Productivity Tip 5: Gmail to RSSJun2

Saturday, 2 June 2012 by haemoglobin

I’m always finding new ways to refine my day to day workflow, one of my recent wins was deciding to convert many email newsletter subscriptions into RSS feeds and out of my inbox.

This suits me brilliantly because:

  1. I like to practice inbox zero - I don’t like having newsletters piling up in my inbox that I intend to read at some point but don’t have time to read now.
  2. My main bulk of reading is done on my iPad in the London Underground where there is no internet connection, so I rely on everything to be synced either as RSS through the Byline app or as saved articles through Read It Later (now known as Pocket).

To solve the first point, for a while I started automatically tagging and archiving the email subscriptions in Gmail, and setup reminders to read the unread items (say in the weekend) – but this did not work at all since I do most of my reading in the London Underground during the week during my commute.

I had a search around the internet and found a couple of options. The first option I tried was using the Gmail feed URL itself (for example https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/LabelName/) however, this has two problems – one it’s an authenticated feed which means Google Reader will not be able to access the feed unless you route it through a third party service such as http://freemyfeed.com/ which strips the authentication part off. This means handing over your username and password however which isn’t ideal. The other issue is the GMail feed is truncated, so your RSS reader will only be able to read the subject and a few starting lines which is no good.

I then found http://emails2rss.appspot.com/ – this free little gem lets you auto-forward your subscription emails to your account there, and they will turn these emails into an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. This has worked perfectly for me and my RSS reader has the full email synced for offline reading, and even in the case of HTML email it comes through correctly formatted – brilliant.

The instructions for setting this up with GMail is on their site here – you need to login to the service using your Gmail account which lets them know your email address so they can match the emails as they come in from you – but at least no handing over of passwords (as it uses Gmail’s login service). If you are extra paranoid about protecting your main email address, then nothing is stopping you from creating a second Gmail account used solely for email subscriptions that you forward all incoming through to the Email To Rss service. I ended up doing this since I had already created a second account when I was testing the first option with freemyfeed.

All up very happy with this, long live RSS – lets hope it never dies!

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