The Newsbeuter RSS Feedreader

Andreas Krennmair


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1. Platforms
1.2. Why "Newsbeuter"?
2. Installation
2.1. Downloading Newsbeuter
2.2. Dependencies
2.3. Compiling and Installing
3. First Steps
3.1. Example Configuration
3.2. Configuring Colors
3.3. Migrating from other RSS Feed Readers
4. Advanced Features
4.1. Tagging
4.2. Scripts and Filters (Snownews Extensions)
4.3. Bookmarking
4.4. Command Line
4.5. Filter Language
4.6. Killfiles
4.7. Query Feeds
4.8. Google Reader Support
4.9. The Old Reader Support
4.10. NewsBlur Support
4.11. Bloglines Synchronization
4.12. Tiny Tiny RSS Synchronization
4.13. OPML Online Subscription Mode
4.14. Flagging Articles
4.15. Macro Support
4.16. Commandline Commands
4.17. Format Strings
4.18. Highlighting Text
4.19. Advanced Dialog Management
4.20. XDG Base Directory Support
4.21. Podcast Support
4.22. Using SQLite Triggers with newsbeuter
5. Feedback
6. License

1. Introduction

Newsbeuter is an RSS feedreader. RSS is a number of widely-used XML formats to transmit, publish and syndicate articles, for example news or blog articles. Newsbeuter is designed to be used on text terminals on Unix or Unix-like systems such as Linux, FreeBSD or Mac OS X.

1.1. Platforms

Newsbeuter has been tested on Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X, and is available in the form of pre-built packages for many popular Linux distributions. For a current list of distributions with newsbeuter packages, consult this list on the newsbeuter website.

OpenBSD is currently unsupported, as it lacks even the most basic support for internationalization and localization.

NetBSD is currently not supported, due to technical limitations in the iconv() implementation.

1.2. Why "Newsbeuter"?

"Newsbeuter" is a pun on the German word "Wildbeuter", which means "hunter-gatherer". During the stone age, people hunted and gathered their food, and these days, they hunt and gather news and information. Credits for this idea goes to Clifford Wolf, who submitted it to a little competition that was started when I got aware that the original name would violate French and European registered trademarks.

2. Installation

This chapter describes how to compile and install newsbeuter from source.

2.1. Downloading Newsbeuter

Newsbeuter is available as source package. Simply go to http://www.newsbeuter.org/ and download the latest source package, which is usually in the .tar.gz file format. Alternatively, you can check out the latest development source tree from the newsbeuter Git repository (hosted on GitHub) by running the following command on the commandline:

git clone git://github.com/akrennmair/newsbeuter.git

2.2. Dependencies

Newsbeuter depends on a number of libraries to function correctly. This table lists these dependencies. Please be aware that the list libraries may themselves depend on other libraries. These dependencies are not listed here. Please also be aware that you need a recent C++ compiler. Currently, newsbeuter has only been tested with GCC.

If you intend to modify and regenerate the filter language parser, you will also need Coco/R for C++, which you can download from http://www.ssw.uni-linz.ac.at/coco/. The Coco/R binary must be installed as "cococpp" in your PATH. Debian users only need to install the package "coco-cpp". Use the "regenerate-parser" make target to regenerate the necessary files.

2.3. Compiling and Installing

After you’ve downloaded and installed the dependencies mentioned above, you can start compiling and installing newsbeuter. To compile newsbeuter, simply run "make" in the source tree. After a short time, this should complete successfully, and you can go on with installation by running "make install". By default, this will install the "newsbeuter" binary to the /usr/local/bin directory. You can provide an alternative installation path using the prefix parameter, e.g. running "make install prefix=/opt/newsbeuter" will install the binary to the directory /opt/newsbeuter/bin.

3. First Steps

After you’ve installed newsbeuter, you can run it for the first time by typing "newsbeuter" on your command prompt. This will bring you the following message:

Error: no URLs configured. Please fill the file /home/ak/.newsbeuter/urls with RSS feed URLs or import an OPML file.
newsbeuter 2.4
usage: ./newsbeuter [-i <file>|-e] [-u <urlfile>] [-c <cachefile>] [-x <command> ...] [-h]
                -e              export OPML feed to stdout
                -r              refresh feeds on start
                -i <file>       import OPML file
                -u <urlfile>    read RSS feed URLs from <urlfile>
                -c <cachefile>  use <cachefile> as cache file
                -C <configfile> read configuration from <configfile>
                -X              clean up cache thoroughly
                -x <command>... execute list of commands
                -o              activate offline mode (only applies to Google Reader synchronization mode)
                -q              quiet startup
                -v              get version information
                -l <loglevel>   write a log with a certain loglevel (valid values: 1 to 6)
                -d <logfile>    use <logfile> as output log file
                -E <file>       export list of read articles to <file>
                -I <file>       import list of read articles from <file>
                -h              this help

This means that newsbeuter can’t start without any configured feeds. To add feeds to newsbeuter, you can either add URLs to the configuration file $HOME/.newsbeuter/urls or you can import an OPML file by running "newsbeuter -i blogroll.opml". To manually add URLs, open the file with your favorite text editor and add the URLs, one per line:

http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_topstories.rss
http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_world_edition/front_page/rss.xml

If you need to add URLs that have restricted access via username/password, simply provide the username/password in the following way:

http://username:password@hostname.domain.tld/feed.rss

In order to protect username and password, make sure that $HOME/.newsbeuter/urls has the appropriate permissions. Newsbeuter also makes sure that usernames and passwords within URLs aren’t displayed in its user interface. In case there is a @ in the username, you need to write it as %40 instead so that it can be distinguished from the @ that separates the username/password part from the hostname part.

You can also configure local files as feeds, by prefixing the local path with "file://" and adding it to the $HOME/.newsbeuter/urls file:

file:///var/log/rss_eventlog.xml

Now you can run newsbeuter again, and it will present you with a controllable list of the URLs that you configured previously. You can now start downloading the feeds, either by pressing "R" to download all feeds, or by pressing "r" to download the currently selected feed. You can then select a feed you want to read, and by pressing "Enter", you can go to the article list for this feed. This works even while the downloading is still in progress. You can now see the list of available articles by their title. A "N" on the left indicates that an article wasn’t read yet. Pressing Enter brings you to the content of the article. You can scroll through this text, and also run a browser (default: lynx) to view the complete article if the content is empty or just an abstract or a short description. Pressing "q" brings you back to the article list, and pressing "q" again brings you back to the feed list. Pressing "q" a third time then closes newsbeuter.

Newsbeuter caches the article that it downloads. This means that when you start newsbeuter again and reload a feed, the old articles can still be read even if they aren’t in the current RSS feeds anymore. Optionally you can configure how many articles shall be preserved by feed so that the article backlog doesn’t grow endlessly (see "max-items" below).

Newsbeuter also uses a number of measures to preserve the users' and feed providers' bandwidth, by trying to avoid unnecessary feed downloads through the use of conditional HTTP downloading. It saves every feed’s "Last-Modified" and "ETag" response header values (if present) and advises the feed’s HTTP server to only send data if the feed has been updated by modification date/time or "ETag" header. This doesn’t only make feed downloads for RSS feeds with no new updates faster, it also reduces the amount of transferred data per request. Conditional HTTP downloading can be optionally disabled per feed by using the "always-download" configuration command.

Several aspects of newsbeuter’s behaviour can be configured via a configuration file, by default $HOME/.newsbeuter/config. This configuration file contains lines in the form "<config-command> <arg1> …". The configuration file can also contain comments, which start with the # character and go as far as the end of line. If you need to enter a configuration argument that contains spaces, use quotes (") around the whole argument. It’s even possible to integrate the output of external commands into the configuration. The text between two backticks ("`") is evaluated as shell command, and its output is put on its place instead. This works like backtick evaluation in Bourne-compatible shells and allows users to use external information from the system within the configuration.

