Newsgroup access tips

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This whole DIY FAQ Wiki is a companion to the uk.d-i-y newsgroup on USENET.

Usenet newsgroups, have been around for many decades, and even pre-date the creation of the world wide web. There are hundreds of thousands of usenet discussion groups. Many groups receive very little traffic these days (having been superseded by more easily accessed web based forums, and social media discussions). However there are some like uk.d-i-y which are still going strong with thousands of new posts per month.

So this article is a quick primer for users who may be unfamiliar with usenet groups and how they work.

Usenet versus WWW

These days there are two basic ways of reading and posting to a usenet group:

  1. via a "newsreader" program running on your computer, to access a usenet news server directly
  2. via a web based "front end" such as Google groups or one of a number other portal sites that make usenet content available via the web.

News server access

Usenet pre-dates the world-wide web (the Wikipedia article gives more detail) and is inherently "text only": messages do not include graphics or sophisticated typography or layout. What it does do very well is organise hierarchies of discussions between people accessing groups via servers distributed all over the world.

Traditionally, programs called newsreaders are used to access usenet: these are similar to email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird or the old Microsoft Outlook Express (and indeed these email clients include full newsreader capabilities as well). Separate stand-alone newsreaders are also available, including Forte Free Agent for Windows and Pan for Linux.

Newsreaders are very quick in operation, and make visualising conversations between multiple contributors very easy with a "threaded" conversation. The threaded conversation makes it easy to see who is replying to who, and for a conversation to branch off in many different directions at once. (this thread "drift" is one of the key features of usenet groups than can make them both very interesting and at times irritating!).

Good newsreaders offer features that enable their users to keep on top of the flood of messages encountered in groups such as uk.d-i-y. These include filtering capabilities to remove content one doesn't want to read (such as identifiable spam, or posts from particularly unhelpful individuals) and tagging of discussion one is interested in.

This form of access, using a newsreader, is probably the most productive way of participating in groups like uk.d-i-y.

Web based access

These days there are a number of web based interfaces that allow access to usenet. The best known is Google groups, from which one can access uk.d-i-y here. Google groups is very good for searching through previous postings since google maintain an archive of usenet posts going back decades in some cases. It's OK for reading and contributing to groups occasionally. However frequent users find this a very slow way to interact and it lacks much of the filtering flexibility offered by the dedicated applications.

Furthermore, a lot of newsgroup spammers tend to post via Google groups, which has meant that many savvy users opt to filter out anything posted that way in an effort to minimise the quantity of spam they have to wade through. Unfortunately this means that if you submit a genuine post via Google groups it won't be seen by some people - who, being 'savvy', may be just the readers one wants to reach!

Important Note: As of Feb 2024, Google groups are ceasing their access to usenet. From this date on their groups page will no longer show any new posts, and you will be unable to post messages to usenet using Google Groups. (You will still be able to search and read existing posts in their archive though, which is extensive and goes back decades).

Other web sites also offer web access, but without the advantages of Google's deep archive and search capabilities.

The one advantage that some offer is integrated hosting of images. This makes adding pictures to text only usenet posts a bit simpler (although free image hosting services like dropbox or google drive etc can be used to do the same).

Alternatives to Google

NovaBBS will give basic access from the web to a limited number of UK and Australian focussed groups including uk.d-i-y. Clutter free interface, with no ads. See here

There are others like Home Owners Hub, but there are aspects of the site that can make it very difficult to use and maintain a conversation in a group. See the article for more information.

News servers

Many ISPs used to provide a news server as a part of their basic connectivity offerings. This is becoming rare as ISPs fight to drive costs down, and the platform is considered to be "legacy" by many modern internet users. Even for the few that do, none of them treat usenet as a priority service.

ISP Servers

If your ISP still has a server, you simply need to know its name (or possibly its IP address), and enter this into the relevant configuration screen on your software. Note that most ISPs will only allow their own subscribers to access their news server. You may be able to find this from your ISP's web site or help pages; failing that their technical support helpline. It may be guessable: try news.yourisp.whatever; or Googling (the web or usenet) for "yourisp news server", "yourisp news server address" or "yourisp nntp server" etc may give you the answer.

News Servers for some common UK ISPs

Most ISPs no longer maintaining their own news servers - a few may sub contract to organisations like giganews. Here is a list of ISPs that still offer a usenet service:

UK ISPs still offering a usenet service
ISP Newsserver name Notes
Eclipse Internet Eclipse Settings (uses Giganews)
nildram & nildram Settings (uses Giganews)
Plus.Net Plus.Net Settings (uses Giganews)

Third Party servers

Most other users will need to find a third party service.

Free Services

There are a number of free or very low cost services that still cater primarily for those looking for access to text discussion groups, and who don't need access to binary groups.

Free Usenet access providers
Eternal September

Commercial Services

Commercial usenet access services typically focus on provision of access to "binary" groups. These are ones that carry a wide range of uploaded files and media. Many will offer high speed access to content. Many of these services are overkill if all you need is access to traditional usenet text only discussion groups.

