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Working with Windows Communication Features (part 3) - Using Windows Mail to Access Newsgroups

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7/5/2011 4:08:40 PM

Using Windows Mail to Access Newsgroups

In addition to providing support for creating, sending, and receiving e-mail, the Windows Mail application also includes functionality for accessing newsgroups. Newsgroups use the Network News Transport Protocol (NNTP) to provide access to a news server. When connected to a news server, users can view messages posted by others and post their own topics or reply to existing messages. This is an excellent way for users to interact with each other. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to configure Windows Mail to use newsgroups.

Configuring Newsgroup Accounts

Windows Mail is automatically configured to access a default news server. You can create new news server configurations by accessing the Accounts option on the Tools menu. Click Add to start the process and select Newsgroup Account for the new account type.

The first step of the process asks you to provide a display name. This name is shown to everyone who can view messages that you have posted in a newsgroup. If you are connecting to a private news server, you generally should use your real name. In public forums, however, you might choose to create a new name that is not personally identifiable to help ensure security and privacy. The same suggestions apply to the second step, providing your e-mail address. A common source of junk e-mail and other annoyances is organizations that automatically collect e-mail addresses online, especially from newsgroup servers. To avoid this, you might choose not to include your primary e-mail address.

The third step requires you to enter the network address of the NNTP server (see Figure 17). The address of the news server is generally provided by the service provider’s Web site. In addition, some news servers might require authentication. You can select the My News Server Requires Me To Log On check box to be prompted for logon credentials in the next step.

Figure 17. Configuring the news server name

When connecting to a news server that supports it, you can choose to use your Windows Live ID to use advanced features. Figure 18 shows the available options.

Figure 18. Providing a Windows Live ID when connecting to a compatible server

After you have completed the configuration, the new account appears in the Internet Accounts dialog box. As with e-mail accounts, you can choose to configure various additional settings by selecting a news account and clicking Properties. Figure 19 shows the settings that are available on the Advanced tab.

Figure 19. Configuring advanced settings for a news server

The default for the Server Port Number value is 119 because this is the standard port used by the NNTP protocol. If the server supports it, you can also enable an encrypted SSL connection to the server.

Subscribing to Newsgroups

As mentioned earlier, by default, Windows Mail is automatically configured to provide access to the Microsoft Communities news server. This service is designed for users of the Windows platform to ask questions and provide responses related to various operating system features and applications. Newsgroups are generally named using a multipart set of topics. After you have configured a news server account, you can right-click it and select Newsgroups to view a list of available groups (see Figure 20). To display a particular newsgroup automatically when you access a news server, select the newsgroup, and then click Subscribe. Newsgroups that have been added are considered subscriptions because you are able to view updated articles after they’re posted.

Figure 20. Subscribing to newsgroups

For example, a newsgroup is designed for topics related to Windows Mail itself, named microsoft.public.windows.vista.mail. For more information, see the Microsoft Communities home page at http://www.microsoft.com/communities/default.mspx.

Tip

In some cases, you might be puzzled about a technical issue, and you might want to get assistance from others. In other cases, you might want to see common questions that others are asking and offer your own advice. When using any newsgroup, there are several important rules of etiquette. Apart from being courteous and respectful, be sure to search for similar postings before posing a question to avoid duplication. Be sure that you are posting your question to the appropriate newsgroup. When used correctly, newsgroups can be one of the most important resources you have (in addition, of course, to this book!).


Reading and Posting Messages

When you activate a particular message group by clicking its name in the left panel of Windows Mail, you automatically have the ability to read messages that have been posted. By default, the newest messages are shown at the top of the list. Responses to messages are grouped, and you can use the plus sign (+) next to a topic to view associated replies (see Figure 21).

Figure 21. Reading newsgroup postings in Windows Mail (details have been obscured to protect users’ privacy)

Windows Mail also enables you to post new messages to a newsgroup. In general, you should search for similar messages before creating your own topic. Also, be sure to describe your problem and issue completely. All too often, people are frustrated with a problem and have difficulty focusing on providing the necessary details. This reduces the usefulness of many of the communications.

If you simply want to test the posting functionality, be sure to do it in a designated test newsgroup and not in an actual active group. For example, on the Microsoft Communities server, there is a group called microsoft.public.test. Overall, keep in mind that thousands of users will be able to see your post. Therefore, be sure that your messages are polite, complete, and accurate.

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