Searching for articles is possible in newsbeuter, too. Just press the "/" key, enter your search phrase, and the title and content of all articles are searched for it. When you do a search from the list of feeds, all articles of all feeds will be searched. When you do a search from the article list of a feed, only the articles of the currently viewed feed are searched. When opening an article from a search result dialog, the search phrase is highlighted.

The history of all your searches is saved to the filesystem, to \~/.newsbeuter/history.search. By default, the last 100 search phrases are stored, but this limited can be influenced through the "history-limit" configuration variable. To disable search history saving, simply set the history-limit to 0.

Table 1. Configuration Commands

Configuration Command Argument(s) Default Description Example
always-display-description [true/false] false If true, then the description will always displayed even if e.g. a content:encoded tag has been found. always-display-description true
always-download <rssurl> [<rssurl>] n/a The parameters of this configuration command are one or more RSS URLs. These URLs will always get downloaded, regardless of their Last-Modified timestamp and ETag header. always-download "http://www.n-tv.de/23.rss"
article-sort-order <sortfield>[-<direction>] date The sortfield specifies which article property shall be used for sorting (currently available: date, title, flags, author, link, guid). The optional direction specifies the sort direction ("asc" specifies ascending sorting, "desc" specifies descending sorting. for date, "desc" is default, for all others, "asc" is default). article-sort-order author-desc
articlelist-format <format> "%4i %f %D %6L %?T?;%-17T; ?%t" This variable defines the format of entries in the article list. See the respective section in the documentation for more information on format strings (note that the semicolon should actually be a vertical bar; this is a limitation in AsciiDoc). articlelist-format "%4i %f %D %?T?;%-17T; ?%t"
auto-reload [yes/no] no If enabled, all feeds will be automatically reloaded at start up and then continuously after a certain time has passed (see reload-time). auto-reload yes
bind-key <key> <operation> [<dialog>] n/a Bind key <key> to <operation>. This means that whenever <key> is pressed, then <operation> is executed (if applicable in the current dialog). A list of available operations can be found below. Optionally, you can specify a dialog. If you specify one, the key binding will only be added to the specified dialog. Available dialogs are "all" (default if none is specified), "feedlist", "filebrowser", "help", "articlelist", "article", "tagselection", "filterselection", "urlview" and "podbeuter". bind-key ^R reload-all
bookmark-cmd <bookmark-command> "" If set, then <bookmark-command> will be used as bookmarking plugin. See the documentation on bookmarking for further information. bookmark-cmd "~/bin/delicious-bookmark.sh"
bookmark-interactive [yes/no] no If set to yes, then the configured bookmark command is an interactive program. bookmark-interactive yes
bookmark-autopilot [yes/no] no If set to yes, the configured bookmark command is executed without any further input asked from user, uless the url or the title cannot be found/guessed. bookmark-autopilot yes
browser <browser-command> lynx Set the browser command to use when opening an article in the browser. If <browser-command> contains %u, it will be used as complete commandline and %u will be replaced with the URL that shall be opened. browser "w3m %u"
cache-file <path> "~/.newsbeuter/cache.db" This configuration option sets the cache file. This is especially useful if the filesystem of your home directory doesn’t support proper locking (e.g. NFS). cache-file "/tmp/testcache.db"
cleanup-on-quit [yes/no] yes If yes, then the cache gets locked and superfluous feeds and items are removed, such as feeds that can’t be found in the urls configuration file anymore. cleanup-on-quit no
color <element> <fgcolor> <bgcolor> [<attr> …] n/a Set the foreground color, background color and optional attributes for a certain element color background white black
confirm-exit [yes/no] no If set to yes, then newsbeuter will ask for confirmation whether the user really wants to quit newsbeuter. confirm-exit yes
cookie-cache <file> "" Set a cookie cache. If set, then cookies will be cached (i.e. read from and written to) in this file. cookie-cache "~/.newsbeuter/cookies.txt"
datetime-format <date/time format> %b %d This format specifies the date/time format in the article list. For a detailed documentation on the allowed formats, consult the manpage of strftime(3). datetime-format "%D, %R"
define-filter <name> <filter> n/a With this command, you can predefine filters, which you can later select from a list, and which are then applied after selection. This is especially useful for filters that you need often and you don’t want to enter them every time you need them. define-filter "all feeds with fun tag" "tags # \"fun\""
delete-read-articles-on-quit [yes/no] "no" If set to "yes", then all read articles will be deleted when you quit newsbeuter. delete-read-articles-on-quit yes
display-article-progress [yes/no] yes If set to yes, then a read progress (in percent) is displayed in the article view. Otherwise, no read progress is displayed. display-article-progress no
download-retries <number retries> 1 How many times newsbeuter shall try to successfully download a feed before giving up. This is an option to improve the success of downloads on slow and shaky connections such as via a TOR proxy. download-retries 4
download-full-page [yes/no] no If set to yes, then for all feed items with no content but with a link, the link is downloaded and the result used as content instead. This may significantly increase the download times of "empty" feeds. download-full-page yes
download-timeout <seconds> 30 The number of seconds newsbeuter shall wait when downloading a feed before giving up. This is an option to improve the success of downloads on slow and shaky connections such as via a TOR proxy. download-timeout 60
error-log <path> "" If set, then user errors (e.g. errors regarding defunct RSS feeds) will be logged to this file. error-log "~/.newsbeuter/error.log"
external-url-viewer <command> "" If set, then "show-urls" will pipe the current article to a specific external tool instead of using the internal URL viewer. This can be used to integrate tools such as urlview. external-url-viewer "urlview"
feed-sort-order <sortorder> none If set to "firsttag", the feeds in the feed list will be sorted by their first tag in the urls file. feed-sort-order firsttag
feedlist-format <format> "%4i %n %11u %t" This variable defines the format of entries in the feed list. See the respective section in the documentation for more information on format strings. feedlist-format " %n %4i - %11u -%> %t"
oldreader-flag-share <flag> "" If this is set and The Old Reader support is used, then all articles that are flagged with the specified flag are being "shared" in The Old Reader so that people that follow you can see it. oldreader-flag-share "a"
oldreader-flag-star <flag> "" If this is set and The Old Reader support is used, then all articles that are flagged with the specified flag are being "starred" in The Old Reader and appear in the list of "Starred items". oldreader-flag-star "b"
oldreader-login <login> "" This variable sets your The Old Reader login for The Older Reader support. oldreader-login "your-login"
oldreader-min-items <number> 20 This variable sets the number of articles that are loaded from The Old Reader per feed. oldreader-min-items 100
oldreader-password <password> "" This variable sets your The Old Reader password for The Old Reader support. oldreader-password "your-password"
oldreader-passwordfile <path-to-file "" A more secure alternative to the above, by storing your password elsewhere in your system. oldreader-passwordfile "path-to-file"
oldreader-show-special-feeds [yes/no] yes If this is set, then "special feeds" like "People you follow" (articles shared by people you follow), "Starred items" (your starred articles) and "Shared items" (your shared articles) appear in your subscription list. oldreader-show-special-feeds "no"
goto-first-unread [yes/no] yes If set to yes (the default), then the first unread article will be selected whenever a feed is entered. goto-first-unread no
goto-next-feed [yes/no] yes If set to yes, then the next-unread and prev-unread keys will search in other feeds for unread articles if all articles in the current feed are read. If set to no, then the next-unread and prev-unread keys will stop in the current feed. goto-next-feed no
highlight <target> <regex> <fgcolor> [<bgcolor> [<attribute> …]] n/a With this command, you can highlight text parts in the feed list, the article list and the article view. For a detailed documentation, see the chapter on highlighting. highlight all "newsbeuter" red
highlight-article <filterexpr> <fgcolor> <bgcolor> [<attribute> …] n/a With this command, you can highlight articles in the article list if they match a filter expression. For a detailed documentation, see the chapter on highlighting. highlight-article "author =~ \"Andreas Krennmair\"" white red bold
history-limit <number> 100 Defines the maximum number of entries of commandline resp. search history to be saved. To disable history saving, set history-limit to 0. history-limit 0
html-renderer <path> internal If set to "internal", then the internal HTML renderer will be used. Otherwise, the specified command will be executed, the HTML to be rendered will be written to the command’s stdin, and the program’s output will be displayed. This makes it possible to use other, external programs, such as w3m, links or lynx, to render HTML. html-renderer "w3m -dump -T text/html"