Commercial Usenet access providers
Service - click link

to visit site


Blocking posters / Kill files

Usenet is a free and open medium - one of its great strengths is that anyone can post messages and they do not need to wait for an invitation, or have a valid "account" of any form to post messages. This makes for lots of participants, and lots of interesting (if not always particularly "on topic" content). Most usenet groups are unmoderated, and there is no single administrator with any control over the group.

However with each silver lining comes a cloud, and sometimes you may find that there are posters to a group you read that you would really rather weren't contributing, since they add little or no value to the group. They may just be argumentative, and ill informed, possibly spammers attempting to advertise, or "trolls" looking for flame wars (long arguments) or just posting unpleasantness. Since you can't prevent them posting, the solution is to use the capabilities of your newsreader to spare you reading (or in some cases even seeing) their posts. This is some times referred to as "kill filing" a poster, and is a reference to the newsreaders that support a "kill file" - which is typically a list of posters to block.

There are several approaches which work, and these include simply marking the posts of particular people as "read" so that you tend to skip over them when you advance to the next post, to killing a subthread to block their post and any replies to it, or killing any thread they initiate.

See the tips section for newsreader specific advice on blocking posters.

News Clients

There are a range of news clients that you can use to connect to a news server, that will allow you to read and post to newsgroups. Not all clients are available for every platform or operating system, although some do have versions for several platforms.

For PC/Workstations (Windows, macOS, Linux), clients include:

Note Win 11 can run many Android apps - not that there are any newsgroup apps for Android that can compete with the PC specific applications!

There are also some email clients that can be tweaked to access usenet like Pine, Mutt

For Android phones

Not much choice here for general discussion platforms (although there are a fair selection of "downloader" style usenet programs for troughing stuff from binary groups).

  • Groudhog - no longer appears to be supported, and not currently on the play store. The 2016 version is available as an APK file for "side loading" from some sites.
  • Piaohong newsgroup (both a free and paid for version available)

For iPhone/iPad

  • NewsTap

For Chromebook

You can run most Android apps, but the best results will be achieved by turning on "Developer Mode" on your Chromebook (Google will turn up plenty of articles on enabling this) - that will allow the use of mainstream apps that have a Linux version like Thunderbird, and many of the others listed above.

Configuring your software / client

Outlook Express

Microsoft Outlook Express (unrelated to and not to be confused with Microsoft's flagship email program Outlook), used to be supplied along with Windows XP, and it still used by a few people. Its now obsolete and will not easily be run on modern operating systems, but some people still use it.


  1. Select Accounts... from the tools menu.
  2. Click the Add button and choose "News"
  3. Enter your name, click Next
  4. Enter your email address (preferably obfuscated), and click Next
  5. Enter the name or IP address of your news server, and leave the tick box about news server log in un ticked. Click Next
  6. Click Finish
  7. Click Close

You can now right click on the new entry on the left and select "Newsgroups..." to select groups to subscribe to.

If you want to use OE only for news access, you can disable its mail capabilities and tailor it just for news access. (handy if you use Outlook proper for email, which has no news capability). To enable news only mode, right click on the icon or start menu entry used to start Outlook Express. This will display the startup options.

In the Target field you should see a line that will probably end: \Outlook Express\msimn.exe". To enable news only mode add /newsonly to the end of this line after the final closing double quote (if there is one). See the picture for how it should look when altered:



Thunderbird is a free open source mail and news client from the Mozilla organisation. You can download the latest version here.


  1. Choose "Account Options..." from the Tools menu.
  2. Click the Add Account button
  3. Select "Newsgroup Account" and click Next
  4. Enter your name and email address (you may wish to disguise this to prevent it being harvested by spammers). Click Next
  5. Now enter the name of your news server, then click Next
  6. Finally you can give the account a name to make it easy to recognise (handy if you use more than one server).

If you now finish the account creation, you will see a new entry for the news account in the folders section of your display. Click on this and then the Manage newsgroup subscriptions to start selecting the groups you want to read.

Note that some news servers (e.g. Eternal-September) may need additional steps, such as turning on authentication with all requests. (see "Server Settings" in the newsgroup Account Settings page).


Message Filters

You can greatly enhance your usenet experience with the creation of a few filters.

Select message filters from the Tools menu.

  1. Create a new filter and call it "Me"
  2. Set the match criteria to "Match all of the following", and select the "From" field "Contains" and enter your name in the last box: px723
  3. Finally in the Perform these actions section, enter two actions. The first to "Tag Message" as "Personal". This will ensure that any messages you post are highlighted in a different colour (you can create additional filters for other posters that you like reading so that their messages are also highlighted). The second action is to "Watch Thread". This will make it very easy to see at a glance which threads you have contributed to, and see and followups posted to them:

Using the threads option on the View menu will allow you to select "all" messages or "Watched threads with unread". When you select the latter, the only threads shown will be ones that you have participated in and which have new posts.

