Configuring your news reader to post to uk.*

Alex D. Baxter

Last changes: OE 6
The uk.* preferences match those recommended for international newsgroups (and mail) as well, so this document may be more widely applied.

1. Introduction

2. Posting in plain text only

3. Proper quoting

4. Other suggestions

5. Contributors

6. Disclaimer


1. Introduction

This document contains specific information on configuring several types of news reader (that is, software used for reading and posting to news) for posting to uk.* newsgroups in a way that conforms to the various official guidelines and to general good netiquette. This is not itself an 'official' document but is intended to be helpful to new uk.* users. It is also not a guide on how to write articles, simply on how to post them; however, one piece of general netiquette bears repeating here - it is important to read newsgroups for a time before posting to them to make sure they really are what you think.

2. Posting in plain text only

2.1 Why post in plain text?

Currently there are several news readers which are able to post in formats other than plain text, such as HTML or RTF; some can post articles in a dual format with a plain text part and then the text in another format. While this means that articles look attractive when read with a compatible news reader, remember that not everybody is using the same news reader as you. Many users will not be able to easily read posts in HTML. Also, articles in HTML or combined format articles are much longer than plain text articles and so are taking up extra bandwidth for the same content.

For these reasons, posting in HTML or any format other than plain text is generally frowned upon in the uk.* hierarchy, and is banned under many group Charters. Following are step-by-step instructions for configuring some common news readers to post in plain text only.

2.2 Configuring Mozilla version 1.x

Plain text is the default posting format for news in Mozilla (released versions 1.0 and later). Here is how to turn off HTML format for a specific account if necessary:

  1. Select the news account in the accounts pane.
  2. Click 'View settings for this account'.
  3. Uncheck the box 'Compose messages in HTML format'.
  4. Click the OK button.

2.3 Configuring Netscape Communicator version 4.5

Note: This information applies to the final release version of Communicator 4.5 only, not to any Preview Releases (which had a slightly different interface).

  1. Choose 'Edit->Preferences...' from the menu.
  2. Click the small plus sign (+) next to 'Mail & Newsgroups'
  3. Click 'Formatting'.
  4. Choose the radio button 'Use the plain text editor to compose messages'.
  5. Click the OK button.

Alternatively, to turn off HTML posting for a single newsgroup:

  1. Select the newsgroup in the newsgroups list.
  2. Choose 'Edit->Newsgroup Properties' from the menu.
  3. Uncheck the box 'Can receive HTML'.
  4. Choose 'Edit->Preferences... from the menu, and open the 'Mail & Newsgroups->Formatting' section, as above, then check the box 'Ask me what to do if the message has HTML formatting, otherwise send plain text'.

2.4 Configuring Netscape Communicator version 4.0x

  1. Choose 'Edit->Preferences' from the menu.
  2. Click the small plus sign (+) next to 'Mail and Groups'.
  3. Click 'Messages'.
  4. Under 'Message Properties', uncheck the box 'By default, send HTML messages'.
  5. Click the OK button.
Source: Netscape Technical Notes

2.5 Configuring Microsoft Outlook Express versions 5.0 and 6.0

Plain text is the default posting format for news in these versions of Outlook Express. Here is how to change it back globally if necessary:

  1. Choose 'Tools->Options' from the menu.
  2. Choose the 'Send' tab.
  3. Choose the 'Plain Text' radio button under 'News Sending Format'.
  4. Click the OK button.

You can also configure the default posting format for news servers (not groups) individually:

  1. Highlight the server entry in the 'Folders' pane and choose 'File->Properties' from the menu.
  2. Choose the 'Advanced' tab.
  3. Check the 'Ignore news sending format and post using' checkbox under 'Posting'.
  4. Choose the 'Plain Text' radio button.
  5. Click the OK button.