http-auth-method <method> any Set HTTP authentication method. Allowed values: any, basic, digest, digest_ie (only available with libcurl 7.19.3 and newer), gssnegotiate, ntlm, anysafe. http-auth-method digest
ignore-article <feed> <filterexpr> n/a If a downloaded article from <feed> matches <filterexpr>, then it is ignored and not presented to the user. This command is further explained in the "kill file" section below. ignore-article "*" "title =~ \"Windows\""
ignore-mode [download/display] download This configuration option defines in what way an article is ignored (see ignore-article). If set to "download", then it is ignored in the download/parsing phase (which is the default) and thus never written to the cache, if it set to "display", it is ignored when displaying articles but is kept in the cache. ignore-mode "display"
include <path> n/a With this command, you can include other files to be interpreted as configuration files. This is especially useful to separate your configuration into several files, e.g. key configuration, color configuration, … include "~/.newsbeuter/colors"
keep-articles-days <days> 0 If set the a number greater than 0, only articles that are were published within the last <n> days are kept, and older articles are deleted. If set to 0 (default value), this option is not active. keep-articles-days 30
macro <macro key> <command list> n/a With this command, you can define a macro key and specify a list of commands that shall be executed when the macro prefix and the macro key are pressed. macro k open ; reload ; quit
mark-as-read-on-hover [yes/no] no If set to yes, then all articles that get selected in the article list are marked as read. mark-as-read-on-hover yes
max-download-speed <number> 0 If set to a number great than 0, the download speed per download is set to that limit (in kB). max-download-speed 50
max-items <number> 0 Set the number of articles to maximally keep per feed. If the number is set to 0, then all articles are kept. max-items 100
notify-format <string> "newsbeuter: finished reload, %f unread feeds (%n unread articles total)" Format string that is used for formatting notifications. See the chapter on format strings for more information. notify-format "%d new articles (%n unread articles, %f unread feeds)"
notify-program <path> "" If set, then the configured program will be executed if new articles arrived (through a reload) or if notify-always is true. The first parameter of the called program contains the notification message. notify-program "~/bin/my-notifier"
notify-always [yes/no] no If no, notifications will only be made when there are new feeds or articles. If yes, notifications will be made regardless. notify-always yes
notify-screen [yes/no] no If yes, then a "privacy message" will be sent to the terminal, containing a notification message about new articles. This is especially useful if you use terminal emulations such as GNU screen which implement privacy messages. notify-screen yes
notify-xterm [yes/no] no If yes, then the xterm window title will be set to a notification message about new articles. notify-xterm yes
notify-beep [yes/no] no If yes, then the speaker beep on new articles. notify-beep yes
opml-url <url> … "" If the OPML online subscription mode is enabled, then the list of feeds will be taken from the OPML file found on this location. Optionally, you can specify more than one URL. All the listed OPML URLs will then be taken into account when loading the feed list. opml-url "http://host.domain.tld/blogroll.opml" "http://example.com/anotheropmlfile.opml"
pager [<path>/internal] internal If set to "internal", then the internal pager will be used. Otherwise, the article to be displayed will be rendered to be a temporary file and then displayed with the configured pager. If the pager path is set to an empty string, the content of the "PAGER" environment variable will be used. If the pager path contains a placeholder "%f", it will be replaced with the temporary filename. less %f
podcast-auto-enqueue [yes/no] no If yes, then all podcast URLs that are found in articles are added to the podcast download queue. See the respective section in the documentation for more information on podcast support in newsbeuter. podcast-auto-enqueue yes
prepopulate-query-feeds [yes/no] no If yes, then all query feeds are prepopulated with articles on startup. prepopulate-query-feeds yes
proxy <server:port> n/a Set the proxy to use for downloading RSS feeds. proxy localhost:3128
proxy-auth <auth> n/a Set the proxy authentication string. proxy-auth user:password
proxy-auth-method <method> any Set proxy authentication method. Allowed values: any, basic, digest, digest_ie (only available with libcurl 7.19.3 and newer), gssnegotiate, ntlm, anysafe. proxy-auth-method ntlm
proxy-type <type> http Set proxy type. Allowed values: http, socks4, socks4a, socks5. proxy-type socks5
refresh-on-startup [yes/no] no If yes, then all feeds will be reloaded when newsbeuter starts up. This is equivalent to the -r commandline option. refresh-on-startup yes
reload-only-visible-feeds [yes/no] no If yes, then manually reloading all feeds will only reload the currently visible feeds, e.g. if a filter or a tag is set. reload-only-visible-feeds yes
reload-time <number> 60 The number of minutes between automatic reloads. reload-time 120
reload-threads <number> 1 The number of parallel reload threads that shall be started when all feeds are reloaded. reload-threads 3
reset-unread-on-update <url> … n/a With this configuration command, you can provide a list of RSS feed URLs for whose articles the unread flag will be reset if an article has been updated, i.e. its content has been changed. This is especially useful for RSS feeds where single articles are updated after publication, and you want to be notified of the updates. reset-unread-on-update "http://blog.fefe.de/rss.xml?html"
save-path <path> ~/ The default path where articles shall be saved to. If an invalid path is specified, the current directory is used. save-path "~/Saved Articles"
search-highlight-colors <fgcolor> <bgcolor> [<attribute> …] black yellow bold This configuration command specifies the highlighting colors when searching for text from the article view. search-highlight-colors white black bold
show-keymap-hint [yes/no] yes If no, then the keymap hints on the bottom of screen will not be displayed. show-keymap-hint no
show-read-feeds [yes/no] yes If yes, then all feeds, including those without unread articles, are listed. If no, then only feeds with one or more unread articles are list. show-read-feeds no
show-read-articles [yes/no] yes If yes, then all articles of a feed are listed in the article list. If no, then only unread articles are listed. show-read-articles no
suppress-first-reload [yes/no] no If yes, then the first automatic reload will be suppressed if auto-reload is set to yes. suppress-first-reload yes
swap-title-and-hints [yes/no] no If yes, then the title at the top of screen and keymap hints at the bottom of screen will be swapped. swap-title-and-hints yes
text-width <number> 0 If set to a number greater than 0, then all HTML will be rendered to this maximum line length. If set to 0, the terminal width will be used. text-width 72
ttrss-flag-publish <character> "" If this is set and Tiny Tiny RSS support is used, then all articles that are flagged with the specified flag are being marked as "published" in Tiny Tiny RSS. ttrss-flag-publish "b"
ttrss-flag-star <character> "" If this is set and Tiny Tiny RSS support is used, then all articles that are flagged with the specified flag are being "starred" in Tiny Tiny RSS. ttrss-flag-star "a"
ttrss-login <username> "" Sets the username for use with Tiny Tiny RSS. ttrss-login "admin"
ttrss-mode [multi/single] multi Configures the mode in which Tiny Tiny RSS is used. In single-user mode, login and password are used for HTTP authentication, while in multi-user mode, they are used for authenticating with Tiny Tiny RSS. ttrss-mode "single"
ttrss-password <password> "" Configures the password for use with Tiny Tiny RSS. ttrss-password "mypassword"
ttrss-passwordfile <path-to-file "" A more secure alternative to the above, by storing your password elsewhere in your system. ttrss-passwordfile "path-to-file"
ttrss-url <url> "" Configures the URL where the Tiny Tiny RSS installation you want to use resides. ttrss-url "http://example.com/ttrss/"
unbind-key <key> [<dialog>] n/a Unbind key <key>. This means that no operation is called when <key> is pressed. Optionally, you can specify a dialog (for a list of available dialogs, see "bind-key" above). If you specify one, the key binding will only be unbound for the specified dialog. unbind-key R
urls-source <source> "local" This configuration command sets the source where URLs shall be retrieved from. By default, this is ~/.newsbeuter/urls. Alternatively, you can set it to "opml", which enables newsbeuter’s OPML online subscription mode, to "ttrss" which enables newsbeuter’s Tiny Tiny RSS support, or to "googlereader", which enables newsbeuter’s Google Reader support. In order to make Google Reader support work correctly, you also need to set googlereader-login and googlereader-password, while the Tiny Tiny RSS support requires login, password and URL of the Tiny Tiny RSS installation to use (see above). urls-source "googlereader"
use-proxy [yes/no] no If yes, then the configured proxy will be used for downloading the RSS feeds. use-proxy yes
user-agent <user agent string> "" If set to a non-zero-length string, this value will be used as HTTP User-Agent header for all HTTP requests. user-agent "Lynx/2.8.5rel.1 libwww-FM/2.14"

