I’m an avid user of Attensa for Outlook, a free Outlook add-in for aggregating RSS feeds as folders of “messages” in Outlook. I like it because it (a) allows me to search my feeds quickly via Windows Desktop Search, and (b) lets me read my feeds whether I’m connected to the ‘net or not.
However, there isn’t currently a free way to read my feeds via a web browser (e.g. from my new iPhone – hee hee!). Well, I should say I can read my feeds via Google Reader, but my read/unread status doesn’t get sync’ed from Attensa to Google or back. That means if I bravely skim through a bunch of articles in one place, I’ll likely have to wade through them (or get distracted by them) again in the other.
I had a brainwave today (stand back, that could be contagious) about how to add functionality to be able to sync back & forth, and I think I’ve just dreamt up yet another coding project for myself:
I have a pretty reasonable idea how to write managed C# or VB.NET that can integrate with Office via the Visual Studio Tools for Office model. I’m not unfamiliar with web services, or with the basics of a .NET-based HTTP client [having just wasted a weekend authoring a very rudimentary web site parser]. I am bright enough to imagine that the Attensa add-in exposes a more abstract approach to addressing feeds & articles than just crawling the raw PST file, enumerating folders and addressing message objects directly.
Now what I’d need to know is: is there an Attensa SDK and/or API which I could leverage in an Outlook application add-in using VSTO? Would there be any advantage to using that abstraction layer, as opposed to just enumerating the PST folders and messages directly? If the Attensa team only exposed an unmanaged API, would I be creating a performance nightmare to code through that (with all the PInvoke‘ing that is required) rather than just take my chances with the native Outlook object model?
I can even imagine that the Attensa client might provide me a way of finding the translation between “articles from feed ‘x'” and “messages in folder ‘y'”, that relied on Attensa’s internal database, and then I could grind through the Outlook folders themselves. That’d be a damn sight easier than trying to match up (a) feeds from the Google Reader API (article, wiki) to the folders as they’re named in the PST file, and (b) articles from the Google Reader API to the messages stored in the PST file. It’d sure help if there was an indexed search capability in (a) the Google Reader API and (b) the Outlook PST object model.
Oh, it’s fun to imagine all the ways I could make my life easier…after six months of hard dev work to get there. Madman I am.