[ Contents | Chapter 4 ]


Chapter 3: A Guided Tour

Connecting for the First Time

Read this section first, then re-read it during an actual on-line session with your internet provider.

Once you've established communications with your provider, select File, Connect. If NX did not find NEWSRC, then an automatic request will be sent for a list of all active newsgroups available. Depending how many are on the server, the retrieval of this list may take several minutes. Eventually, NX presents you with a pick-list box where you may subscribe to all groups, unsubscribe to all groups, or individually subscribe/unsubscribe (by clicking on the box to the left of the newsgroup). When finished, press {Close}. If the server has more than about 16,000 newsgroups, see the section Things to Look Out For.

Q. Why won't NX load all the newsgroups so they can be subscribed to?
A. Select Config, Preferences, [Groups], and mark "Retrieve all active groups". Then select File, Disconnect which should save whatever NEWSRC file was read in (if anything at all) when NX first started (you didn't say if you are a newbie to NX or if you've moved up from an earlier version), then select File, Connect. NX should, if the setup info is correct, retrieve all active newsgroups. As a last resort, rename NEWSRC to OLDNEWS.RC which will then cause NX, on the next connect, to retrieve all active groups regardless of any preferences settings and establish a new NEWSRC. After it is created, mark "Retrieve new groups only (if any)."

Q. Is it possible to start NX without winsock running?
A. Sure. News Xpress can be used to read retrieved articles offline and so there is no general need to have winsock started prior to starting News Xpress. However, on startup, beta#3 automatically started winsock for you, minimized - beta#4 will autostart winsock, minimized, by selecting File, Connect or by having Config, Preferences, [Groups, Options], "Connect to news server at startup" checked. Then, if you have winsock's autoconnect feature turned on, it's all slick and easy. When NX (along with any other activated IP application) is shutdown, winsock will also shutdown.

Unfortunately for beta#4, if Config, Preferences, [Groups, Options], "Connect to news server at startup" is checked, NX will not function at all until communications with your provider has been established or after a five minute delay when winsock reports that something isn't working right. Selecting File, Connect without having established communications with the server will also cause a lock-out.

Eventually the error message:

[11004] Valid name, no data record of requested type

will be displayed. Clear the winsock error message by pressing {OK}.

If any preparatory offline work with NX is needed, be sure "Connect to news server at startup" is off. For that matter, it's best if this function is off for all but the most fundamental and routine access to the newsgroups. If the function is off, select File, Connect when ready.

The Main Window

A standard MS-Windows type window, the title bar and menu bar act just like any other. Below that is an unmodifiable pushbutton bar. It duplicates from the drop-down menus the most common and heavily used functions of NX. By placing the mouse cursor over any pushbutton and waiting a few seconds, a small yellow flag will identify its function.

At the bottom are three status regions and the numbers in these regions may change after NX gets updated information from the news server. In the first region, the first number gives the count of groups listed in the Newsgroups window. The second number gives the total count of groups found in NEWSRC. In the second region (only valid after an update), the first number gives the count of unread articles available for viewing (decrements for each article viewed). The second number gives the total count of articles available less crossposted articles read from other newsgroups. The third region serves to display status messages and also acts as a gauge indicator, growing dark grey as NEWSRC is processed or as article headers and articles are retrieved.

NX need not be connected to a server (nor be interfacing with winsock, actually) to be fully functional. So, when started, NX will immediately process NEWSRC (if it exists). Afterward, the Newsgroups window pops up which, when first presented, lists only subscribed newsgroups. (Newsgroups are considered subscribed if within NEWSRC the newsgroup name ends with a colon(:) and are unsubscribed if the name ends with an exclamation mark(!).)

The format of the Newsgroups window when all available newsgroups are listed is for each line: a box on the left- empty if not subscribed, crossed if it is; a dash if this newsgroup has not been updated as yet, a number which is the updated count of unread articles available; then the newsgroup name.

By clicking on the box, it will either add or remove the cross. This is the same as selecting Subscribe or Unsubscribe from the menus or pushbuttons. If NEWSRC is properly written when NX is shutdown, the status of newsgroups subscribed or otherwise is there for the next session.

Eventually, assuming you have established communications with your provider, NX will request an update from the server regarding any new newsgroups. Press {Subscribe} to subscribe to all listed newsgroups, or you may click inside each square box next to the newsgroup name to individually select which newsgroups to subscribe. This window will only pop up if "Retrieve new groups only (if any)" and "Prompt for new groups" are checked. This update will also get the highest article number available in all subscribed newsgroups.

The Newsgroups Window

The Newsgroups window is presented in one of two ways: All Groups or Subscribed Groups Only. When the Newsgroups window is first displayed, only subscribed groups are listed. The telling difference between the modes is that when All Groups are on, there are square boxes along the left edge. When the box is crossed, that newsgroup is "subscribed". Between the box and the newsgroup name will either be a dash or, after NX is updated, an estimate of the number of articles that are available for retrieval. This is the difference between the highest article number available (NX was told this during the update) and the highest article number previously read (which, if there has been a significant amount of time between sessions, this number may be quite large, but since articles roll off the system, this number will be updated to reflect the actual number of unread articles available).

At the bottom of the window is "filter," where you specify a text string. Filter causes the exclusion from the displayed list of all newsgroups whose name does not contain the text string. Filter works in both All Groups and Subscribed Groups Only modes. The text string is not a "grep" expression, that is, nntp|superman leaves nothing in the window (except for a newsgroup that might be named "alt.filtertest.nntp|superman", if it exists).

Q. Is there a way to sort the displayed list of newsgroups in the Newsgroups window? Their order seems to be determined by the news server, which in most cases, is not alphabetical.
A. While the Newsgroups window has focus, select View, Sort, by Groupname. The sort affects the entire newsrc file, not just what is displayed in the window. There is no provision for "Undo"-ing or sorting by any method other than straight alphanumeric ascending.

The Article Headers Window

After NX retrieves the headers of available articles from the server, the Article Headers window is displayed and is comprised of four columns. Each line in the list includes the subject, the length of the article in lines of text not including the header information, the date/time (GMT) the article was sent, and the nom-de-plume of the author. In the same column with the subject text is either an icon that looks like a dog-eared page representing only one article with this subject, or if articles have been threaded, an icon that looks like a folder representing more than one article with the same subject. The column widths may be adjusted left or right by placing the mouse cursor on the vertical dividing lines in the window and click-dragging with MB1. Indeed, all multi-column windows may be adjusted this way. Also, the Article Headers window may be sorted (ascending only) by any of the columns by simply clicking the column header (it acts like a button).

Q. Several posts are listed as having 0 lines. Any ideas?
A. Actually, if the lines count is 000, move the dividing line between Lines and Date to the right to reveal the entire number.

The Article Window

The actual text of the article is displayed in this window. Even though the article cannot be edited, the text cursor acts as if this is an editing window. This permits standard Windows' Mark, Copy, and Paste (elsewhere) operations.

NX appears to have a limit to the size of an article it can hold, whether reading or writing. To read a lengthy article, highlight the article header, select File, Save As..., then enter a filename. Later, read it using a different file viewer. This problem is due to a limitation in Windows which gives only about 64K of text edit space or about 700 lines of text.


[ Contents | Chapter 4 ]

Most recent revision: March 31, 1997
Copyright © 1997 , Brian H. Smither.
All Rights Reserved.
E-MAIL: Brian Smither