Table 2. Available Operations

Operation Default key Description
open ENTER Open the currently selected feed or article.
quit q Quit the program or return to the previous dialog (depending on the context).
reload r Reload the currently selected feed.
reload-all R Reload all feeds.
mark-feed-read A Mark all articles in the currently selected feed read.
mark-all-feeds-read C Mark articles in all feeds read.
save s Save the currently selected article to a file.
next-unread n Jump to the next unread article.
prev-unread p Jump to the previous unread article.
next J Jump to next article.
prev K Jump to previous article.
random-unread ^K Jump to a random unread article.
open-in-browser o Opens the URL associated with the current article.
open-in-browser-and-mark-read O Opens the URL associated with the current article and marks the article as read.
help ? Runs the help screen.
toggle-source-view ^U Toggles between the HTML view and the source view in the article view.
toggle-article-read N Toggle the read flag for the currently selected article.
toggle-show-read-feeds l Toggle whether read feeds should be shown in the feed list.
show-urls u Show all URLs in the article in a list (similar to urlview).
clear-tag ^T Clear current tag.
set-tag t Select tag.
open-search / Opens the search dialog. When a search is done in the article list, then the search operation only applies to the articles of the current feed, otherwise to all articles.
goto-url # Open the URL dialog and then opens specified URL.
enqueue e Add the podcast download URL of the current article (if any is found) to the podcast download queue (see the respective section in the documentation for more information on podcast support).
edit-urls E Edit the list of subscribed URLs. newsbeuter will start the editor configured through the $VISUAL environment variable (if unset, $EDITOR is used; fallback
reload-urls ^R Reload the URLs configuration file.
redraw ^L Redraw the screen.
cmdline <colon> Open the command line.
set-filter F Set a filter.
select-filter f Select a predefined filter.
clear-filter ^F Clear currently set filter.
bookmark ^B Bookmark currently selected article or URL.
edit-flags ^E Edit the flags of the currently selected article.
next-unread-feed ^N Go to the next feed with unread articles. This only works from the article list.
prev-unread-feed ^P Go to the previous feed with unread articles. This only works from the article list.
next-feed j Go to the next feed. This only works from the article list.
prev-feed k Go to the previous feed. This only works from the article list.
delete-article D Delete the currently selected article.
purge-deleted $ Purge all article that are marked as deleted from the article list.
view-dialogs v View list of open dialogs.
close-dialog ^X Close currently selected dialog.
next-dialog ^V Go to next dialog.
prev-dialog ^G Go to previous dialog.
pipe-to | Pipe article to command.
sort g Sort feeds/articles by interactively choosing the sort method.
revsort G Sort feeds/articles by interactively choosing the sort method (reversed).
up UP Goes up one item in the list.
down DOWN Goes down one item in the list.
pageup PPAGE Goes up one page in the list.
pagedown NPAGE Goes down one page in the list.

Keys, as used in the bind-key configuration command, use a special syntax. Lowercase keys, uppercase keys and special characters are written literally. The Enter key is written as "ENTER", while the Esc key is written as "ESC". The function keys F1 to F12 are written as "F1" to "F12". The Space key is written as "SPACE". Key combinations with the Ctrl key, such as Ctrl-R, are written as ^R. Please be aware that all Ctrl-related key combinations need to be written in uppercase. The following identifiers for keys are supported:

  • ENTER (Enter key)
  • BACKSPACE (backspace key)
  • LEFT (left cursor)
  • RIGHT (right cursor)
  • UP (up cursor)
  • PPAGE (page up cursor)
  • NPAGE (page down cursor)
  • DOWN (down cursor)
  • ESC (Esc key)

The "Tab" key can’t be bound due to technical limitations of STFL.

3.1. Example Configuration

# a comment
max-items        100 # such comments are possible, too
browser          links
show-read-feeds  no
unbind-key       R
bind-key         ^R    reload-all

3.2. Configuring Colors

It is possible to configure custom color settings in newsbeuter. The basic configuration syntax is:

color <element> <foreground color> <background color> [<attribute> ...]

This means that if you configure colors for a certain element, you need to provide a foreground color and a background color as a minimum. The following colors are supported:

  • black
  • red
  • green
  • yellow
  • blue
  • magenta
  • cyan
  • white
  • default
  • color<n>, e.g. color123

The "default" color means that the terminal’s default color will be used. The "color<n>" color name can be used if your terminal support 256 colors (e.g. gnome-terminal, xterm with $TERM set to xterm-256color). Newsbeuter contains support for 256 color terminals since version 2.1. For a complete chart of colors and their corresponding numbers, please see http://www.calmar.ws/vim/256-xterm-24bit-rgb-color-chart.html.

Optionally, you can also add one or more attributes. The following attributes are supported:

  • standout
  • underline
  • reverse
  • blink
  • dim
  • bold
  • protect
  • invis

Currently, the following elements are supported:

  • listnormal: a normal list item
  • listfocus: the currently selected list item
  • listnormal_unread: an unread list item
  • listfocus_unread: the currently selected and unread list item
  • info: the info bars on top and bottom
  • background: the application background
  • article: the article text

The default color configuration of newsbeuter looks like this:

background          white   black
listnormal          white   black
listfocus           yellow  blue   bold
listnormal_unread   magenta black
listfocus_unread    magenta blue   bold
info                yellow  blue   bold
article             white   black

3.3. Migrating from other RSS Feed Readers

It is very likely that you have used other RSS feed readers before. In this case, it is practical to migrate the previous configuration to newsbeuter. The vast amount of RSS feed readers allows the export of subscriptions via OPML files. OPML is an XML file format that was designed to save outlines, and has found its primary use in the import and export of feed subscriptions between different RSS feed readers.

The best thing to start with is to export your subscriptions from the old reader. Usually, RSS feed readers have appropriate menu items available to do so.

Snownews provides a script to convert your current subscription file into an OPML file:

snow2opml > ~/blogroll.opml

This command creates from your Snownews configuration a file blogroll.opml in your home directory. To export the subscription list from raggle, the following command is necessary:

raggle --export-opml ~/blogroll.opml

When you have exported the subscriptions from your old RSS feed reader, you can import them into newsbeuter:

newsbeuter -i ~/blogroll.opml

Don’t worry, newsbeuter won’t destroy your existing configuration, or add subscriptions more than once: every URL that is added to the subscription list is checked before whether it is already in the list, and is only added if not. This makes it possible to merge several OPML files into your subscription list.

If your old RSS feed reader was able to structure your subscriptions in hierarchies, and reflected this structure in the exported OPML file, newsbeuter doesn’t throw away this information (although it doesn’t support hierarchies), but generates tags from it. Tags are newsbeuter’s way of organizing subscriptions in a non-hierarchical way. More information on the use of tags can be found below.

Imagine the following folder hierarchy:

|- News
| |- Europe
| `- International
|- IT
| |- Linux
| |- Windows
| `- Programming
|   |- C++
|   |- Ruby
|   `- Erlang
`- Private

Subscriptions found in the folder "Private" will be tagged with "Private", subscriptions in the folder "International" will be tagged with "News" and "News/International", subscriptions in the folder "Erlang" will be tagged ith "IT", "IT/Programming" and "IT/Programming/Erlang", and so on. This means that when you select the tag "Programming" in newsbeuter, you will see all subscriptions that were in the "Programming" folder or one of its subfolders before. This means that you will lose virtually nothing of your previously configured structure.

