Using the IMPORTFEED Function in Google Sheets

How to Fetch RSS Feeds Using the Google Sheets IMPORTFEED Function

tools RSS how-to

The IMPORTFEED function in Google Sheets allows us to quickly import RSS feeds into our sheets.

With as nothing more than a URL, the feed will be imported and transformed into a Google spreadsheet.

This won't replace a good RSS reader, but IMPORTFEED can be a powerful tool to import and then use or process data from RSS feeds.

Getting Started


Let's look at this simple example to see how it works.

The syntax is fairly simple. Once you have a URL, you can start like this:

=IMPORTFEED(URL, "items", TRUE, 10)

We'll use IMPORTFEED to grab the 10 most recent news items from Google News RSS.

=IMPORTFEED("https://news.google.com/news/rss", "items", true, 10)

The result:

Google News RSS Example

An Advanced Example


Let's have a deeper look inside our RSS feed:

Google News RSS Example

We'll ask Google Sheets to specifically grab titles, descriptions and links.

In the settings page of our sheet we specify:

  • The FIELDS WE WANT per news item: the title, description, and URL.
  • The NUMBER OF ITEMS we want: 10 items.
  • The URLs we want to fetch: the main Google News feed, as well as the feeds filtered to “Sports” and “Business”.

In the results page we include a series of IMPORTFEED calls per URL and field we want:

=IMPORTFEED(`URL`, `FIELDS WE WANT`, TRUE, `NUMBER OF ITEMS`)

Here in the result spreadsheet you will see both the settings page, and 3 results pages for the different feeds we imported.

Limitations


The IMPORTFEED function will easily convert RSS feeds into spreadsheets, but it has an important limitation: we're not directly accessing those feeds, Google is doing it for us.

This leads to a few notable effects:

  • A quite limited choice of fields - our only options are 'items', 'items title', 'items author', 'items url', 'items created', and 'items summary'.

  • Authentication isn't possible - Google Sheets can only access public available RSS feeds, so if we need to access an RSS feeds that requires authentication we're out of luck.

  • Sync and delays - Google Sheets will buffer and sync results. This can be a good thing, but sometimes it can result in long delays or even periods where the spreadsheet shows an error message.


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