One of the neat things about an operating system is how different parts of the system can come together to make a richer experience by virtue of being on the same platform. In this case, you can use the RSS enclosure functionality in IE7 along with WMP11’s Auto Playlists and device synchronization to subscribe to podcasts, aggregate them into your media library, and sync them to your portable device.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Find a feed you want to subscribe to. For this example, lets use BBC’s “Digital Planet” podcast. Start by going to the Digital Planet page on the BBC’s website using IE7.
  2. Click the XML icon for the podcast’s feed, which will open the feed in IE7’s integrated RSS viewer.
  3. In the RSS Viewer, you’ll see a yellow box at the top of the page, at the bottom of that box, there’s a link labeled Subscribe to this feed. Click on it.
  4. This will pop up another dialog box to confirm some properties of the subscription. Check the checkbox in this dialog box that reads Automatically download attached files, and click the Subscribe button.

At this point, you’ve got IE set up to get the feeds automatically. Next you need to get WMP11 to find them and put them in the media library.

  1. Open the Favorites Center in IE7 (the star button on the left of the toolbar).
  2. Find the feed you just subscribed to, right-click on it, and select Properties… from the context menu. This will open the Feed properties dialog.
  3. About halfway down the dialog, there’s a button that reads View files. Click on this button to open the folder where IE7 is keeping the feeds attachments.
  4. Once the folder is opened in Windows Explorer, right click on the navigation bar at the top of the window and select Copy address.
  5. Open WMP11 and open your media library by clicking the Library button in the big black toolbar across the top of the Window.
  6. At the bottom of the button, there’s a strip you can click on that will open a menu, open the menu, and select Add to Library…
  7. This will bring up the Add to Library dialog. Click the Add… button partway down the dialog box to open the Add Folder dialog
  8. The Add Folder dialog has a textbox near the bottom that is labeled Folder. Delete the text that’s in there, and paste the address you copied from step 8 into this box, and click OK. WMP11 will start scanning the folder for files. Once the scan is complete, close the file-scanning progress dialog that opens.

We’re almost done. Your feed is now set up to download automatically, and WMP11 has the audio files in the library. The only things left are making a playlist to find them easily and sync them to a portable device.

  1. In the media library, there’s an item at the top of the tree control on the left that reads Playlists. Right click on it and select Create Auto Playlist.
  2. In the New Auto Playlist dialog that opens, enter the name of the feed (in this example Digital Planet), and set the fliter to the following: - Music In My Library - Album Title Is Digital Planet…and click OK
  3. Now click on the newly created playlist and verify that it has found the file that was downloaded by IE7!
  4. Finally, if you have an MTP capable portable media device (like the new iRiver Clix that Sean has been raving about), you can add your newly created Auto Playlist to the Sync List in WMP11 to sync the feeds to your device.

There are definitely some gotcha’s with this scheme… if the meta-data of any of the files in the feeds you’re isn’t set up correctly (or usefully) you’ll have a tough time setting up your playlists, but for the majority of feeds I’ve tested, it appears to work quite well!