Apple Mail RSS to Google Reader

I have been using Apple Mail to read my RSS feeds for a few years now and for the most part, I like it. However, with an iMac, Macbook Pro, iPhone and work machine all hitting the same feeds, synchronising everything to find the NEW articles has been a royal pain. So I've give up hacking my own RSS/Dropbox/argh(!) solution and I'll let Google manage it all and hang my privacy. Read on for the magic three step process.

Now enter Google Reader. You'd think making an import mechanism to simply read a list from a text file with an RSS URL on each line. At least, that's how I'd do it. However, Google only import/export using OPML files. This has its own inherent benefits but it makes migrating from Apple Mail to Google Reader a bit of a chore. Actually, it's a royal PITA...but I digress. If you're in the same boat as me, you simply need to run through a three step process which isn't actually all that onerous and uses readily available tools.

Before I get into it, I'll run over some assumptions first:

  • You have a Gmail account and therefore access to Google Reader
  • You can run a shell script in an OSX terminal (ie, Terminal.app or shell). Note this is NOT the same as AppleScript!!
  • You are reading your RSS in Apple Mail

If you answered "yes" to all the above, then here's the hack outlined

  1. Extract the RSS URLs from Apple Mail using a shell script
  2. Convert the resultant URL-per-line text file into Google-friendly OPML format
  3. Import the OPML file to Google

Step One - Get the URLs from Apple Mail

This is actually pretty simple as it turns out, simply execute the following script - extract-rss.sh. Save it somewhere (I'll assume your downloads folder), open a Terminal session and enter:

chmod a+x ~/Downloads/extract-rss.sh
~/Downloads/extract-rss.sh

Replace "~/Downloads" with whatever folder you saved the script to. Feel free to open it and take a look. It's not my most spectacular script, but what the heck, it works right!

This script will create a file in your Home folder (the one with your username in Finder) called "RSS.txt". Open it in TextEdit and copy the entire content. We'll need the contents of this file in the clipboard for the next step.

Step Two - Convert to OPML

Unfortunately this is the ugly bit and I'm using an online resource that converts a list of URLs to OPML format...but it does it all in the clipboard. So, if you haven't already, copy the entire content of the RSS.txt file we created in step one, and paste into the following website: http://reader.feedshow.com/goodies/opml/OPMLBuilder-create-opml-from-rss-list.php

The result will be a text box with your shiny OPML formatted list of RSS feeds (we're almost there folks!). Copy and paste all the resultant OPML text into a new text file called "RSS.opml". If you use TextEdit make sure you set the format to plain text (Format -> Make Plain Text)!

Step Three - Import OPML to Google Reader

This is simple. Go to the feed management in Google Reader, follow the Import/Export link and import the RSS.opml file we created in step two. Now go celebrate!

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