A thread with its watch flag set (top left), and posts made by the author tagged as personal so they are highlighted in green

Turning on the Watched threads with unread option

If there is a thread that you want to follow but have not posted to yet, you can make it appear in the filtered results by pushing "w" to toggle its watch status.

If you see a thread that is spam or you are not at all interested in, you can hit "k". This will collapse the thread and mark it as "killed". Next time you open the list of messages, you won't even see it. (latter versions support shift+k to kill just a sub thread).

If you have been using Outlook Express, Thunderbird can import most of your mail and news messages, address book, and other settings.

Highlighting new posts in colour

If you would like to colour unread messages differently from read ones you can use the following procedure.

First find your profile folder.

Create (if you don't already have one) a 'chrome' subfolder.

Copy the following lines as a new file in this folder, named 'userChrome.css'.

---------- copy lines below here ----------
@namespace url("");

#threadTree > treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(unread) {
  color: DarkBlue !important;
#threadTree > treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(container, closed, hasUnread, read) {
  color: DarkBlue !important;
---------- copy lines before here ----------

Restart Thunderbird, and you should find unread messages are now coloured.


Thunderbird does not support a killfile as such, but its comprehensive filters can do all the things a kill file would do. Simply set the target to match the poster you want to block, and then chose a suitable "action" to take.

  • For posters who generally interact with the group but for whatever reason you would simply rather skip, set the action as "Mark As Read". Their posts will still be visible in the list, but you will not see them as you advance to the next unread message when you key "n".
  • For repeat offence spammers who start unwanted threads, an action of "Ignore Thread" may work best. That will automatically hide any thread they start. You can also have several lines in the first section of the filter with a selection of "match any of the following" so that you can catch multiple names or other attributes.
  • For Troll parties (group of like minded trolls, or more commonly one troll with multiple "sock puppet" identities), who post to existing threads and then add multiple followups, an action of either "Ignore Subthread" or "Delete Message" may work best. This will let you see the original thread, but hide their responses to it, and possibly any follow up messages to their reponses.
  • Stalker spammers (who post obnoxious or puerile responses to every post made by their victim), and best dealt with using a "Delete Message".
Filtering cross posts

Cross posting allows the same message to be delivered to multiple newsgroups without the post needing to be repeated for each group. It can be an ideal way of posting about something relevant to a small number of relevant groups. However cross posting is also used by spammers and trolls to try and draw more people into arguments.

You can filter cross posts in Thunderbird, however it takes one additional setup:

1) Create a new message filter, and in the first drop down box select "Customise", this will allow you to specify additional message headers to search for that are not included in the default set.


2) Enter the work "Newsgroups" as the new header, click Add, then OK.


3) Now you can create as many filters as you like to block individual groups.


If you would prefer to block all cross posts, then simply set your filter to "Newsgroups" "Contains" ",". Since the comma will appear in any newsgroup header with more than one group included, this will block all cross posted messages - not just those to specific groups.

You can also use this technique to block all cross posts apart from those from selected groups, by creating a second filter that you place in the list before the "kill all" filter. That simply needs to match a list of any cross posted groups you want to allow, and have an action of "Stop Filter Execution". That will prevent the "kill all" filter from acting on the groups you want to keep.

Blocking anonymous remailers

Anonymous remailers allow someone to send a message and disguise the original source of the message. These can have useful applications for people operating in countries with oppressive censorship, or for "whistle blowers". They can also be used for posting articles to usenet (badly as it happens - they tend to also break message threads since they don't include the required references to tie a message back to its parent thread).

For UK specific groups like uk.d-i-y there are few if any valid reasons to use such remailers, and the few messages that do originate from them tend to contain spam or hate speech. You can use filters to block anonymous remailers:

Example of filter rules in Thunderbird to block common remailers

Blocking messages that contain:

  • an Organization header from,
  • Injection-Info headers from either or,
  • and messages from

Seems to mop up most of them.

Highlight impersonations and fakes

Sometimes you may suspect that a post to a newsgroup does not actually come from the poster that it appears to - perhaps the content or style is out of character.

You can use message filters to highlight these posts. To work out how to do this, view the full message source text (Typing CTRL + U will display the source for the current message) for both an original post, and the suspected forgery. In many cases you may notice differences in the header that have come about from the impersonator using different posting software, or operating system, or using a different newsgroup provider, or a different timezone. Looking at headers like the "User-Agent:" header, or the "Organisation:" line may show differences. Other headers may be only present in one message or the other may also give enough information to reliably identify fakes.

Armed with this information, you can create a filter that "matches all of the following", and then looks for some combination of factors that will match a fake. This could be for example matching the user's name or email address in the "From" header, and then a second condition based on the other information from the header. Say for example a line that matches "X-Newsreader", "Doesn't contain", and then the string generated by their normal newsreader program.

Finally set the action to something like "Tag Message" and "Work". That will then highlight suspect messages in a different colour. (or alternatively you could match the real poster, so that you highlight real posts rather than the fakes).