Stable release 0.2.0 / 07.01.2012
Status Discontinued / not supported
Written in AutoHotkey script
Operating system Microsoft Windows (minimum: Microsoft Windows 2000)
Available in English
Type Feed reader
License GNU General Public License
Distribution Package including an executable, source and documentation
Download from AutoHotkey.net (ZIP, 439 KB)


A feed reader for Microsoft Windows with concepts from newsbeuter (*n?x).

Special features

  • clear text-oriented, single-view interface
  • keyboard-controlled (mouse-control, on the other hand, is not supported)
  • HTML pages of web feed entries can be filtered with regular expressions and converted to text
  • an extra "feed" lists all new entries
  • integration of a web scraper for sites, which do not support a feed
  • integration of the Sylpheed email client used to check for new emails
  • download of web feed entries for offline reading

Online help

owl-u is a feed reader for Microsoft Windows.
A feed reader aggregates web content like news headlines, blogs, podcasts and vlogs from multiple web sites, displays the content in a single interface, and with it simplifies the regular checking of web sites for updates.

owl-u supports the following feed types:

  • Atom
  • RSS
  • RDF

and single web sites. Additionally it can call an email client (Sylpheed) to check for new emails.

It uses a single view interface, which displays only one of the following at a time

  • a quick help with all supported hotkeys
  • a list of the configured feeds
  • a list of all entries of the selected feed
  • a summary for the selected entry
  • the article referred to by the selected entry either as a full (the original) or a reduced (e. g. text only) version.

It is completely controlled by keyboard.
There is a title bar at the top of the window, which displays one of the following depending on the selected view

  • feed list view:
    • total number of feeds
    • number of unread entries of all feeds
    • number of etries of all feeds
  • entry list view:
    • total number of entries
    • number of unread entries
    • feed title
  • summary and article view:
    • feed title
    • item number of the selected entry
    • total number of entries in the feed
    • entry title

Additionally there is a status bar at the bottom of the window, which indicates ongoing actions.

Keeping owl-u open in the background and periodically auto-reloading all feeds is possible by setting configuration variables and using the system tray icon, which supports actions for hiding and showing the main window, manually reloading all feeds and quitting owl-u.

Preliminary note

There are two forms in which you can use owl-u:

  1. the compiled executable
  2. the AutoHotkey script

Depending on which form you choose, the following procedures (installing, running and customizing) are different. Using the compiled executable may be easier but is also less flexible for customization.

Installing and running owl-u

There is no installation wizard for owl-u. If you downloaded this package and unpacked it, it should be in a directory, where you have read and write access. This is the only requirement for using owl-u (writing the configuration file and cache files). Apart from that you may copy owl-u to any directory.

  1. If you choose to use the executable and want to save it to a directory, to which you do not have write access with the same user account, with which you want to start owl-u, you will have to run owl-u through a link, with which you set the file path to the working directory.
  2. If you choose to use the AutoHotkey script, you will need a version of AutoHotkey_L (not AutoHotkey Basic, available from http://www.autohotkey.com/download) and a file association for AutoHotkey scripts to the AutoHotkey executable (*.ahk -> <file path to AutoHotkey.exe>). You will than have to run "Main.ahk" from within the "source" directory of owl-u.


Customization can be done

  • with configuration variables for
    • the appearance of owl-u (font, colour and size)
    • auto-reloading of feeds
    • feeds (i. a. source, title and processing)
  • for hotkeys (the key bindings for the owl-u functions)

  1. If you use the executable, you first need to create a configuration file by using the hotkey "CTRL+W" or "I" for importing a feed list in OPML format. The file is saved in the working directory you specified in the link properties, or in the same directory where the executable is saved. You may than edit the file with a text editor, e. g. by using the hotkey "CTRL+E" (line format: <variable>=<value>, use no quotation marks, 1 for true and 0 for false), e. g. "Config_autoReload=0". You will have to quit and run owl-u again for the changes to take effect. The available configuration variables are listed below.
  2. If you use the AutoHotkey script you can directly edit the file "Config.ahk" in the "source" directory of owl-u and reload the script with the hotkey "CTRL+R". You can additionally use the configuration file as described above. Please refer to the documentation of AutoHotkey for more information about writing an AutoHotkey script, especially

Configuration variables

If true (=1), the feeds are automatically reloaded on start-up.
Config_browser=C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe
The browser, which is used, when opening an article or a link list.
Config_fontName=Lucida Console
The font type, which is used for all text (title and status bar, lists, summaries and articles in text mode).
The font size, which is used for all text (title and status bar, lists, summaries and articles in text mode).
The maximum number of items in the entry list (older entries are deleted, when reloading the feed).
The filepath to the executable of an email client, i. e. Sylpheed (other email clients are not supported).
The time in milliseconds after which all feeds are reloaded automatically, if "Config_autoReload" above is set to true (=1); 0 means no reload.
The initial window height of owl-u.
The initial window width of owl-u.