4. Advanced Features

4.1. Tagging

Newsbeuter comes with the possibility to categorize or "tag", as we call it, RSS feeds. Every RSS feed can be assigned 0 or more tags. Within newsbeuter, you can then select to only show RSS feeds that match a certain tag. That makes it easy to categorize your feeds in a flexible and powerful way.

Usually, the ~/.newsbeuter/urls file contains one RSS feed URL per line. To assign a tag to an RSS feed, simply attach it as a single word, separated by blanks such as space or tab. If the tag needs to contain spaces, you must use quotes (") around the tag (see example below). An example \~/.newsbeuter/urls file may look like this:

http://blog.fefe.de/rss.xml?html interesting conspiracy news "cool stuff"
http://rss.orf.at/news.xml news orf
http://www.heise.de/newsticker/heise.rdf news interesting

When you now start newsbeuter with this configuration, you can press "t" to select a tag. When you select the tag "news", you will see all three RSS feeds. Pressing "t" again and e.g. selecting the "conspiracy" tag, you will only see the http://blog.fefe.de/rss.xml?html RSS feed. Pressing "^T" clears the current tag, and again shows all RSS feeds, regardless of their assigned tags.

A special type of tag are tags that start with the tilde character ("~"). When such a tag is found, the feed title is set to the tag name (excluding the \~ character). With this feature, you can give feeds any title you want in your feed list:

http://rss.orf.at/news.xml "~ORF News"

Another special type of tag are tags that start with the exclamation mark. When such a tag is found, the feed is hidden from the regular list of feeds and its content can only be found through a query feed.

http://rss.orf.at/news.xml "!ORF News (hidden)"

4.2. Scripts and Filters (Snownews Extensions)

From version 0.4 on, newsbeuter contains support for Snownews extensions. The RSS feed readers Snownews and Liferea share a common way of extending the readers with custom scripts. Two mechanisms, namely "execurl" and "filter" type scripts, are available and supported by newsbeuter.

An "execurl" script can be any program that gets executed and whose output is interpreted as RSS feed, while "filter" scripts are fed with the content of a configured URL and whose output is interpreted as RSS feed.

The configuration is simple and straight-forward. Just add to your ~/.newsbeuter/urls file configuration lines like the following ones:

exec:~/bin/execurl-script
filter:~/bin/filter-script:http://some.test/url

The first line shows how to add an execurl script to your configuration: start the line with "exec:" and then immediately append the path of the script that shall be executed. If this script requires additional parameters, simply use quotes:

"exec:~/bin/execurl-script param1 param2"

The second line shows how to add a filter script to your configuration: start the line with "filter:", then immediately append the path of the script, then append a colon (":"), and then append the URL of the file that shall be fed to the script. Again, if the script requires any parameters, simply quote:

"filter:~/bin/filter-script param1 param2:http://url/foobar"

In both cases, the tagging feature as described above is still available:

exec:~/bin/execurl-script tag1 tag2 "quoted tag"
filter:~/bin/filter-script:http://some.test/url tag3 tag4 tag5

A collection of such extension scripts can be found on this website: http://kiza.kcore.de/software/snownews/snowscripts/extensions

If you want to write your own extensions, refer to this website for further instructions: http://kiza.kcore.de/software/snownews/snowscripts/writing

4.3. Bookmarking

Since version 0.7, newsbeuter contains a plugin-based bookmarking system. When a user bookmarks a link (possible in the article list, in the article view, and in the URL view), he is asked for the URL to bookmark (already preset with the URL of the current selection), the bookmark title (in most cases preset with the title of the current selection) and the bookmark description. After the question for the description, an external program, configured via the configuration command "bookmark-cmd", is executed with 3 commandline parameters. The plugin itself implements the actual bookmark saving (e.g. writing the bookmark to an external file, or storing it to a del.icio.us account). When everything went OK, the plugin simply exits. In case something goes wrong while saving the bookmark, it writes out an error message as a single line. This error message is then presented to the user from within newsbeuter.

Newsbeuter comes with an example plugin, which implements a simple tab-separated bookmark file. This example can be found in the "doc" subdirectory.

4.4. Command Line

Like other text-oriented software, newsbeuter contains an internal commandline to modify configuration variables ad hoc and to run own commands. It provides a flexible access to the functionality of newsbeuter which is especially useful for advanced users.

To start the commandline, type ":". You will see a ":" prompt at the bottom of the screen, similar to tools like vi(m) or mutt. You can now enter commands. Pressing the return key executes the command (possibly giving feedback to the user) and closes the commandline. You can cancel entering commands by pressing the ESC key. The history of all the commands that you enter will be saved to \~/.newsbeuter/history.cmdline. The backlog is limited to 100 entries by default, but can be influenced by setting the "history-limit" configuration variable. To disable history saving, set the history-limit to 0.

Starting with newsbeuter 2.0, the commandline provides you with some help if you can’t remember the full names of commandline commands. By pressing the TAB key, newsbeuter will try to automatically complete your command. If there is more than one possible completion, you can subsequently press the TAB key to cycle through all results. If no match is found, no suggestion will be inserted into the commandline. For the "set" command, the completion also works for configuration variable names.

In addition, some common key combination such as Ctrl-G (to cancel input), Ctrl-K (to delete text from the cursor position to the end of line), Ctrl-U (to clear the whole line) and Ctrl-W (to delete the word before the current cursor position) were added.

Please be aware that the input history of both the command line and the search functions are saved to the filesystems, to the files ~/.newsbeuter/history.cmdline resp. \~/.newsbeuter/history.search. By default, the last 100 entries are saved, but this can be configured (configuration variable history-limit) and also totally disabled (by setting said variable to 0).

Currently, the following command line commands are available:

Table 3. Available Commandline Commands

Command Syntax Description Example
quit quit Quit newsbeuter. quit
save save <filename> Save the currently select article to disk. This works in the article list and in the article view. save ~/important.txt
set set <variable>[=<value>|&|!] Set configuration variable <variable> to <value>. If no value is specified, the current value is printed out. Specifying a ! after the name of boolean configuration variables toggles their values, a & directly after the name of a configuration variable of any type resets its value to the documented default value. set reload-time=15
tag tag <tagname> Only display feeds with the tag <tagname>. tag news
goto goto <case-insensitive substring> Go to the next feed whose name contains the case-insensitive substring. goto foo
source source <filename> […] Load the specified configuration files. This allows it to load alternative configuration files or reload already loaded configuration files on-the-fly from the filesystem. source ~/.newsbeuter/colors
dumpconfig dumpconfig <filename> Save current internal state of configuration to file, so that it can be instantly reused as configuration file. dumpconfig ~/.newsbeuter/config.saved
dumpform dumpform Dump current dialog to text file. This is meant for debugging purposes only. dumpform
n/a <number> Jump to the entry with the index <number> (usually seen at the left side of the list). This currently works for the feed list and the article list. 30

4.5. Filter Language

Newsbeuter provides a powerful filter language that enables the user to filter the content of many dialogs, such as the feed list or the article list. The basic concept is that every feed and every article has a number of attributes which can then be compared with user-supplied values, and these comparisons and be logically AND’ed, OR’ed and grouped.

Examples for simple filter expressions are:

unread_count > 0
rssurl =~ "^https:"
age between 0:10

Logically connecting and grouping such expressions looks like in the following examples:

( unread_count > 0 and unread_count < 10 ) or total_count > 100
( author =~ "Frank" or author =~ "John" ) and ( title =~ "Linux" or title =~ "FreeBSD" )

The possibilities for combining such queries is endless, sky (actually: the available memory) is the limit.

