More than one way to skin an rss feed platform

by Matt 4. January 2007 18:07

I'm on a bit of a quest to be able to search the RSS feed platform that comes with IE7 from Windows Desktop Search. The proper way of doing this is of course to write a protocol handler, and (maybe a little too slowly) that's what I'm doing.

It's not the only way.

Check out this post by Mitch Denny. It's got nothing to do with searching, but it does have a nice little screenshot of Mitch's start menu, which is showing search results for "performance". And the icons in the results look suspiciously like RSS icons...

Has Mitch struck gold?

Not exactly.

A bit of google-fu later, and it looks like no-one yet has a protocol handler for the feed store (the best I could find was a Jon Udell interview with Microsoft's Amar Gandhi about the feed platform, in which Amar mentions that you could write a protocol handler, not that MS has done so). So I started to think a bit more laterally.

Windows Mail Live Desktop has support for the feed platform, allowing you to manage your subscriptions and read items. Perhaps they added a protocol handler? (Windows Live Writer adds an IFilter for the .wpost file type, so there's precedent.) Obviously, I installed it.

Guess what - I can search rss items. But not quite as I expected.

When you view your feeds in WMLD, it copies each item out of the feed store and into your Users folder, as individual .rss files. And since my entire Users folder is being indexed (not sure if that's the default - I just logged on as a newly created user and all of their Users folder is also indexed), these files are up for indexing too.

And it just so happens that .rss files are associated with an IFilter. Fairly oddly, the files are output as MIME formatted mail messages, and associated with Windows Mail (not WMLD!). This does mean that they pick up Windows Mail's MIME IFilter, and so, along with .eml and .news files are indexed. I guess it just saves on development (and it is still in beta). They also pick up Windows Mail's preview handler, so selecting an rss item in the search results gives a preview.

The downside is that the files are all rather cryptically named (e.g. 1CD0366B-00000006.rss) so when you do search, this is the name that appears, not the subject of the item. But at least the data is there, even if the item does open in Windows Mail rather than WMLD.

(If you rename one of the files to .eml, tooltips suddenly start working and the name in search results is suddenly something sensible. Not sure what's gone wrong there, perhaps something with Vista's property system.)

So, we have searching of the feed store. Almost. If WMLD isn't running, the file cache is going to get stale, so a protocol handler is still a better way of doing this. But it's a nice, simple way of getting your data indexed. In fact, it's so useful, the rather nice WPF based New York Times Reader also does the same thing - it has a copy of all of it's items stored in your Documents folder, under New York Times/Search. They're simple text files with the content of the story, and double clicking the file opens the reader and navigates to the story within the app. Ideal.

But it wasn't what Mitch was using - wrong icons.

Turns out Mitch is using Outlook 2007, which has RSS support. Feed items are stored in Outlook's MAPI backend, and of course, this is fully indexed. Proper search integration again, but it's still not searching the common feed store.


Windows Desktop Search

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