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How To Monitor Sites Without an RSS Feed Using Firefox

This guest article was written by Syed Abbas from TNerd.com, a blog focused on technology news, tricks and tips.

Ever wondered how to track updates on the sites which do not offer RSS or E-mail subscription? Most of the websites and blogs today offer RSS subscriptions but not all of them offer E-mail alerts.

In particular e-mail alerts are more important to a blogger because every blogger wants to be the first to break the news in blogosphere. For example tracking “press” pages of company blogs can be very important because if you are one of the first few to notice the update, you will be one of the first to write about it. This article will discuss one of many solutions you can use to monitor pages which do not offer RSS or E-mail subscription.

This one is called Update Scanner, a Firefox plug-in and works like a charm. Selecting a page to be monitored, the frequency of monitoring, highlight the updates are some of the features this tool offers.

Using Update Scanner

Let’s look at the installation and the functionality of this plug-in step by step.

Visit https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3362 in your Firefox browser and click on “Add to Firefox” to start the installation of the plug-in.

Now click on “Install” button to download and install the plug-in.

“Restart Firefox” Restart the browser once the installation is completed.

Now visit any site/blog/webpage you wish to track for updates and right click to select “Scan Page for Updates” from the context menu. In this case we wish to track TNerd.com, go to the page and once it loads right click and select “Scan Page for Updates”..

Once you click on the option, it’s time to tell the software how often do you want to check that particular site for updates, etc…

AutoScan:

Scroll the bar from left to right to select the frequency of scanning a page, it ranges from once every 5 minutes to once every 24 hours or just do it manually.

Change Threshold:

You can choose to ignore the numbers on the page to be monitored by checking the box and also select how many characters on the page should be changed to trigger an update alert, this value can range from 0 to 1000 characters.

Character Encoding:

Leave it to Auto-detect for the plug-in to decide what is the appropriate encoding for the selected page.

Once the sites are setup for monitoring Update Scanner will show an alert as shown in the image below as and when it detects an update on any given site/blog.

You can access Update Scanner side panel by clicking on the Icon sitting on the status bar of Firefox or by using the shortcut key (Alt+U).

If the arrow you see in the image turn blue, that means that at least one of the sites you are monitoring has been updated.

Here is what a typical Update Scanner side panel would look like. The sites which have bold characters and have an arrow next to them are the ones which have updates we haven’t checked. Click on each of the sites to check for the updates one after the other.

This is what it looks like when you click on a site to see the updates. The updates are highlighted using a yellow highlighter. The plug-in ads another bar to the page which options which let you view the Old-version of the page, New-version of the page, Changes (highlighted) or just the page as it is now, Current page.

Update Scanner Offers few features and also configuration options on the side panel. The features can either be accessed by clicking on the icons on the bar or just by right clicking anywhere on the Update Scanner side panel.

Update Scanner Menubar

Update Scanner Context menu options by right-clicking on side panel:

By clicking on the “Settings” button or the “Properties” option on the context menu you can further customize Update Scanner as per your taste.

Notification Options:

Here you can choose if you’d like to see the notification option or not or for how long should it show or do you have to close it manually before it disappears.

You can also select if it should play a sound for notification and also, personalize it by choosing a sound file of your choice.

Scanning Options:

Here you can choose the threshold style between a slider and a number for easy understanding. Setting the time out option lets you break away from the scan if the site is not responding.

Toolbar Options:

Here users can select what buttons to be shown on the menu bar and what shouldn’t.

So that was a quick rundown on the installation and features of Update Scanner. I hope it helps you discover important updates as they happen and before others do ;)

If you want more tips like this one, you can subscribe to the TNerd RSS Feed.

Download Update Scanner from Mozilla Add-ons

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/15/08

Comments (5)

  1. The Windows Fix

    Hmm, I like the idea, but most of the regular sites I visit, if they don’t have an RSS feed would be sports sites. These sites I probably wouldn’t want this plug-in…I guess I’m just trying to think of what type of site I would need this on? Maybe an update to an application?

  2. sbw07

    http://page2rss.com/ is a site that will create an rss feed for any site that you want to track.

  3. FL

    i use it to monitor changes to: bank interest rates, shops offer pages e.g. Apple refurb store, airline offers.

  4. Mr. X

    I’ve used http://www.watchthatpage.com for years. I moved a lot to RSS but it still has its purposes.I’ve used it for the following situations in which the site does not offer RSS or e-mail updates:

    - Check when vendors have posted updates (Nagios just updated last night!)
    - When new information or the latest newsletters are posted at the school’s web site
    - When Microsoft updates the Windows Service Pack Road Map

    My use of WatchThatPage has declined with the use of RSS but it’s still useful and it will send you an e-mail, unlike an RSS feed. There are times when you want an e-mail sent.

  5. Scott

    Worked great when we bought our Wii on Amazon. Finally .

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