To filter your feeds, press "F" in the feed list, enter your filter expression, and press enter. To clear the filter, press Ctrl-F. To filter the articles in the article list, press "F", enter your expression, and press enter. Clearing the filter works the same as before. Be aware that only certain attributes work in both dialogs. The table below lists all available attributes and their context, i.e. an attribute that belongs to a feed can only be matched in the feed list, while an attribute that belongs to an article can only be matched in the article list.

Table 4. Available Comparison Operators

Operator Meaning
= test for equality ("==" works, too)
!= test for inequality; logical negation of = operator
=~ test whether regular expression matches
!~ logical negation of the =~ operator
< less than
> greater than
less than or equal
>= greater than or equal
between within a range of integer values, where the two integer values are separated by a colon (see above for an example)
# contains; this operator matches if a word is contained in a list of space-separated words (useful for matching tags, see below)
!# contains not; the negation of the # operator

Table 5. Available Attributes

Attribute Context Meaning
title article article title
link article article link
author article article author
content article article body
date article publication date of the article
guid article a unique identifier of the article
unread article indicates whether the article has been read
enclosure_url article the URL of a possible enclosure (e.g. podcast file)
enclosure_type article the MIME type of the enclosure URL
flags article The set of flags of the article
age article Age of an article (in days)
articleindex article Index of an article in an article list
feedtitle feed, article title of the feed
description feed, article feed description
feedlink feed, article link to the feed
feeddate feed, article publication date of the feed
rssurl feed, article RSS URL of the feed
unread_count feed, article number of unread articles in the feed
total_count feed, article total number of articles in the feed
tags feed, article all tags that are associated with the feed
feedindex feed, article Index of a feed in the feed list

Note that it’s also possible to filter for feed attributes when you query for article attributes. This is because every article is internally linked to the feed from which it was downloaded.

4.6. Killfiles

Sometimes, a user is confronted with certain content he doesn’t want to read, e.g. on topics the user is not interested in or articles from certain people he doesn’t want to read. In Usenet, such functionality within software is traditionally called a "killfile", i.e. based on the content of this "killfile", articles that match certain conditions do not get displayed and are not presented to the user at all.

In newsbeuter, such a "killfile" can be implemented on a per-article basis via the configuration file. The most important configuration command for this is "ignore-article":

ignore-article "*" "title =~ \"Gentoo\""
ignore-article "http://synflood.at/blog/index.php?/feeds/index.rss2" "title =~ \"newsbeuter\""

The basic format is that the user specifies an RSS feed for which the ignore shall be applied ("*" matches all RSS feeds), and then a filter expression (see previous section). If newsbeuter hits an article in the specified RSS feed that matches the specified filter expression, then this article is ignored and never presented to the user. The configuration itself can contain as many ignore-article commands as desired.

Since newsbeuter 2.2, you can specify the way an article is ignored. There are two ways available:

  • During download: articles are ignored when a feed is downloaded and parsed, and thus won’t be written to the local cache.
  • During display: articles are downloaded and written to the local cache, but are ignored when a feed is displayed.

Both modes have their advantages and disadvantages: while the download ignore mode saves some storage, you cannot simply "undo" the ignore by removing it from the configuration file: if an ignored article has already vanished from a feed, it won’t reappear. On the other hand, the display ignore mode requires some more space, but has the advantage that an ignore can be "undone" by removing the ignore-article configuration command from the configuration.

The default ignore mode is "download". You can set the ignore mode in the configuration file:

ignore-mode "display"

4.7. Query Feeds

Query feeds are a mechanism of newsbeuter to define custom "meta feeds" by using newsbeuter’s built-in filter language. A query feed is a feed that is aggregated from all currently downloaded articles of all feeds. To narrow down the set of articles, the user has to specify a filter. Only articles that match this filter are added to the query feed. A query feed is updated whenever it is entered in the feed list. When you change the unread flag of an article, this is reflected in the feed where the article was originally fetched.

To define a query feed, the user has to add a line to the file ~/.newsbeuter/urls in the following format:

query:<name of feed>:<filter expression> [<tag> ...]

The "query:" in the beginning tells newsbeuter that it’s a query feed, "<name of feed>" specifies the name under which the query feed shall be displayed in the feed list, and "<filter expression>" is the filter expression that shall be used. Like every other feed, a query feed can be tagged to organize it like a regular feed.

A good example for the user of this feature is a query feed that contains all unread articles:

"query:Unread Articles:unread = \"yes\""

Note the quotes that are necessary around the complete query "URL" and the backslashes that are necessary the escape the quotes in the filter expression.

If you want to combine several feeds to one single feed, a good solution is to tag the feeds that you want to combine with one certain tag, and then create a query feed that only displays articles from feeds with that certain tag:

http://domain1.tld/feed.xml fun news tag1
http://domain2.tld/?feed.rss private jokes tag1
http://domain3.tld/feeds.rss news
"query:tag1 Articles:tags # \"tag1\""

In this example, the feeds http://domain1.tld/feed.xml and http://domain2.tld/?feed.rss are aggregated into the query feed named "tag1 Articles", but the feed http://domain3.tld/feeds.rss is not.

Basically, the possibility of what can be realized with query feeds is only limited by what can be queried from articles and feeds with the filter language and by your creativity.

4.8. Google Reader Support

Since version 2.2, newsbeuter contained support for Google Reader. After Google Reader was discontinued by Google, Google Reader support was subsequently removed from newsbeuter and replaced with support for alternatives such as The Old Reader and NewsBlur.

4.9. The Old Reader Support

The Old Reader is a successor to Google Reader. Newsbeuter provides functionality to use The Old Reader as its backend: people can use The Old Reader to manage their subscriptions, and in addition, use newsbeuter to download and read articles. Newsbeuter will keep the information which articles have already been read synchronized with The Old Reader, so that users usually won’t see articles more than once. In addition, it will only ever download unread articles from The Old Reader.

In order to use The Old Reader support, you first need to configure the proper URL source:

urls-source "oldreader"

In addition, newsbeuter needs to know your The Old Reader username and password so that it can authenticate with The Old Reader:

oldreader-login "your-oldreader-account"
oldreader-password "your-password"

After setting these configuration values, you can start newsbeuter, it will authenticate with The Old Reader and download your subscription list. If you use "folders" in The Old Reader to organize your feeds, newsbeuter will regard them and make them available via its "tags" capability: each feed is tagged with the name of the folder in which it resides.

When you mark single items or complete feeds as read, newsbeuter will synchronize this information directly to The Old Reader. This, of course, includes opening articles. Toggling read articles back to "unread" is also communicated to The Old Reader.

In addition, The Old Reader provides the ability to "star" and to "share" articles. Starred articles are basically bookmarks, while shared articles are shown to people that follow your The Old Reader account. Newsbeuter allows the use of this feature by mapping its powerful "flags" to the "star"/"unstar" resp. "share"/"unshare" operations.

In order to use this mapping, all you need to do is to configure the flags that shall be used:

oldreader-flag-share "a"
oldreader-flag-star "b"

After that, use these flags when you edit flags for an article, and these articles will be starred resp. shared.

By default, newsbeuter also shows The Old Reader "special feeds": - People you follow: articles shared by people that you follow. - Starred items: articles that you starred. - Shared items: articles that you shared.

You can disable these feeds by setting the following configuration variable:

oldreader-show-special-feeds no

4.10. NewsBlur Support

Newsbeuter also supports NewsBlur, another alternative to Google Reader. Configuration basically works the same as with The Old Reader.

First, set your urls-source:

urls-source "newsblur"

Then, configure your NewsBlur credentials:

newsblur-login "your-newsblur-account"
newsblur-password "your-password"

When you start newsbeuter, it will download the feeds that you configured in NewsBlur. Please take a closer look at the configuration commands for what you can configure in newsbeuter regarding NewsBlur.

4.11. Bloglines Synchronization

Up to and including version 2.3, newsbeuter contained support for synchronization with Bloglines. On October 1, 2010, Bloglines was discontinued, and newsbeuter’s support for Bloglines was subsequently removed.

