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RSS: SimplePie

SimplePie

SimplePie has a lot going for it. It can be simple, or with a lot of coding, can be complex. Blogging programs and CMS programs use variants of it, and SimplePie is now offering a version that runs in your browser called SimplePie Live. And, unlike Magpie, SimplePie is still under development.

Documentation is a bit sparse on the SimplePie wiki and blog, but you can at least get the gist of what commands are available by consulting two examples you’re given (plain style and with CSS styles applied).

You create two folders on your Web root directory: “php” and “cache”. The “php” folder will hold simplepie.inc, the parsing engine. The “cache” folder will hold feed items for caching so you don’t overwork the RSS source’s server.

Creating a SimplePie page: The easiest way to get started is to create a new blank html page using the coding given on the SimplePie.org web site. Perhaps the best one to use when learning the program, and simplest, is the “Nothing Fancy” page. Copy the coding on the web site and paste it into your blank html page. Before the html coding begins, you’ll notice the php inclusion of the simplepie.inc in the “php” folder, then the name of the feed. The coding then begins sprinkling SimplePie commands in the html portion of the page, governing feed permalink, description and feed items, and then followed by item title, description and date of posting.

However, it takes quite a bit of doing to include a SimplePie feed on an aleady-coded html page, and SimplePie php code does not like living on the same page where another RSS php code already resides. There is a way around both of these situations, though: Make a SimplePie basic html “Nothing Fancy” file for each feed, and then use php(include) to call them on to the page. There’s far less coding required that way. If you just want a page with RSS on it, and not on an already-existing html page, you can play with the coding on the two SimplePie examples until you get the page to your liking.

All told, SimplePie lacks the flexibility of rss2html, in that less coding is required with rss2html, and including more than one feed in more than one place on a page is coding-intensive, whereas rss2html can be put in several places on the same page without breaking a sweat. Also, unlike rss2html, SimplePie has no templates to refer to when making its RSS output, which means all parameters for exactly what to include in the SimplePie feed must be included in the page. Every time. For every feed.

Finally, the basic page for SimplePie and rss2html look the same, but SimplePie takes more coding to do the same job.

All of this is not to say that SimplePie is not worth a look, especially if you like playing with code and vague instructions, or just want a simple page to show a feed. Other people, however, might prefer using a more flexible tool with better documentation and which takes only a small amount of time to set up and get running. This is an especially important consideration in a production environment, where time is money.

(Next: zFeeder)

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