2.6 Configuring Microsoft Outlook Express version 4.x

  1. Choose 'Tools->Options' from the menu.
  2. Choose the 'Send' tab.
  3. Check the 'Plain Text' box under 'News Sending Format'.
  4. Click the OK button.
Source: Microsoft Knowledgebase

2.7 Configuring Microsoft Internet Mail and News version 1.x

  1. Choose 'News->Options' from the menu.
  2. Choose the 'Send' tab.
  3. Check the 'Plain Text' box under 'News Sending Format'.
  4. Click the OK button.
Source: Microsoft Knowledgebase

3. Proper quoting

3.1 How and why to quote properly

Quoting is the practice of including sections of text from another article when are replying to that article. The quoted text is set off from your replying text by a quoting character - usually a greater-than sign >. Quoted text is useful since it provides a context for the reply, without the reader having to find the original article. It may also be the case that previous articles have appeared out of order, or not at all - you cannot assume that readers of your article have seen all the articles you reference. Done properly, quoting can make it easier to follow a complex thread of articles. Done improperly, quoting can be confusing to readers, and may even be insulting to other posters (for example, by accidentally attributing a quoted statement made by one poster to another). Here are some of the things to bear in mind when quoting:

3.2 Quoting in Netscape Communicator 4.0x and Microsoft Outlook Express 4.x

Unfortunately, the default for these two news readers seems to be to place the cursor on a blank line before the quoted text when replying to a message. All you can do is remember to move the cursor to the bottom of the quoted text before typing your reply (perhaps this would be a good opportunity to trim the quoted text).

3.3 Quoting in Netscape Communicator version 4.5

Note: This information applies to the final release version of Communicator 4.5 only, not to any Preview Releases (which had a slightly different interface).

  1. Choose 'Edit->Preferences' from the menu.
  2. Click the small plus sign (+) next to 'Mail & Newsgroups'.
  3. Click 'Messages'.
  4. Under 'Forwarding and Replying to messages', check the box 'Automatically quote the original message when replying'.
  5. Select 'start my reply below quoted text'.
  6. Click the OK button.
Note: Communicator will quote signatures by default, so remember to trim them from the quoted text.

4. Other suggestions

Here are some other guidelines which may be of help in reading and posting news:

4.1 View articles using a fixed-width font

Many posters use spaces or tabs to align text in articles. Some articles also contain diagrams in 'ASCII art' which are only correctly viewable using a fixed-width font (such as Courier). So if you want to view articles as they were intended to be seen, use a fixed-width font.

4.2 Wrap text at 72 characters

Many posters are used to reading news articles in a terminal or window that is 80 fixed-width characters wide. If you wrap the text of your articles at a 72 character margin this gives plenty of space for quoting characters in replies before the lines either need re-wrapping or overflow the 80-character width.

4.3 Limit signatures to four lines or less

Most news readers allow you to sign off the end of a post with a personal signature file. If you choose to use one, the recommendation is to keep it to a maximum of four lines (of 70-80 characters). This does not include the signature separator (two hyphens, space, return "-- ") which most news readers automatically place before the signature when you post. When creating a new signature, check that it has no extra spaces or blank lines at the end.

Note that current and several past versions of Outlook Express are unable to use the standard signature separator as the space is stripped. There are apparently third-party software packages that can fix this problem but the maintainer has not been able to test any as yet.

4.4 Testing your news reader

After configuring your news reader, it is probably a good idea to send a test post to check that it is working as you expect. Rather than posting test messages to a regular newsgroup, which may annoy some readers, there are newsgroups specifically created for this purpose. In uk.* the test newsgroup is called uk.test. Be aware that there are various servers running software called "autoresponders" that look for messages in test newsgroups and send an e-mail to the poster when a test message is seen. If you do not want to receive these e-mails include the word "ignore" in the Subject line of your test post.

4.5 Be aware of newsgroup Charters

It is advisable to read a newsgroup for some time before posting, to get a feeling for the subjects under discussion. Reading the group's formal Charter is also a good idea, since it may contain details such as rules on advertising or topics that are considered inappropriate for that group.

Most newsgroups in uk.* have a charter; the complete listing of Charters within the hierarchy can be found on the UK Usenet homepages.

5. Contributors

Maintainer: Alex D. Baxter <alex-faq@oenone.demon.co.uk>;

Original idea: Andy Mabbett <andy@pigsonthewing.org.uk>;

With help from: Mark Goodge <mark@good-stuff.co.uk>, Denis Fuller <bedfordtlfan@yahoo.com>, Rick Martin <rick.martin@pixel-group.com>, Dave Postill <dave.postill@pobox.com>, Dr. John Stockton <jrs@merlyn.demon.co.uk>, Batch <miles.batchelor@bigfoot.com>, and Dave Hodder <dmh@dmh.org.uk>.

Please send any additions, corrections, or suggestions to Alex Baxter at <alex-faq@oenone.demon.co.uk>. I am always looking for information on configuring news readers not already covered, on any platform.

6. Disclaimer

This article is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the maintainer assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.