How (and Why) to Create an OPML File

I’ve been asking PR people lately to send me an OPML file of their clients’ blog feeds. One person sent me a list of links to their clients’ blogs in an email tonight, but other than that no one has been brave enough to try. This is something that everyone could benefit from knowing how to do. That big blue icon is the proposed icon for OPML, which stands for Outline Processor Markup Language (stay with me here, non technical people!).

An OPML file is an outline. In this case, it’s a bundle of RSS feeds that can be moved into and out of any RSS reader as a group. No matter what RSS reader you use, it can import and export OPML files. It’s real handy. If PR people, for example, would send me one OPML file of all their clients’ blogs and a news search feed for each of those clients’ company names – I would throw it into my reader and have a long term connection with all their news. It would build name recognition if nothing else, but I’d likely find something in there someday to write about too. There’s a billion other reasons to use OPML – just ask yourself in what circumstances you can imagine sending someone else one link or file that contains a collection of dynamic sources on any topic. I know these are the sorts of questions that keep me up at night.

Here’s how you do it…

There’s lots of ways, but most of them take too long or don’t work as well as they ought to. Start a Netvibes account. Any RSS reader will export an OMPL file, but Netvibes makes it easy to make a little one that contains just a few select feeds. Create a new tab. Click on the “add content” link in the top left of the page. Add an RSS feed. Then add another RSS feed, and another and another until you’re done. Then click on “settings” in the top right. Then say “backup” and export in OPML format. UPDATE: If you’ve updated to Ginger in Netvibes, you can now find your OMPL file via Add Content- Add a Feed – Export

A file will land on your desktop. Here’s one to check out for an example: econews.opml Save Link As that baby and it will land on your computer.

Open it with a text editor like textpad or whatever is on your computer – not Word! Go in and look at the file. Change the title of it. You can see what the structure of an individual feed looks like in this format – outline type=”rss” title=”VibeAgent Blog” text=”VibeAgent Blog” xmlUrl=”″ htmlUrl=”” / See that? DON”T BE SCARED!

Change the title so it’s not “Netvibes OPML” – give it a good title. Now delete any extra items that got in there by mistake. Don’t break anything but go ahead and do it. Now, do a Save As and call it mytitleofmyfilethingy.OPML. Give it the .OPML suffix.

Next, send it to me, or to whoever you want to send it to. You can send it as an email attachment or you can put it on your server and just send a link, that’s extra nice.

SOME PEOPLE will laugh at me for suggesting that you do it this way. I don’t care, though, no one is using OPML as is so there’s no time for purists. The above method will work just fine. Get comfy and you can do new and exciting things with OPML.