4.12. Tiny Tiny RSS Synchronization

Since version 2.5, newsbeuter can be used to synchronize with Tiny Tiny RSS installations. Tiny Tiny RSS is a web-based and (optionally) multi-user feed reader. By providing the ability to use Tiny Tiny RSS as its backend, it’s possible for users to manage their subscriptions centrally within Tiny Tiny RSS while reading them wherever they are using newsbeuter.

If you want to use Tiny Tiny RSS support, don’t forget to activate the external API support in your preferences.

To use Tiny Tiny RSS support, you need to configure a few things. First of all, newsbeuter needs to know that you want to use Tiny Tiny RSS and which installation exactly:

urls-source "ttrss"
ttrss-url "http://example.com/ttrss/"

In addition, it requires username and password for authentication:

ttrss-login "myusername"
ttrss-password "mypassword"

Tiny Tiny RSS provides two modes of usage, single-user mode and multi-user mode. newsbeuter needs to know about this, too: In single-user mode, authentication is done via Basic HTTP authentication, while in multi-user mode, authentication is done against Tiny Tiny RSS itself.

ttrss-mode "single"             # "multi" is default

With these settings, newsbeuter should be able to connect to Tiny Tiny RSS and download your subscribed feeds. Articles or even complete feeds that you marked as read are synchronized directly to Tiny Tiny RSS.

Tiny Tiny RSS provides the ability to "star" and to "publish" articles. Starred articles are basically bookmarks, while published articles can be retrieved via a pubic RSS feed. Newsbeuter allows the use of these features by mapping its flags to the "star" and "publish" operations.

In order to use this mapping, you need to configure the flags that shall be used:

ttrss-flag-star "s"
ttrss-flag-publish "p"

After that, use these flags when you edit flags for an article, and these articles will be starred resp. published.

4.13. OPML Online Subscription Mode

The OPML online subscription mode works similar to the Google Reader synchronization mode, except that no information about read articles is synchronized back. When enabled, all feeds that are listed in the feed list will be taken from one or more OPML files that are downloaded from a freely configurable URL.

To enable this mode, the following configuration needs to be done:

urls-source "opml"
opml-url "<opml url>" ["<opml url>" ...]

"opml" must be specified as source for the feed URLs, and the URLs of the OPML file needs to be specified, too. As with Google Reader synchronization mode, the offline mode via "newsbeuter -o" also works with OPML online subscription mode.

4.14. Flagging Articles

To support custom categorization of articles by the user, it is possible to flag an article. A valid flag is any character from A to Z and from a to z. Every article can be flagged with up to 52 different flags, i.e. every letter from the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case. Flagging is easy: just select an article in the article list, or enter the article view, and press ^E. This will start the flag editor. By pressing enter, the new flags are saved. You can cancel by pressing the ESC key.

The flags of an article can be used in every filter expression. The flags of an article are always ordered, and when new flags are added, ordering is immediately restored. This behaviour can also be relied upon when querying articles via the filter language.

If an article contains one or more flags, it is marked with an "!" in the article list. In the article view, all flags (if available) are listed.

4.15. Macro Support

In newsbeuter, it’s possible to define macros to execute more than one command at once. A macro is configured using the "macro" configuration command. The first parameter to "macro" is the key, all parameters afterwards are operations (as listed in the "Available Operations" table above), optionally with parameters on their own, separated by the ";" character. Here’s a simple example:

macro k open ; reload ; quit
macro o open-in-browser ; toggle-article-read "read"

When the user presses the macro prefix ("," by default) and then the "k" key, the three operations "open", "reload" and "quit" will be executed subsequently.

It is also possible to modify configuration variables within macros, which can e.g. be used to temporarily modify the browser configuration variable to do something else, such as running an image viewer from the URLs view:

macro i set browser "feh %u"; open ; set browser "elinks %u"

You can even use this feature to enqueue any of the URLs from the URLs view to podbeuter’s download queue:

macro E set browser "echo %u >> ~/.newsbeuter/queue" ; open ; set browser "elinks %u"

4.16. Commandline Commands

Newsbeuter comes with a -x option that indicates that commands added as arguments to the command line shall be executed. Currently, the following commands are available:

  • reload: this option reloads all feeds, and quits newsbeuter without printing any output. This is useful if a user wants to periodically reload all feeds without always having a running newsbeuter instance, e.g. from cron.
  • print-unread: this option prints the number of unread articles and quits newsbeuter. This is useful for users who want to integrate this number into some kind of monitoring system.

4.17. Format Strings

Newsbeuter contains a powerful format string system to make it possible for the user to configure the format of various aspects of the application, such as the format of entries in the feed list or in the article list.

Format strings are similar to those that are found in the "printf" function in the C programming language. A format sequence begins with the % character, followed by optional alignment indication: positive numbers indicate that the text that is inserted for the sequence shall be padded right to a total width that is specified by the number, while negative number specify left padding. Followed by the padding indication comes the actual sequence identifier, which is usually a single letter.

In addition, newsbeuter provides other, more powerful sequences, such as "%>[char]", which indicates that the text right to the sequence will be aligned right on the screen, and characters between the text on the left and the text on the right will be filled by "[char]". Another powerful format is the conditional sequence, "%?[char]?[format 1]&[format 2]?": if the text of the sequence identifier "[char]" is non-empty, then "[format 1]" will be evaluated and inserted, otherwise "[format 2]" will be evaluated and inserted. The "&" and "[format 2]" are optional, i.e. if the identifier’s text is empty, then an empty string will be inserted.

The following tables show what sequence identifiers are available for which format:

Table 6. Available Identifiers for feedlist-format

Identifier Meaning
d Feed description
i Feed index
l Feed link
L Feed RSS URL
n "unread" flag field
S download status
t Feed title
T First tag of a feed in the URLs file
u "unread/total" field
U "unread" field
c "total" field

While a reload-all operation is running, the download status indicates the download status of a feed, which can be "to be downloaded" (indicated by "_"), "currently downloading" (indicated by "."), successfully downloaded (indicated by " ") and "download error" (indicated by "x").

Table 7. Available Identifiers for articlelist-format

Identifier Meaning
a Article author
D Publication date
f Article flags
i Article index
t Article title
T If the article list displays articles from different feeds, then this identifier contains the title of the feed to which the article belongs.
L Article length

Table 8. Available Identifiers for notify-format

Identifier Meaning
n Number of unread articles
f Number of unread feeds
d Number of new unread articles (i.e. that were added through the last reload)
D Number of new unread feeds (i.e. that were added through the last reload)

Examples:

feedlist-format     "%4i %n %11u %t"
articlelist-format  "%4i %f %D   %?T?|%-17T|  ?%t"
notify-format       "%d new articles (%n unread articles, %f unread feeds)"

Dialog Titles

Starting with newsbeuter 2.0, it is now officially supported to customize the title format of all available dialogs. Here is a list of dialogs with their respective title format configuration variables, and a list of available formats and their meaning. Please note taht the title formats are localized, so if you work on a different locale that is supported by newsbeuter, the actually displayed title text may vary unless you customize it.

Table 9. Dialog Title Formats

Dialog Configuration Variable Default Value
Feed List feedlist-title-format %N %V - Your feeds (%u unread, %t total)%?T? - tag ‘%T’&?
Article List articlelist-title-format %N %V - Articles in feed %T (%u unread, %t total) - %U
Search Result searchresult-title-format %N %V - Search result (%u unread, %t total)
File Browser filebrowser-title-format %N %V - %?O?Open File&Save File? - %f
Help help-title-format %N %V - Help
Select Tag Dialog selecttag-title-format %N %V - Select Tag
Select Filter Dialog selectfilter-title-format %N %V - Select Filter
Article View itemview-title-format %N %V - Article %T (%u unread, %t total)
URL View urlview-title-format %N %V - URLs
Dialog List dialogs-title-format %N %V - Dialogs

Table 10. Common Title Format Identifiers

Identifier Meaning
N Name of the program, i.e. "newsbeuter"
V Program version
u Number of unread articles (if applicable)
t Number of total articles (if applicable)

Table 11. Feed List Title Format Identifiers

Identifier Meaning
T Currently selected tag (empty if none selected)

Table 12. Article List Title Format Identifiers

Identifier Meaning
T Feed title
U Feed URL

Table 13. File Browser Title Format Identifiers

Identifier Meaning
f Filename
O Non-empty if file browser is in open mode, empty if in save mode

Table 14. Article View Title Format Identifiers

Identifier Meaning
T Article title

4.18. Highlighting Text

Since version 1.0, newsbeuter supports the highlighting of text in the feed list, the article list and the article view, using regular expressions to describe patterns to be highlighted. The command syntax goes like this:

highlight <target> <regex> <fgcolor> [<bgcolor> [<attribute> ...]]

