Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online
5.10. What program should I use to read news?
Dozens of programs exist with which you can read Usenet news. These pieces of
software--appropriately called newsreaders--may be complex or
simplistic, but they all show you the Usenet news. The programs available to
you depend on what system you're reading news on. If you are accessing the
Internet by running SLIP on a Macintosh, your choices are completely different
than if you're dialing into a VAX to read news. Because the majority of
Internet folks use UNIX, this answer focuses on popular newsreaders available
for UNIX. A full overview of all newsreaders for every system could take a
chapter of its own and bore us all to death.
If you do use a UNIX system, remember that not every site will have all of the
following newsreaders, so your choices may be more limited. If you don't use
UNIX, check with your system administrator to see what newsreaders are
available to you.
Note: The following part of the answer was provided by
Rahul Dhesi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You can read news by using any of a number of news reading
programs. To help you decide which you should use, a brief description of each
is given in the following text. Most Usenet users prefer to use nn,
trn, or tin.
Help! Too many choices? Don't let all these choices
confuse you. If you want to keep it simple and can't decide which news reader
to use, begin with vnews. After one or two weeks of using vnews, you can
explore the other news readers. If in doubt, try trn, because it is slightly
easier to use than nn and is faster than tin.
- readnews. This is one of the simplest news readers available.
It is line-oriented, so it does not make much use of cursor movements. It will
show you each newsgroup one by one. Within each newsgroup, it will show you
each article one by one. For each newsgroup or article, answer with y to
see it or n to skip it. Due to the high volume of postings on Usenet, it
will take you a long time to go through them with readnews; it is not very good
at letting you select a small subset of articles to read except by answering
yes or no to each. You should use readnews only if you want to get started
reading news right away without spending much time learning to read news. As
soon as you are comfortable with readnews, you should switch to one of the more
powerful news readers.
- vnews. This is screen-oriented, so it will position article
headers and other information at the top and bottom of the screen. This makes
it a little friendlier to the eyes than readnews. Vnews also gives you more
options than readnews. It is approximately as easy to use as readnews. Like
readnews, vnews is not very good at letting you select a small subset of
articles to read, except by answering yes or no to each. You should use vnews
if you want a screen-oriented display and if you want to get started reading
news right away without spending much time learning to read news. As soon as
you are comfortable with vnews, you should switch to a more powerful news
- rn. This is more powerful than readnews and vnews and has
much more online help. It is also a little harder to learn. You can easily skip
all articles on any topic that does not interest you. You should use rn only if
you are already familiar with it. If you are not already familiar with rn, try
trn instead; it does everything that rn does and quite a bit more.
- trn, nn, and tin. These three news readers are
quite powerful and flexible, and it is not easy to decide which is the best.
Each one has some interesting features. nn is oriented toward selecting
articles to read on the basis of their subject heading; it recognizes all
articles with the same subject and can present them as a single menu item. Both
trn and tin are oriented towards tracking "threads" of discussion, based on who
responded to which article, independent of what the subject headings might be.
And nn and tin are also very good at letting you decode software posted to the
newsgroups in various encoded formats. The nn program is excellent when you are
searching for articles with specific subjects. You should probably try all
three news readers or ask other people what they think.
- gnus. This is a mode within the emacs editor. If you are not
a regular user of emacs, you should probably not use gnus; many of its
subcommands assume familiarity with emacs. If you do use emacs, you might find
it interesting to try gnus. It has many of the good features of the other news
readers, but its drawback is its slow speed. To invoke gnus, first invoke
emacs, type ESC, ^X (Ctrl-X), and then gnus. To get online help from
within gnus, type ^C ^I.
- Others. There is a news reader called tass which is
old; it was adapted to create tin, which replaced it. There might be sites that
have tass and not tin. There is also software called notes that is not
much used any more. It was independently created to do the same thing as Usenet
news software, but later it got gatewayed to Usenet and just became an
alternative interface for the same thing. I have never used it, but some sites
might still have it.
Note: By the way, Rahul prefers nn, Kevin prefers trn,
and Dave Taylor likes tin best, proving that no program is perfect for
Here's an example of what the trn newsreader looks like. (You
should try it. It's my favorite newsreader, but it's not particularly easy to
====== 6 unread articles in alt.fan.laurie.anderson -- read now?
====== 24 unread articles in comp.infosystems.wais -- read now? [+ynq]
====== 4 unread articles in alt.internet.services -- read now? [+ynq]
Reading overview file...
alt.internet.services 4 articles
a+Thomas Dowling 1 >Stock quotes from the Internet
b Dave Taylor 1 >The internet mall
d DaveHatunen 1 >Anonymous mail
e Rick Duffy 1 >How many people are on the Internet? (Flame!!)
-- Select threads (date order) -- All [Z>] --
Here's what the tin newsreader looks like. tin uses a friendly screen-oriented
1 6 alt.fan.laurie.anderson Will it be a
2 4 alt.internet.services Not available in the
3 24 comp.infosystems.wais The Z39.50-based WAIS
4 15 alt.internet.talk-radio Carl Malamud's
5 151 comp.sys.mac.hypercard The Macintosh
7 5 alt.etext
11 news.announce.important General announcements
12 news.announce.newusers Explanatory postings
13 233 alt.config Alternative subnet
14 804 news.answers Repository for
15 7 news.lists News-related
16 42 news.misc Discussions of USENET
<n>=set current to n, TAB=next unread, /=search pattern,
g)oto, j=line down, k=line up, h)elp, m)ove, q)uit, r=toggle
s)ubscribe, S)ub pattern, u)nsubscribe, U)nsub pattern, y)ank
Group Selection (77)
alt.fan.laurie.anderson (3T 6A 0K 0H R)
1 + Laurie Anderson's _Nerve Bible_ book woody
2 + 3 Lovely Laurie Godes Shimon
3 + 2 William S. Burroughs Rob
Yuck! Everyone (except perhaps beginners) should avoid readnews at all costs.
It's so simple that it's impossible to use for any length of time.
Article 394 of 398, Fri 06:31.
Subject: Re: William S. Burroughs
From: email@example.com (Steve Fletty @ University of Minnesota,
(34 lines) More? [ynq] n
Article 395 of 398, Wed 04:35.
Subject: Re: Lovely Laurie
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Godes Shimon @ Tel-Aviv University Computation
(14 lines) More? [ynq] n
Article 398 of 398, Mon 16:16.
Subject: Laurie Anderson's _Nerve Bible_ book
From: C562611@mizzou1.missouri.edu (woody @ University of Missouri,
(17 lines) More? [ynq] n
Article 17557 of 17560, Wed 10:20.
Subject: Re: Stock quotes from the Internet
From: email@example.com (Thomas Dowling @ University of
(18 lines) More? [ynq] y
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