Take Back Your Web Reading With Newsbeuter

Before social media made everyone’s friends, interests, and “likes” a matter of public record, RSS enabled individuals to gather content from around the web in a simple (and private) manner. Although RSS is not as visible as it once was–consider Google’s decision to kill Google Reader in 2013–there are still many actively developed applications that gather and organize RSS feeds. My personal favorite is a console-based utility called Newsbeuter.

As Simple as Making a List

Newsbeuter reads a list of RSS-feed URLs that you provide and displays the contents in a Linux terminal. The first time you run Newsbeuter, you will likely see an error message, since there is no list created during installation. You can import an existing list–in the form of an OPML file–or simply create one by opening a text editor and saving the finished list at ~/.newsbeuter/urls.

Newsbeuter lets you categorize feeds using tags appended to the end of the URL. For example, I categorize my feeds based on law, linux, and podcasts. Here’s a selection from my urls file:

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/tncourts/opinions law
    http://www.scotusblog.com/feed/ law
    http://www.datamation.com/rss.xml linux
    http://smlr.us/?feed=rss linux podcast
    http://missionlog.libsyn.com/rss podcast
    http://distrowatch.com/news/dw.xml linux

As you can see, Newsbeuter supports multiple tags per entry. I tagged the Sunday Morning Linux Review feed, with both linux and podcast, since it’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping. Once in the Newsbeuter console, you can toggle a list of categories/tags by pressing ’t’.

By default, Newsbeuter displays a numbered list of feeds in the order specified in your urls file. You can highlight an individual feed and press ‘r’ to update it; pressing a capital ‘R’ updates all feeds at once. There is a wide range of keyboard commands and configuration options built-in to Newsbeuter, which you can learn about through the project’s comprehensive documentation.

Your Own Web Content Database

RSS feeds are not just for blogs. I use Newsbeuter to keep track of podcasts, Reddit posts, and updates to software packages. In my legal writing work, I even use Newsbeuter to get the latest court decisions, such as this feed from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts:

Newsbeuter stores all the content it downloads in an SQLite database located at ~/.newsbeuter/cache.db. This makes it handy to backup or move your Newsbeuter setup to another machine. But one thing I’ve noticed: the longer you use Newsbeuter, the longer it takes to start, which I assume is related to the increased size of the database.

Learn More About Newsbeuter

Newsbeuter is packaged for Solus and most major Linux and BSD distributions. The creator and lead developer is Andreas Krennmair. He’s licensed Newsbeuter under the MIT License.

S.M. Oliva avatar
About S.M. Oliva
I have been writing content for the web professionally since 2000. Currently I ghostwrite blogs for more than a dozen law firms, covering subjects from personal injury and bankruptcy to criminal defense and intellectual property.