The new iPad (as of right now) and the iPod Touch have some things in common. Among other things, they rely on WiFi for native apps such as the App Store to work, and they both have some overlapping apps like Mail and Calendar.
The big-screened iPad works as a great e-book reader but when you’re nowhere near a WiFi network, you might want to read other things like the latest updates from MakeUseOf or CNN. Are iPad/iPod Touch owners out of luck? With the use of a native app, users might not be.
Here’s a workaround for those who wish to keep up-to-date with their favorite blogs and have most of their feeds at their disposal in their iDevice even when they’re not nearby any WiFi networks and without any paid apps. This tutorial will show you how to get RSS feeds emailed to your iPad or iPod touch.
I devised this workaround and tested it with my iPod Touch after I tried a number of great free iPhone apps (MobileRSS and NetNewsWire, among other great offline use iPhone apps) that could sync to Google Reader, but found that very few of them saved the feed items and random web clips for offline reading the way I liked.
This method uses no special app other than the native Mail app, plus an RSS-to-email service to deliver the feeds to your email. Since the Mail app is how you get the RSS feeds emailed to your iDevice, when you press on your email account’s folders, you can read your feeds, even offline.
Since your read feed items (that is, the read emails) will be synced to your account, you can keep tabs on which items (or emails) are still unread on your desktop browser.
How to Get RSS Feeds Emailed To Your Gmail
- First off, choose whether you want to use your primary Gmail account or a new one (just for the feeds) because this method will have feeds flooding your inbox. Either way, you’ll have filters to label the emails and have them skip the inbox, but some people may be overwhelmed with the number of labels showing up on their Gmail sidebar. I use my main account so I can read my unread items whenever I’m on my computer without logging out.
- Now use an RSS-to-email service to get the feeds coming to you. I’d recommend the wonderful BlogTrottr which emails you real-time updates of your favorite blogs, and which we have featured before.
- You can use BlogTrottr’s bookmarklet to subscribe to your favorite blog’s RSS feed in one click. You’ll have to enter your email address (I used my main email account to keep tabs on read and unread feed items on a desktop browser) after clicking on the bookmarklet so BlogTrottr can send a click-to-confirm email. You can also replace your email address in the bookmarklet’s code to avoid entering your email every time (instructions are on the bookmarklet’s page).
Alternatively, you can subscribe to your favorite blogs’ newsletters, or use FeedMyInbox but the latter only allows you to subscribe to 5 sites for free (though you could combine multiple feeds).
Set Up Filters In Gmail To Label & Archive These Feed Emails
So of course your inbox will now start to be bombarded unless you set up filters to archive the feed emails with the correct labels (which will be seen as folders in your iDevice’s Mail app). If you’re using Blogtrottr, all your emails will come from email@example.com.
Set up filters where emails from that address that have your favorite blog’s name in the subject will skip the inbox, be labeled something like “reader/tech/makeuseof” and never be sent to Spam.
The “/” in the label name is important to be able to see a hierarchy of subfolders in the Mail app.
You’ll have to create a filter for every blog you subscribed to which might take some time. If you enjoy reading MakeUseOf, How-To Geek, Digital Inspiration, Lifehacker, Scientific American, CNN, Mashable, I might be able to help you with the filters I’ve uploaded here. Just make sure you have enabled the Filter import/export Gmail Labs feature. You can delete any filters for blogs you don’t read.
If you receive Facebook notification emails, you can also filter these to be labeled “reader/social/facebook“.
To get notifications of updates from the people you follow on Twitter, I’d recommend using ReadTwit, which MUO has featured before. It includes whatever’s on the short URLs of Twitter users in an RSS feed, and then subscribing with Blogtrottr. This is useful for sites like CNN and the New York Times, which only offer partial feeds.
For example, here’s a tweet by NYTimes that ReadTwit made into an RSS feed item.
Read Your Feeds In Your iDevice’s Mail App
So now that you have your incoming feed mails marked with the right label, go to your iDevice’s Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and turn on Push.
Below where it says Fetch, choose Manually. This enables you to basically sync your email accounts, calendars, and contacts to, let’s say, Gmail, GCal and your Gmail Contacts, whenever you manually open the respective apps.
Now you can use the Mail app to read your feeds when you’re on a WiFi network (or set up your Gmail on your iDevice if you’re using an account other than your main Gmail account). Press on All Mail if you know you’ll be out of a WiFi network soon and let the app complete its download.
Then you can read your feeds in your Mail app offline while any unread and read items will be properly marked as either unread or read under its label (or folder) in Gmail next time you encounter a WiFi signal. Since this method uses your Gmail storage (7+ GB), only keep read items you feel are good for future reference; otherwise, trash your read items.
Be forewarned that this method has two drawbacks: You can’t view images in your feed emails as the Mail app doesn’t seem to download them locally, and you can’t view feeds by blog name (e.g. “Tech,” “Social”) unless you open up all of those specific blog folders before you go offline, which is why opening All Mail works.
Really? Isn’t Using Gmail As A Feed Reader Just Asking For A Cluttered Inbox?
It doesn’t have to be. The blog emails will remain tucked away (archived). If this still doesn’t convince, check out the following Gmail Labs features, which will make the reading experience on a computer browser, a bit more like the one you get from using GReader, or simply more intuitive. Of course, you don’t have to enable all of these as they may become intrusive to some people’s workflow.
- If you’re using a secondary Gmail account for your feeds, enabling Advanced IMAP Controls will let you choose to hide the other “location labels” such as Trash, Spam, Buzz, etc in IMAP so your iDevice only shows All Mail and your blog folders.
- Enabling Multiple Inboxes and typing the search queries for all emails from one blog category in one pane will give you something more GReader-y. For example, if I wanted to group all the Technology labels in one pane, I’d type “(l:reader-tech-makeuseof) OR (l:reader-tech-labnol) OR (l:reader-tech-lifehacker)” in the Search query box and name the Panel title “Technology.”
- If you like labels and sub-labels in a hierarchy, make sure to enable the new Nested Labels feature.
- So that your sidebar won’t expand all the way down for displaying so many blog labels, enable Hide read labels. This can help you keep up with what blogs you still have unread items in.
- Want to share your feed items like you can in GReader? There’s no need for Labs features since Posterous has got your back. Just email Posterous so you can share your piece to Facebook and Twitter.
Not Only A Feed Reader, Gmail Can Also Be A Reading List For Later
Any interesting items on blogs that you don’t follow but that you find useful, you can clip and email them to yourself with the uber useful. Set up a filter so that emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com will be labeled “reader/inspiring” or “reader/howto”. This way you can still look back at them offline. If you’d like to be able to view the pictures in these web clip emails while offline, just email them to your personalized Evernote or Instapaper email to view them offline (both have apps for you to view items offline; with Evernote, just make sure to Favorite the note.)
Do you use Gmail for anything other than email? What do you think of this workaround? We’d love to hear you in the comments!