Valid values for <target> are "feedlist", "articlelist", "article" and "all". When specifying "all", the matching will be done in all three views. The <regex> must be regular expression, which will be matched case-insensitive against the text. <fgcolor> and <bgcolor> specify the foreground color resp. the background color of the matches. You can also specify 0 or more attributes. You can find a list of valid colors and attributes in the "Configuring Colors" section.

Examples for possible highlighting configurations are:

highlight all "newsbeuter" red
highlight article "^(Feed|Title|Author|Link|Date):" default default underline
highlight feedlist "https?://[^ ]+" yellow red bold

Highlighting Articles in the Article List

In addition to generally highlighting text, there is also a specific way to highlight articles in the article list based on whether they match a certain filter expression. This means that you can highlight items in the article list based on their content. This is done using the "highlight-article" configuration command.

The syntax is similar to the "highlight" configuration command, with the difference that there’s no need to specify a target (since it only applies in the article list), and instead of a regular expression, a filter expression is used. After the filter expression, the colors and attributes are specified in the same way.

Example:

highlight-article "author =~ \"Andreas Krennmair\"" white red bold

4.19. Advanced Dialog Management

Since version 2.0, newsbeuter supports an advanced concept of dialogs. Previously, all dialogs (feed list, article list, article view) were internally laid out as a pure stack. In 2.0, this changed: all dialogs are managed in a list, and the user can jump to another, previously opened dialog from everywhere. This allows a user to open more than one article list, more than one article view, etc., and switch between them without closing them.

The main dialog for this feature can be reached by pressing the "v" key. This opens the list of open dialogs. From there, the user can switch to another dialog by selecting the appropriate entry and pressing "ENTER", or can close open dialogs by selecting them and pressing Ctrl-X.

4.20. XDG Base Directory Support

Newsbeuter implements limited support for the XDG Base Directory Specification. It needs to be set up manually by creating the following directories:

~/.local/share/newsbeuter/
~/.config/newsbeuter/

If these directories exist or the environment variables $XDG_CONFIG_HOME and $XDG_DATA_HOME are set, newsbeuter will use these directories, otherwise it will default to ~/.newsbeuter as its configuration directory.

4.21. Podcast Support

A podcast is a media file distributed over the internet using syndication feeds such as RSS, for later playback on portable players or computers. Newsbeuter contains support for downloading and saving podcasts. This support differs a bit from other podcast aggregators or "podcatchers" in how it is done.

Podcast content is transported in RSS feeds via special tags called "enclosures". Newsbeuter recognizes these enclosures and stores the relevant information for every podcast item it finds in an RSS feed. Since version 2.0, it also recognizes and handles the Yahoo Media RSS extensions. What the user then can do is to add the podcast download URL to a download queue. Alternatively, newsbeuter can be configured to automatically do that. This queue is stored in the file $HOME/.newsbeuter/queue.

The user can then use the download manager "podbeuter" to download these files to a directory on the local filesystem. Podbeuter comes with the newsbeuter package, and features a look and feel very close to the one of newsbeuter. It also shares the same configuration file.

Podcasts that have been downloaded but haven’t been played yet remain in the queue but are marked as downloaded. You can remove them by purging them from the queue with the P key. After you’ve played a file and close podbeuter, it will be removed from the queue. The downloaded file remains on the filesystem.

Table 15. Podbeuter Configuration Commands

Configuration Command Argument(s) Default Description Example
download-path <path> ~/ Specifies the directory where podbeuter shall download the files to. Optionally, the placeholders "%n" (for the podcast feed’s name) and "%h" (for the podcast feed’s hostname) can be used to place downloads in a directory structure. download-path "~/Downloads/%h/%n"
max-downloads <number> 1 Specifies the maximum number of parallel downloads when automatic download is enabled. max-downloads 3
player <player command> "" Specifies the player that shall be used for playback of downloaded files. player "mp3blaster"

Table 16. Available Operations in Podbeuter

Operation Default key Description
quit q Quit the program.
pb-download d Download the currently selected URL.
pb-cancel c Cancel the currently selected download.
pb-play p Start player with currently selected download.
pb-delete D Delete the currently selected URL from the queue.
pb-purge P Remove all finished and deleted downloads from the queue and load URLs that were newly added to the queue.
pb-toggle-download-all a Toggle the "automatic download" feature where all queued URLs are downloaded one after the other. The "max-downloads" configuration option controls how many downloads are done in parallel.
pb-increase-max-dls + Increase the "max-downloads" option by 1.
pb-decrease-max-dls - Decrease the "max-downloads" option by 1. If the option is already 1, no further decrease is possible.

A usual "use case" is to configure newsbeuter to automatically enqueue newly found podcast download URLs. Then, the user reloads the podcast RSS feeds in newsbeuter, and after that, he/she uses podbeuter to view the current queue, and either selectively download certain files or automatically download them all together by pressing "a" within podbeuter.

4.22. Using SQLite Triggers with newsbeuter

This section was kindly provided by Elrond.

SQLite, the db used by newsbeuter, supports triggers. These are small snippets of SQL that get executed inside the database by the database engine. They’re stored inside the db and the normal user (including newsbeuter itself) doesn’t see them. Just the db seems to do some magic: Like changing some values when you change another value.

So what is this good for when looking at newsbeuter? Well first of it’s a hack. The real answer should be to use application logic (do it inside newsbeuter, not in the db). So: Don’t use this, unless you know, what you’re doing, and unless you have some sort of backup.

Example

So after the "don’t use it" you still want to know, what one can do? So here’s an example.

Suppose you have a strange feed where the articles become "new" by just changing their subject, and nothing else changes. The body is just empty, and the URL keeps the same. This feed really exists. It’s the "updated software rss feed" of some major company and the title just contains the name of the driver and version number. And the URL points to the download page. newsbeuter considers articles only as new, when they have a new UniqueID (this is good). So those articles are never marked as new (unread) ever again.

So what can we do? We do some magic: We let the db test if newsbeuter changes the subject and then let itself mark the article again as unread.

  1. You need the sqlite3 command line tool (available via apt-get install sqlite3 on Debian) or some other tool to do direct sql on the sqlite database.
  2. Start sqlite3 with the newsbeuter db:

    Rivendell:~/.newsbeuter% sqlite3 cache.db
    SQLite version 3.4.2
    Enter ".help" for instructions
    sqlite>
  3. Create the trigger:

    sqlite> create trigger update_item_title update of title on rss_item
              > for each row when old.title != new.title
              > begin
              >   update rss_item set unread = 1 where rowid == new.rowid;
              > end;
  4. Leave sqlite3 with <Ctrl-D> or .quit.

That’s it. newsbeuter (well, its db) now marks articles as unread when their title changes. And nicely enough this works all inside newsbeuter, no need to restart it so that it rereads the cache, that magically modifies itself. It just works.

5. Feedback

If you want to tell us something related to newsbeuter, don’t hesitate to send an email: ak@newsbeuter.org

Alternatively, you can reach the newsbeuter developers on IRC: channel #newsbeuter on irc.freenode.net.

If you want to report newsbeuter bugs, please use this issue tracker: http://code.google.com/p/newsbeuter/issues/list

6. License

MIT/X Consortium License

©opyright 2006-2011 Andreas Krennmair <ak@newsbeuter.org>

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.