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I'm experimenting with reading RSS feeds in Mail.app (on Snow Leopard) so I did the following:

  • subscribed to a few feeds
  • told each one to "show in inbox"
  • created a mail folder called RSS, containing a mailbox for each feed
  • set up rules, one for each feed, to move incoming articles to the mailboxes

This works, to a point. The rules don't seem to catch the new articles right away; sometimes they sit in the inbox for a while. But there's a bigger issue.

After I delete the messages from the mailboxes, they are reloaded by Mail next time it checks for new feed messages. Only if I delete them from the Inbox do they stay deleted. Apparently the "move message" doesn't also do the delete action that tells Mail that I'm done with that message.

I've tried not having the feeds "show in inbox" but then the rules are completely ineffective; apparently they are only run on messages that are destined for the inbox. I can run them manually, but that is way more trouble than it's worth.

I just want my RSS feeds to act like regular mailboxes, so they can be sync'd between Macs and with my iPhone (as far as I can tell, RSS feeds are local and don't sync at all). Is there some way to make this work?

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The way I see it, Mail.app's functionality as an RSS aggregator is significantly detached from its functionality as a mail program. We only see the comparison between emails and feed posts because Mail.app displays them in similar GUIs. Thus, it is not designed or advisable for feed posts to be shuffled around with mail rules—I'm actually kind of surprised you got that to work at all in the first place. The fact you can show a feed in the inbox goes contrary to these principles... I think that feature only exists to allow unread feed posts to appear in Mail.app's Dock badge.

RSS feeds don't sync because they aren't really local—they're inherently cloud. The problem we have to deal with is syncing a state of read/unread across multiple machines. My approach to this is simply to limit myself to a single RSS aggregator, but I think the best option for you might be Google Reader. You may find other things like iOS apps that have an existing sync framework, and there are a bunch of other RSS aggregators for mac out there that might work for this, but Mail.app (and especially syncing RSS feeds through IMAP) is definitely not the right tool for the job.

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I see your point. I'm trying to avoid Google Reader, however, because they don't let you keep articles longer than 30 days and for technical blogs it can often take me way longer than that to get around to reading them. I've tried several alternatives (Shrook, Fever) and am not really satisfied with them. I wanted to give Mail a chance, but if it's not possible to sync the read/unread info (you're right, this is the data that matters) then it's not usable for me. –  Janine Ohmer Aug 24 '10 at 3:46

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