have used Bitty many times on CleverClogs in the past to display websites and RSS feeds in several of my blog posts. This week Scott Matthews, developer of Bitty, pointed out to me in a private email exchange that Bitty now also supports the display of OPML files. You can try Bitty Browser here: Marjolein’s Writings Bitty-wise

It would be nice if the OPML Reader extension would support Bitty Browser and any other OPML viewer that a Firefox user might prefer, for example by using the same mechanism that is used for connecting applications to file extensions: open this file using %1.

I hope Sergio’s efforts also bring us closer to a solution to a problem I brought up before: when clicking on any OPML hyperlink or icon, I would like to open that OPML file in my preferred browser. Please use the comments section to this post if you have ideas about this.

Written by CleverClogs

October 18th, 2006 at 1:08 pm