The newly free NewsGator suite has a remarkably powerful set of tools for managing RSS feeds, and without a doubt one of the program's best features is its FeedStation podcast catcher. Fully synchronizable with the Webware version of NewsGator, the Windows version, FeedDemon, comes bundled with FeedStation and preset integration settings for iTunes and Windows Media Player, but not WinAmp.

Laugh all you want at the llama, but the latest WinAmp has an impressive feature set, and is far more flexible than the industry favorite iTunes. However, its podcast manager is clunky and only marginally better than iTunes' native podcatcher, and that's frustrating. Using WinAmp's smart view function, I'll show you how to set its Podcast folder to automatically check for podcasts managed by third-party software.

Set your FeedStation podcasts to copy to a folder named Podcasts. (Credit: Newsgator)

With both programs installed, the first step is to configure FeedStation. In FeedDemon's menubar, go to Tools/Open FeedStation, then open the Options panel by hitting F8 or the toolbar icon with the yellow gear. In the General tab, you'll see the folder that podcasts are downloaded to is My FeedStation Podcasts. I've left this as is, because there's an option to automatically copy downloaded podcasts into a directory in your music folder.

In the Schedule tab, set the frequency that you'd like your podcasts to be download--I choose "As soon as possible" because I have the patience of a hummingbird on crack--and then move on to the third tab, Podcasts. Set the "After downloading a podcast, copy it to" button to the third option, This Folder, and create a folder in your Music directory called Podcasts. That plural "S" is important, as you'll soon see. If you wish to enable synchronization with the online NewsGator folder and you've created a NewsGator account, you can do that in the fourth tab, My Podcasts.

In the latest version of WinAmp, all folders are smart searches and customizable by the user. (Credit: WinAmp)

Fire up WinAmp and in the Media Library's left nav, under Local Media, you should see an option for Podcasts with the standard RSS icon next to it. If you don't, click on the Library button at the bottom of the left nav. Choose New Smart View and Podcasts from the drop-down menu, and hit OK. You should now have a Podcasts option in the nav.

Here's the cool thing about WinAmp's Media Library nav: Every item listed there, from the all-encompassing Audio to the most erudite and esoteric of your programmed playlists, is a customizable playlist. Right-click on Podcast and choose Edit View. The first and only line in the filter should say "Is Podcast / Equals / 1." Change it to read "Filename / Contains / Podcasts" and hit OK.

You can create a Podcast filter in WinAmp if you don't see one. (Credit: WinAmp)

Only by delving into the labyrinthine recesses of the WinAmp message boards could I uncover this trick. Apparently, the Filename filter doesn't distinguish between folders and file, and since it sees a folder with the name it wants, it grabs the whole folder. It also searches the meta-tags, but not everybody who publishes a podcast properly tags it.

In my experience, it's been the opposite, and some of the news podcasts I listen are tagged by their creators as "blues." On second thought, they might be trying to tell me something. Anyway, since the "S" distinguishes random Podcast tags from the Podcasts folder, the filter only grabs the entire folder.

As long as WinAmp is set to scan the Media Library for new folders every time you start the program, and regularly while running, there should be very little lag time from when FeedStation grabs the podcast file to when you see it appear in your Podcast directory. You must manually remove heard podcasts once you've listened to them, but that's easy enough to manage with the delete key.

Three simple words configure WinAmp to find your previously hidden podcast folder. (Credit: WinAmp)

Once in place, this setup automates keeping your podcasts organized and up-to-date, but without resource hogging or crashes because both programs do what they do best, instead of trying to tackle too many different tasks at once.