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Posted 10 Aug 2003


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Create a valid RSS 2.0 document using XmlTextWriter

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18 Sep 20033 min read
Create a valid RSS 2.0 document using XmlTextWriter


With all of the new hype surrounding RSS and weblogs, I decided to create a simple RSS feed for my site. Along the way I ran into a couple excentricities that I thought I would share with my fellow CP'ians. If you would like to see this code in action, check out.

I started out by locating a RSS 2.0 specification, which can be found here. I won't go into an explanation of the spec, because they do a better job themselves than I could. Once I had reviewed that, I went out looking for an existing example. I found a few, but they all used a StringBuilder to generate the actual XML. This can lead to problems with invalid characters and whatnot, so I decided to do an article using XmlTextWriter.


Once I had decided to use the XmlTextWriter, I jumped right into coding. I started out by writing a method to write the prologue, or header, of the RSS document.

public XmlTextWriter WriteRSSPrologue(XmlTextWriter writer)
  writer.WriteElementString("title","Simple RSS Document");
     "A simple RSS document generated using XMLTextWriter");
  writer.WriteElementString("copyright","Copyright 2002-2003 Dan Bright");
  writer.WriteElementString("generator","RSSviaXmlTextWriter v1.0"); 

return writer;

As you can see, you pass this method the XmlTextWriter instance that you want to use and it will return it with the header information written. Simple enough.

Now we move on to adding <item>'s to the document. Once again I reviewed the spec. Everything looked fairly straight forward until I came to the <pubDate> element.

"All date-times in RSS conform to the Date and Time Specification of RFC 822, with the exception that the year may be expressed with two characters or four characters (four preferred)."

This had me stumped. I spent about 20 minutes trying to roll my own DateTime that was RFC 822 compliant, and then inspiration struck. Google. After a quick search I discovered that Martin Gudgin had faced the same problem, and found a solution. It seems (that if I had read the DateTime.ToString() documentation I would have known) passing the r parameter will get us the RFC 822 date we need. Nice.

public XmlTextWriter AddRSSItem(XmlTextWriter writer, 
         string sItemTitle, string sItemLink, 
         string sItemDescription)
  writer.WriteElementString("pubDate", DateTime.Now.ToString("r"));

  return writer;

This time we pass the method the XmlTextWriter, along with the actual parts of the <item> we wish to create.

Note: It will generate the <pubDate> element for us using DateTime.Now, but this is just an example. If you were to load this document into an RSS aggregator the items would appear new each time the document was requested, quickly filling up the aggregator with duplicate entries.

Now we have to cleanup behind our RSS document, again passing the XmlTextWriter to be used.

public XmlTextWriter WriteRSSClosing(XmlTextWriter writer)

  return writer;

Once we have this foundation in place, we move on to actually creating a RSS document.

This is where I ran into my second problem. I had been using a StringWriter as the buffer to store my XmlTextWriter in. This is fine except for the fact that StringWriters are hard-coded to use UTF-16 encoding. This isn't a problem at all, unless you try to open our RSS document using Internet Explorer. The internal style sheet that IE uses to display XML does not like UTF-16 apparently, and will not display the document.

Another Google led me to a post on Roy Osherove's weblog discussing this very thing. A big thanks goes out to Stephane, who pointed out that a MemoryStream is the way to go with this one.

private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
  XmlTextWriter writer = new XmlTextWriter(Response.OutputStream, 

  AddRSSItem(writer,"Item Title","", "This is a test item"); 
  AddRSSItem(writer,"Item 2 Title", <A href=""></A>, 
    "This is the second test item"); 
  AddRSSItem(writer,"<b>Item 2 Title</b>", <A href=""></A>, 
    "This is the second test item");


  Response.ContentEncoding = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8; 
  Response.ContentType = "text/xml";  


And there we have it. This will now output valid RSS, even when invalid characters are passed thanks to the XmlTextWriter.


  • Update: 15 Sep. 2003
    • I have used a Response.OutputStream instead of the MemoryStream as suggested in the comment below. This fixed 2 small bugs I had found. Previously the stylesheet used by IE would not properly render the page if more than 5 items were listed. This is resolved. Also, IE wouldn't render the page properly if the description field was written as CDATA. This is also resolved.
    • I have added an overload to AddRSSItem that allows you to write the description as CDATA via a boolean.


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Written By
Web Developer
United States United States
I'm a 23 year old student/.NET Developer from Charlotte NC. I spend my free time with my wonderful wife and 2 cats. At least I would if I had any free time...

Comments and Discussions

QuestionCan you set up the XMLTextWriter without the Response.OutputStream? Pin
Member 1226290426-Jan-22 13:38
MemberMember 1226290426-Jan-22 13:38 
QuestionHow Create a valid RSS 2.0 in Pin
shesharaj18-Feb-10 4:00
Membershesharaj18-Feb-10 4:00 
QuestionNice resource - one question though... Pin
sir_chuy30-Oct-07 5:02
Membersir_chuy30-Oct-07 5:02 
GeneralAwesome Pin
f r i s c h29-Jan-07 9:59
Memberf r i s c h29-Jan-07 9:59 
QuestionXSLT Pin
JacquesDP12-Jan-06 19:22
MemberJacquesDP12-Jan-06 19:22 
GeneralThanks, great work. Pin
Shahedul Huq Khandkar13-Jul-05 6:26
MemberShahedul Huq Khandkar13-Jul-05 6:26 
GeneralResponse.End() prevents Caching Pin
Member 136768926-Apr-05 21:02
MemberMember 136768926-Apr-05 21:02 
GeneralThanks, this is fantastic Pin
CySurflex14-Dec-04 15:33
MemberCySurflex14-Dec-04 15:33 
GeneralExcellent Pin
allia12-Dec-03 15:25
Memberallia12-Dec-03 15:25 
GeneralRe: Excellent Pin
Daniel Bright12-Dec-03 16:13
MemberDaniel Bright12-Dec-03 16:13 
GeneralRe: Excellent Pin
allia13-Dec-03 10:53
Memberallia13-Dec-03 10:53 
QuestionWhy is it not a webservice? Pin
Anonymous10-Dec-03 15:13
MemberAnonymous10-Dec-03 15:13 
AnswerRe: Why is it not a webservice? Pin
Daniel Bright12-Dec-03 16:12
MemberDaniel Bright12-Dec-03 16:12 
Generalgood job!! a suggestion. Pin
ulita1-Sep-03 23:40
Memberulita1-Sep-03 23:40 
GeneralRe: good job!! a suggestion. Pin
Daniel Bright19-Sep-03 15:16
MemberDaniel Bright19-Sep-03 15:16 
GeneralXML Serialization is better Pin
J. Daniel Smith14-Aug-03 6:51
MemberJ. Daniel Smith14-Aug-03 6:51 
GeneralNice !! Pin
Mark Wickman12-Aug-03 14:28
MemberMark Wickman12-Aug-03 14:28 
GeneralEscaping content Pin
Stephane Rodriguez.11-Aug-03 20:19
MemberStephane Rodriguez.11-Aug-03 20:19 
GeneralRe: Escaping content Pin
Daniel Bright11-Aug-03 21:31
MemberDaniel Bright11-Aug-03 21:31 

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