hpr1027 :: Migrating away from Google Reader – Feed2Imap

Back in 2012-07-10, I did a Hacker Public Radio episode entitled, “hpr1027 :: Migrating away from Google Reader“. Given the current news that Google is to shut down Reader, I thought I would re-post the episodes show notes here as a reminder. I have been running this IMAP solution on a raspberry PI from my home without issue since then.

Getting a list of my feeds

Google should be credited with the fact that they make exporting very easy to do. Thanks to the work of the http://www.dataliberation.org/ team. Who’s stated goal is “Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google’s products. Our team’s goal is to make it easier to move data in and out.”

For Google Reader this amounts to:

Settings -> Reader Settings -> Import/Export -> OPML

OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) is an XML format for outlines (defined as “a tree, where each node contains a set of named attributes with string values”). Originally developed by Radio UserLand as a native file format for an outliner application, it has since been adopted for other uses, the most common being to exchange lists of web feeds between web feed aggregators.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPML

That’s it. You now have a list of all your feeds we are still faced with the problem of reading/deleting items in one place and having them synchronized everywhere else ? The answer is actually quite obvious.

imap – Internet Message Access Protocol

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Internet message access protocol (IMAP) is one of the two most prevalent Internet standard protocols for e-mail retrieval, the other being the Post Office Protocol (POP). Virtually all modern e-mail clients and mail servers support both protocols as a means of transferring e-mail messages from a server.

The great news is that there are imap clients everywhere. Microsoft Outlook supports it. Thunderbird, Evolution, Kmail, Claws-Mail all support it. It’s supported on Android, the iPhone, and on Windows Mobile. There are a multitude of web clients. The only problem now was to find a way to get the RSS feeds over to a imap message format. A quick duckduckgo search later lead me to ….



Feed2Imap is an RSS/Atom feed aggregator. After Downloading feeds (over HTTP or HTTPS), it uploads them to a specified folder of an IMAP mail server or copies them to a local maildir. The user can then access the feeds using Mutt, Evolution, Mozilla Thunderbird or even a webmail.

It’s in all the major repositories and I had it up and running in under ten minutes. It keeps it’s settings in a hidden file .feed2imaprc in your home directory. The configuration is simple, four lines per feed.

 - name: kenfallon.com
   url: https://kenfallon.com/?feed=rss2
   target: imap://RSSNewsAccount%40example.com:PasswordForRSSNewsAccount@imap.example.com/INBOX.Feeds.Tech_Blogs
   include-images: true

The name filed is what will be the feed name and url is the link to the rss feed. The target is the path on the imap account you want to put it to. I used a throw away email account on my own domain with some restrictions on the size so that if I forget to check it won’t affect the rest of my mailboxes.

The line it’s broken into several parts, first is imap:// followed by the imap account user name and password. If your login contains an @ character, replace it with %40. Next is the @ sign followed by your server hostname and then the path. I chose INBOX.Feeds and then a subfolder for every group I had in Google Reader. The only other option I set was to include the images.


I have quite a few feeds now and I did not want to be typing them in by hand. So I wrote a small perl script to convert the opml file into a .feed2imaprc format and it will hopefully get you most of the way. The code is available on https://gitorious.org/opml2feed ( thanks to Klaatu over at http://www.gnuworldorder.info/ where he covered using Git in the March 31, 2012: Episode 7×13.)

Now setup the imap account on your mail client(s) and once you are happy run feed2imap and you should see the items beginning to appear. I set it to run every two hours at 14 minutes past the hour by adding the following line to my cron tab.

14 */2 * * * /usr/bin/feed2imap >/dev/null 2>&1


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1 Response to hpr1027 :: Migrating away from Google Reader – Feed2Imap

  1. Hendrik says:

    For those not familiar with Ruby, or otherwise prefer Perl, you can also use rss2imap. You have to fight CPAN in order to get all requirements to be met. When setup correctly, the software allows for sending of text or html articles to your imap server. It has an OPML import function.

    Also, the google reader export function has changed, it takes you to Google Takeout now, where you need to download a zip file from Reader. In this zipfile is a file named ‘subscriptions.xml’.
    That is the new OPML file which can be imported into rss2imap straightaway.

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