Podcast Directory Help: How to Use Podcatching Software

A podcast is an audio file that's been condensed into an mp3 format for easier downloading and faster transfer. Despite the initial association with the 'pod'—mainly, the Apple iPod and its marketing as a music listening device—podcasts have expanded to include any imaginable topic under the sun, in any imaginable format. You can find radio show or radio segments, step-by-step instructions, audio books, panel interviews, language courses, virtual tours. There are just so many podcasts available on the Internet, and the number grows by the way.

This diversity is certainly beneficial for the user…but it can also be overwhelming. The podcast was designed for people-on-the-go, those who have precious little time and have been hooked by the premise of 'info when you want it, where you want it'. They can download the podcast to their computers, transfer it to their handheld music device, even look at it through their personal Playstations or even the CD player in their car. Given this, the last thing they want to do is to spend hours tied to their PC's searching for podcasts or updating their lists. Convenience should apply to both listening to the podcasts, and finding them.

Podcatching Software

To 'catch' the podcasts, you need something called a news aggregator, which combs the web for 'feeds' from the websites found all over the web. This is done automatically, while you sleep or go about with your busy life, so that when you do have the time to peek at your podcasting list, you'll find that several items have been downloaded and are ready for your listening pleasure.

There are different types of news aggregators. Some are based on the web, others will work with Windows, Mac or Linux systems. Here are some of the most popular.

Newsgator

Newsgator has the advantage of letting you fully integrate it with Microsoft Outlook. The process is simple. You tell it which feeds you'd like to subscribe to, and then it checks the sites about once every hour. New items are automatically displayed in one of the folders in Outlook. You decide how you want to organize your feeds—whether it shows up in one folder, or if you'd like it segmented into different folders per feed. Newsgator also generates an HTML page that contains all the content that it has recently found. Notable features are how you can search directly within outlook, or use the familiar Outlook tools to organize your materials.

It's a very reliable system…. unfortunately, it only works with Microsoft Outlook. So if you're not an Outlook fan, you need to look elsewhere.

NewsIsFree

This web-based feed aggregator is designed to look like a newspaper (cute touch). The interesting thing about it is that it comes with a popular filter. You know what's hot and can access feeds that you may not have otherwise heard abut or thought about trying. Other benefits include the chance to mail feeds to friends, or include it in your personal blog. You can group feeds according to topic into different pages or 'newspaper sections'. The search filter is actually quite advanced, as you can browse through the feeds by date, source or popularity.

The problem with NewsIsFree is that it's nearly impossible to catch up with the archives of your favorite feeds. You have no virtual folders, you can't save your searches, nor do you have any signs to show you which items you have left unread. However, you can bookmark items that you find interesting.

Feedreader

Feedreader has a three-pane interface that lets you easily catch up with any updates from podcasts, blogs and news websites. One of its best features is a rather unobtrusive pop-up window that lets you know when it's found something—great when you're surreptitiously downloading information while working. It's also easy search for news items, since it gathers data according to criteria you set and places them in 'smart folders'. Everything is available for offline reading. You don't have to worry about cleanup, either: it deletes old news automatically. Others like how you can expand Feedreader with plugins that let you check your email through a POP account,

Unfortunately Feedreader can't notify you of popular podcasts and you may have a hard time synchronizing multiple installations. Users also complain that it's hard to label items.

Bloglines

Even the most technophobic person will find Bloglines easy to use. It's one of the simplest aggregators to set up, and though it doesn't have the complete range of features, it gives more than enough support for podcasting aficionados who are after convenience, convenience and convenience.

For example, Bloglines doesn't require you to download or install software. Searching for updates and managing your subscriptions are very straightforward. You can save items, even email them to a friend or put subscriptions on a blogroll, and you can import and export subscriptions at the push of a button. Want to see what's popular? You get to see what other Boglines subscribers have signed up for. You also get a Subscription Links Wizard and a free notifier program, while the recently added search function lets you look through all your subscriptions and the blogs within its system.

However, you can't customize the appearance of the screen—just one of the more advanced features that it can't offer. But if you're just starting out, this is one of the least complicated programs you can use.

SharpReader

SharpReader often gets praises for the logical system by which it organizes podcasts, blogs, and other feeds. Unlike some aggregators, which feel a bit like disjointed mailing lists, this one actually identifies the relationship between articles and threads them in a coherent way. It also expunges old material so that you're not flooded by things you no longer want to read, and notifies you with a pop-up window whenever something interesting comes in.

Subscribing to a feed is easy. You can drag and drop the XML link onto SharpReader. The software can also be integrated with Feedster and lets you make full use of Technorati links. Other useful features are the ability to directly compose blogs.

Unfortunately you can't label the flags, so if you like creating categories, you may be frustrated by seeing a series of numbered folders. Users are also disappointed by the lack of advanced filters and virtual golders that let you collate related content. Plus, even if it connects or links different material in the threads, it doesn't automatically organize downloads.

To use SharpReader you will need the .NET framework .