Configuring a feed is done without indexing and counting the number of feeds yourself (beginning with version 0.1.0). For this to work you need to start with the variable "Config_feed_xmlUrl", which increases the index.

The Url, from which to download the feed. It is also used for calculating cache ids.
Config_feed_title=AutoHotkey Community
The title of the feed, which is displayed in the feed list and title bar.
The URL, which is used, when referencing an article or opening the web site of the feed.
The identifier for the locally cached XML file of the feed.
Depending on the value of this variable, the original HTML source is filtered and the resulting HTML source is displayed as the article. There are four possible values (use without the quotation marks):
  • "" (unaltered, original HTML source)
  • "regex" (applying the regular expressions)
  • "body" (cutting the body from the original source and applying the regular expressions)
  • "text" (like "body" with all tags not containing text deleted)
If false (=0), the XML file given by "Config_feed_xmlUrl" is parsed as a feed with a list of entries. If true (=1), the XML file is processed by the regular expressions (if there are any) and compared against the last saved entry of the feed; if different, a new entry is created. With this you can check web sites for changes, which do not provide a feed.
If false (=0), the feed is reloaded, when all feeds are reloaded, e. g. by pressing the hotkey "SHIFT+R".

Configuring regular expressions and replacements works as cofiguring the feeds itself; indexing and counting is done automatically, but you need to start with "Config_feed_needleRegEx", which increases the index for the regular expressions in use.

A regular expression, for which to search in the article (HTML) file. With this you can filter the article text for the relevant part.
A regular expression for replacing the text matching the above needle regular expression.
Config_hotkey=<key name>::<command or function name>
You may overwrite default or add new hotkeys by using the above format. "<key name>::<command or function name>" is the original syntax from AutoHotkey as described in http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/Hotkeys.htm.
  • To deacivate a default hotkey, add a new line in the format "Config_hotkey=<key name>::" (without a function name).
  • To assign an internal function of owl-u to a new hotkey, add a line as documented below in the section "Hotkeys", but with the new key name and no quotation marks for the argument of a function.

To configure owl-u to check an email client i. e. Sylpheed (other email clients are not supported) for new emails, use the following feed configuration:

Config_feed_title=New e-mails (Sylpheed)

Additionally you may edit the HTML template and CSS file, which are saved in the html subdirectory of the working directory. These files are used to display the reduced articles.


owl-u is completely controlled with hotkeys. The available hotkeys are listed below. For a quick start there are the following hotkeys:

  • H: Display the quick help with a list of the supported hotkeys.
  • Enter: Select a feed or entry in the appropriate list or display the summary or article of the previously selected entry.
  • Q: Go to the previous view or quitting the quick help.
  • CTRL+Q: Quit owl-u and save the feed status.


format: <modifier><key>::<function>(<argument>)

  • ! = Alt (Mod1Mask)
  • ^ = Ctrl (ControlMask)
  • + = Shift (ShiftMask)
  • # = LWin (Mod4Mask)

You will have to press all keys of a hotkey at the same time beginning with the modifier for calling the associated function, e. g. "^q" means pressing the control key and the q key (CTRL+Q) for quitting owl-u.

Go back in the embedded Internet Explorer, if it shows an article.
Download the article(s) of the selected entry or feed (all entries).
Go to the next view (feeds -> entries -> abstract -> article).
Show the list of supported hotkeys.
Import a feed list from an OPML file (only available in the feed list view or help).
Show the next (in time) unread entry in the list (only available in the abstract or article view).
Open the article for the selected entry in a web browser.
Show the previous (in time) unread entry in the list (only available in the abstract or article view).
Go to the previous view (article -> abstract -> entries -> feeds).
Reload the selected feed (only available in the feed list view). This action blocks all hotkeys to prevent interference.
Toggle the unread mark ("N") for the selected entry.
Show the first (in time = oldest) unread entry in the list (only available in the abstract or article view).
Mark all entries in the current feed read (only available in the entry list view).
Toggle the deletion mark ("D") for the selected entry (delete the entry and the associated cached files).
+h::Run, explore %A_ScriptDir%\docs
Open the documentation directory with the help file in explorer.
Reload all feeds (only available in the feed list view). This action blocks all hotkeys to prevent interference.
Edit the configuration file (Config_iniFilePath).
Quit owl-u from any view.
Reload owl-u. This i. a. reloads the configuration variables.
Toggle the article view full HTML -> "regex" -> "body" -> "text" (only available in the article view).
Write the configuration file (Config_iniFilePath).