Stupid Outlook 2007 RSS Feed Workaround – Tales from the Crypto

Stupid Outlook 2007 RSS Feed Workaround

I was starting to wonder why other people were getting news stories before me.

Then I realised I just wasn’t getting news at all.

Looking at my Unread RSS Feeds search folder in Outlook 2007, I noticed that I hadn’t received a single post since June 10th 2009. Coincidentally, this is when I installed a number of updates:

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None of these updates had any “Known Issues” listed in the Knowledge Base articles associated with them that would stop feeds from updating, so I went searching.

First I went searching at Microsoft’s support page (a supported fix or workaround is generally so much safer and more reliable than an unsupported one), and found that this problem had indeed been fixed in the February 2009 Cumulative Update for Outlook 2007 (“RSS feeds become dormant and do not reactivate.”), which was incorporated into Outlook 2007 Service Pack 2. I’ve already installed those.

Great. They’re obviously talking about a completely different problem cause.

Next I go searching the web in general – I use Bing, simply because it’s easy to get to, and Google when I think the answer is more likely to be in the Usenet newsgroups (is it too much to ask Microsoft to maintain their own Usenet archive and search there from Bing?)

In this case, the web had sporadic references to people deleting “~last~.sharing.xml.obi” and “Outlook.sharing.xml.obi” – I would generally avoid doing this sort of change without a backup and a box of tissues to cry into when things go wrong. Deleting temporary files and hoping they get rebuilt is sometimes a miracle, and sometimes more of a magic trick, making things disappear without a trace. So I continued looking.

One question that was asked – and that I should have asked myself – is what kind of “feeds not updating” issue I was having. There are several kinds:

  • Feed data present, connection attempted, mismatch in dates
  • Feed data present, connection attempted, some other error
  • Feed data present, connection not attempted
  • Feed data not present

I was in the latter category – when I opened the Tools menu and selected Account Settings, the RSS Feeds tab contained only a few items, rather than the several dozen I was expecting to see. This is what I was expecting:

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As it turns out, there is a simple and stupid workaround for this issue, which requires no deletion of files.

imageNavigate to the RSS Feeds folder (mine is under an RSS Feeds PST file, but if you selected the default, it’ll still be in your Personal Folders file), and for each feed that you’re missing, simply select the feed’s folder, as shown to the right.

For each folder you select, Outlook will display the downloaded items from that feed – and will slyly go behind the scenes to make sure that the feed is in the RSS Feeds tab.

For my several dozen feeds, this took a while, but wasn’t too bad.

[Note: Don’t try to navigate back through the folder history by holding down the ‘back’ key on your keyboard or Alt-Left Arrow – when I did this, Outlook crashed after zipping through a few folders.]

As you can see from my later screenshot of the “RSS Feeds” tab above, all my feeds are re-added, and a new sync caused them to be updated with new content.

It’d be really nice if this process could be automated for a number of folders at a time, to “refresh feeds from RSS Folders” – but for now, this is at least a workaround when you notice that you’re just not as well-informed as you used to be.

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