First, let me explain briefly what a newsreader is – specifically, in this case, I mean a Usenet newsreader. Usenet is a community of systems that have chosen to exchange messages in ‘newsgroups’ organised and named as a hierarchy of topics – for instance, if you want to read about cats as pets, you’d head to the newsgroup “rec.pets.cats” – recreational, pets, cats. If you wanted to read about the biology of felines, you’d probably find a group something like sci.bio.feline – scientific, biology, feline.
If you’re not into Usenet newsgroups, you should know that they are an excellent source of information – where blogs and RSS feeds are more controlled by the individual blog author, Usenet newsgroups (or “newsfroups” as they are often called) can be added to by absolutely anyone, either to create a completely new thread of articles with a new subject under an existing topic, or to add your own comments or questions to an existing thread. [Adding a new topic - a new newsgroup - is a little harder, because Usenet doesn't like to see multiple newsgroups on the same newsgroup]
So anyway, I’m a hard-core newsgroup reader, like most of the MVPs – it’s a great quick way to exchange information – asking and answering questions, and keeping track of topics you’ve already addressed.
For a long time, I used NewsXpress as my favourite newsgroup reader. It still is my favourite newsgroup reader, but has dropped out of my use for a couple of reasons – first, it crashes a lot; second, it doesn’t handle multiple Usenet servers / accounts well; third, it’s not on every system I’m going to use.
Outlook Express is better at handling multiple Usenet servers / accounts, and it’s on every system I use. It doesn’t crash – quite as often as NewsXpress.
Since I have the source to NewsXpress, I keep thinking I should fix it, but I simply haven’t had the time. So I stay with Outlook Express (originally, “Microsoft Internet Mail and News”, which is why the executable is called msimn.exe).
In Vista, Outlook Express is gone – replaced with “Windows Mail”.
Windows Mail sucks in a number of ways. Here are just a few of my complaints:
- It should be possible (in my humble opinion) to start up a newsreader from scratch, and use the space bar to read all the way through from the start to the end of all your newsgroups. Outlook Express allowed you to select an article in the list of articles, and then space through from there – Windows Mail requires you to select the article, then set the focus to the article preview window, at which point the space bar will work.
- Windows Mail attempts to import all your newsgroups from Outlook Express – and all the saved articles. It doesn’t handle the possibility that you might not have cleaned out your Outlook Express folders before installing Vista, and when it runs out of space, it abandons the import, with no clear way to make it start up again.
- Windows Mail does not import your newsgroup account settings from Outlook Express – it imports everything except the username and password. I’ve got several accounts whose username and password I’ve completely forgotten. Now I have to contact those Usenet server owners, one by one, until I get all my accounts back.
- Even when I do have a record of account names and passwords, when the password is a cryptic ten character string, I can’t actually copy the string from Notepad and paste it into the dialog box that prompts for my credentials. I can understand a password box not allowing Copy, but this dialog box prevents Paste into both the User name and Password fields – crazy!
- When prompting for your credentials, it doesn’t remember the user name you tried last time – so if your user name is long, and you want to try a couple of possible passwords, you have to type that user name over and over again (because, after all, you can’t paste into the box).
It seems almost as if Microsoft has given me reason to find the time to resurrect NewsXpress.