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  Hold No Punches...  by Rode

freeware.jpg (670 bytes)  Free Agent 1.21  freeware.jpg (670 bytes)
Download -1.2mg

shareware_button.jpg (766 bytes)  Agent 1.8  shareware_button.jpg (766 bytes)
Download - 3.5mg

When I sit down at my computers every morning the first thing I do is check my mail for new PCBUILD and PCSOFT postings, and the second thing I do is to scan my favorite news groups on UseNet. News groups are one of the most useful features on the internet and just about every ISP offers some level of news group support. If you are unfamiliar with UseNet news groups they are similar to email lists but are presented in a way that allows you to view all the newest postings at once. The number of postings you can see depends on how long your news server holds those posts on their server. There are in excess of thirty thousand news groups on line covering every subject imaginable and many of them contain a lot of postings. Some ISPs hold on to the postings for days while others delete them within hours. 

If you have ever searched Deja News then you have accessed UseNet. For an ISP to keep new posts for any length of time requires a huge amount of server space. There are third party news servers that will, for a fee, provide you or your company with a news sever that has huge server capacity. Both Netscape or Internet Explorer come with free Email programs that work as basic news readers but there are also dedicated news readers that offer many more features. One of the best, and my favorite is Agent 1.7.

Agent by Forte Inc. comes in a variety of flavors both 16 and 32 bit. Free Agent 1.21 is a stripped down version that is freeware and Agent 1.7 is full featured version that is shareware and free to try for 30 days after which it is $29 U.S. to register.  There are big differences between the two. Agent offers extras such as full email support, news group filtering and full technical support to name just a few. I have offered as downloads both 32 bit Free Agent 1.21 with html support, FAQ, and Trial Agent 1.8 with html support, FAQ, and Adobe Acrobat PDF file user manual.

If you just want to scan news groups and post an occasional message then Free Agent may be all you need. You can use Free Agent both off and on line, Free Agent supports full multitasking so you can be reading in one user group while downloading messages in another. You can sort and search messages to find specific articles. Free Agent supports basic filtering such as Watch and Ignore. You can preview a group by quick downloading just 50 posts before you bring in 5000 posts from alt.crazy.folks.nuts. Free Agent allows you to sort threads by subject or thread so you have an easy to follow thread from one day to another. Free Agent offers posting to UseNet or replies by Email as well as printing, multiple signatures and a wide range of other configurations. But if Free Agent doesn't meet all your requirements or if you use Agent as much as I do you can move up to Agent 1.8

Agent 1.8 offers both a full featured news group reader as well as a full featured email program. 

With the full registered version of Agent 1.8 you have a spell checker, more filters such as a Kill filter which will stop those annoying Spam threads from even appearing and an advanced Watch filter to keep an eye on particular threads. You can even setup ahead of time to download messages from particular authors or subjects. Agent has advanced search capabilities that permit you to search across newsgroups and within messages. Agent offers better message sorting and MIME support as well as a customizable toolbar, the ability to launch URLs from within a message and technical support via Email.

Here are a few important tips for new users of Free Agent or Agent. 

To use Free Agent or Agent you will need to  select Options….User & System Tab…. and input your ISP news server information. This will be provided to you by your ISP.

When you first download news groups from your ISP's News server it may take a while as there will probably something in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 30,000 groups available. This may also be true the first time you bring in headers from an active popular news group. I have brought in as many as 40,000 headers and this takes a while on a dial up connection. Some groups have file attachments and if you choose to download them by default Agent will store these attachments in a data file as well as write them to the location you specify. This means that if you have downloaded a couple of hundred megs of say music files,  then they will be both in the Agent directory as well as the download directory. It won't take long to end up with a three gigabyte Agent directory ! 

To avoid this after you install Agent I suggest you go to Group ….Default Properties….then select the ....Receive Files Tab……put a check in < After saving an attachment, remove it from the message > 

While your there I suggest you also go to the directory tab and specify the directory you want Agent to download attachments to as well as the temp directory  Agent should use. 

You will discover Free Agent and Agent have a myriad of configuration options and figuring them out can be a chore. I did not find this particularly easy. However, Agent does supply you with excellent documentation and help files. The time you spend learning how to use Agent will be repaid a thousand fold as you discover what a wealth of information Agent and UseNet can provide.





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