Newsgroups or bulletin boards can be read by anyone with an Internet connection and appropriate software (both Netscape and
Microsoft browsers have news readers built in). Newsgroups (aka Usenet) are a valuable source of independent information.

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  Home > Workshops > Finding information on the Net >

Getting info from Newsgroups

Click HERE to find people!What are they?

Newsgroups or Bulletin Boards can be read by anyone with an Internet connection and appropriate software (both Netscape and Microsoft browsers have news readers built in). Newsgroups (aka Usenet) are a valuable source of independent information.

Newsgroups are public bulletin boards to which anyone can send information. The information is then sent around the Net and held by Internet Service Providers for access by their customers. Because of the volume of traffic, Service Providers will only hold News postings for a short period of time (days) before they are deleted. A number of the Newsgroups are "moderated - one person or a panel is able to edit submissions to decide whether or not they are 'posted' to the Newsgroup. However, a large number of Newsgroups are a free-for-all, particularly those with name beginning with "alt."

How can you use them to find information?
Information from Newsgroups can be obtained in a number of ways:

  • Subscribing to and regularly reading the postings. This can be useful if the particular group or list is highly relevant to your needs. If an email list offers a digest option, opt for this as it will save on the number of emails that you receive.
  • Posting a request for advice or information, and seeing if you get any useful replies back from readers of the group or list. Before you post anything to a Newsgroup , take some time to read previous postings. That way you can ensure that your submission is not "off-topic". Many Newsgroups have a FAQ posted at regular intervals to offer guidance on what is acceptable. Some people replying to your query may email you separately in addition to posting their reply for all to see.
  • Using search engines to search archived material. Some Newsgroups have archives, and it is also possible to search the current Newsgroup postings held on Newsgroup servers. Lower down this page are methods and resources for carrying out these searches.
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How do you find the right groups?

  Lists of Newsgroups can be downloaded from your Internet Service Provider, as long as they carry a "news feed". However, it is at the discretion of each ISP as to which groups they carry. You can then use your newsreader softwear to search the list for keywords or parts of keywords. Searching for "engin", for example, will help you to find all the Newsgroups with "engineering" in their title (such as "" and "").

Although the popular browsers have newsreader softwear built in, these are "online" readers, designed for use when you have a connection to the Internet opened. If you are going to use Newsgroups frequently, it is better to use a dedicated "offline" reader, where you can download headings of postings, go offline and then select which postings you want to download in full.

Here are two free newsreaders available for download:

Free Agent
For PCs: Full-featured offline newsreader. Facility to mark specific headers for download, and to "watch" for new postings on specified topics.
YA NewsWatcher
For Macs: It offers a comprehensive filtering system, which can also colour-label messages based on certain filter criteria, so you can highlight those messages you're particularly interested in reading.

You'll be able to find other Newsreader software from one of our sources on the Software page - or check out our Software Portal

Searching archived material
Whilst Newsgroup news is only held for a short time on news servers, archives of many of these groups are also accessible from the Web (and sometimes from FTP sites).

Increasingly, the main Web search engines have options to search Newsgroups. Check out our Search Engine pages

One of the most useful sources of Newsgroup info is Google, with its fully searchable archive at:

There are currently over 700 million Newsgroup postings here!


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