If you have searched or otherwise used Google Groups recently, you may have noticed the availability of a new beta version. While still not up to the standards of real NNTP client software, Google is slowly getting better at this and of course in some areas like depth of search they are unbeatable.
Let's get the carping out of the way first: no killfiles. No signatures. No sorting control. No ability to "catch up" or roll back read/unread messages. No control of headers. No direct reply to author AND post. No canceling of articles.
On the plus side, you can control follow-ups and they do have a choice of viewing only "subject" lines in a topic list or switching to a summary form that shows the first few lines of the post. The view is always threaded and an individual thread works like Gmail does where you can have a collapsed or expanded view of the thread. The main annoyance here is the inability to see only new messages. Google doesn't understand that some of us read certain groups every day; we don't need or want to see the old stuff. You can control all of that and more by using Advanced Search, but that's a bit clunky to use. Common needs (like new messages, sort by author) should be easy.
When it comes to replying, Google still needs work. They do automatically quote now, but still encourage top-posting by leaving a blank space above the quoted text. It would be nice if they wouldn't quote blank lines; this is ugly:
> > The servers we use are each fully independent. > They each hold over 1000 customer websites and each run their own ftp, > apache, qmail, mysql and dns (primary and secondary as eth0 aliases). > > It all sounds very cheeky but I can assure you, it works well! >
That should be done like this:
> The servers we use are each fully independent. > They each hold over 1000 customer websites and each run their own ftp, > apache, qmail, mysql and dns (primary and secondary as eth0 aliases). > It all sounds very cheeky but I can assure you, it works well!
I'm not sure if they are controlling line width or not - it looks like they are, but you certainly can't set width yourself.
So, Google Groups is still a long way from even being a "decent" news reader. However, while just a little bit ashamed to admit it, I use this for reading and posting news. It's simply laziness: Google Groups is convenient.. as I said earlier this week, I'm not sure "real" NNTP can survive, and I'm not sure "real" newsreaders can either. Fix up the quoting and give more control of views and I think I could call this "decent".
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-08-02 Anthony Lawrence