Have you every browsed the web and seen a reference to OPML? If you were to look up the abbreviation, you would see it stands for “outline processor markup language”. It’s used for describing outline-based content like articles and play lists. I think a better representation is “other people’s meaningful lists”.
OPML is versatile format developed by Dave Winer that can be used for many things. For me, the beauty comes in the ability to share RSS feed information. For example, when I did my RSS guide, I suggested people import an OPML file to test their RSS readers for features.
Rather than having the reviewers add 11 RSS feeds, they could import this OPML file. This reduced steps for them and ensured everyone used the same feed list. OPML files made the process consistent and efficient.
My example is a simple one. You can probably think of several lists where you would like to share information with others. These lists could be work related or some hobby you enjoy. It doesn’t matter. You just need to collect the RSS feeds you love. Here are some examples,
- Book clubs could share a file containing book review feeds for their members
- A sales team could share a list of the competitor’s feeds
- Bargain hunters could share a list with their favorite coupon feeds
- System administrators could have a list of security feeds
- Families could produce a list of their photos, websites and local news
- You could share with friends a list of your top 10 bloggers
Creating an OPML File
As I mentioned earlier, OPML files can be used for many types of outlines so you may see different structures than my RSS listing. All the files includes markup tags that vary based on content. In the screen snap below, my file shows the folder name, feed name and feed URL. This information appears for each feed in my OPML file.
Although I could’ve used an OPML editor to create this file, I used my RSS reader. My present feed reader, Feedly.com allows me to import and export OPML files.
Once you’ve created an OPML file you can send it to others or post it online. People can download the file and import into their feed reader. All the readers above handle importing OPML files although some give new meaning to the expression of “force feed”. Google Reader sometimes omits tag (folder) names, but all the feeds import.
The Other Benefits of OPML Files
Even if you don’t like to share, there are two other reasons why you want to create OPML files.
- These can be backup files if something happens to your feed reader. (Think back to Google Reader closing down.) The file retains your feed information so you don’t need to re-enter it.
- If you ever want to try another reader, the OPML file is essential. All you need to do is to import the file into your new reader and you’re set to go.
Aren’t there scenarios where you think people could benefit from sharing some of your feeds?