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    Using WebNews to read newsgroups
    WebNews is a full-featured web-based newsreader that's extremely simple to use. Use your browser to go directly to http://webnews.sff.net or choose the WebNews link from the main SFF Net web page.

    Logging In

    WebNews allows you to browse the public SFF Net newsgroups as either a Guest (without having to have an SFF Net account) or as a logged-in Member.

    Since much of SFF Net is restricted to members-only in private newsgroups, you'll want an SFF Net username and password to access these areas. You receive your username and password in your Welcome Aboard! email when you join SFF Net.

    If you're an SFF Net Member, click the Members button or the Member Login link on the WebNews menu and you'll be asked to provide your SFF Net username and password.

    WebNews Login Screen

    Once you're logged in, you see either the Welcome, Favorites, or Browse page (depending on what you have selected in your WebNews Options). The default page is the Welcome Screen.


    Click the Browse link to open the Browse window. The Browse window lists all the newsgroups which you have permission to access. You can scroll through the list to find groups you'd like to read. If you're logged in as an SFF Net member, you'll be able to add any group to your Favorites list by simply reading any post in that group.

    • Why can't I see the Private Groups?
      Access to the private groups on SFF Net is restricted. You can only see the private groups if you've:
          (1) Logged in to SFF Net using your SFF Net username and password, and...
          (2) Have permission to view the particular group.

      The most common reason folks don't see their private groups is that they haven't actually logged into the news server using their SFF Net username and password. To login to the news server using WebNews, click the Member button or the Member Login link on the welcome screen. When prompted, enter your SFF Net username and password. If after doing so you see the message "Logged in as a Guest," then you didn't provide either a correct username or password. Close all windows of your browser and try again.

      Permission to the private groups is granted by the "owners" of the group, and you must contact them to gain access. If you don't know who owns a particular group, send an email to techsupport@sff.net.

    • How do I create a new newsgroup?
      You can only create groups if you're a member, and even then, only in certain levels of the newsgroup hierarchy.

      Before creating a group, please take some time using Browse to look over the hierachy and become familiar with the structure and the naming conventions of the existing newsgroup list. Pick a suitable spot and name for the group. Please don't create a newsgroup for discussing yourself or your work. That's what the People newsgroups are for.

      To make a new newsgroup, click the Add a Newsgroup link on the Browse page. You'll be presented with a page that lets you fill in the necessary information to create the group. Please read the instructions on the form window carefully. After you've made your entries and submitted the form, the WebNews wizard will create the group, announce it in sff.admin.announce.newgroups, and put the first post in the newsgroup for you.


    The Favorites page in WebNews is a list of the newsgroups to which you've subscribed by using the Browse page (see below). Favorites a handy way to quickly keep up with the groups you regularly read. If you're using WebNews while logged in as a guest, your Favorites list is not changeable.

    If you're an SFF Net member, the Favorites page also keeps track of which messages you've read, so that you can tell at a glance if there are new messages waiting for you. If you want to mark all messages in a group as read, click the Catch up link.

    WebNews Favorites

    • How do I add/remove a newsgroup from the Favorites list?
      To add a group to your Favorites list, use the Browse list to find the group and read any existing post in it. You'll then be automatically subscribed to the group. To remove a group from your Favorites list, simply click its corresponding Unsub link on the Favorites page.

      Hint: To more easily see which groups have new messages in them, check the Sort newsgroups with new messages to the top of lists checkbox in your WebNews Options.


    Reading and Replying to Newsgroup Posts
    Clicking on a newsgroup name from your Favorites or Browse page will display a list of all the articles in the group (or threads, depending on your selected View, see below). Use the First Page, Last Page, Previous, and Next buttons to navigate through the list of articles. and click any article to open it so you can read the message.

    You can also search the list of rmessage headers for a particular word or phrase using the Search box at the bottom of the screen.

    Newsgroup Views
    This is how a newsgroup will appear in Article View. Note that all messages are displayed by ascending Article number order and they are not sorted by subject. This view is also known as "Unthreaded."

    WebNews Article View
    Article View

    This is how the newsgroup will appear in Outline View. Messages are grouped by Subject and displayed according to which message they are in reply to. This view is also known as "Threaded." Click on any Subject to view the associated messages (note the plus sign changes to a minus to indicate you've expanded that Subject). Other messages in the newsgroup that are not related to the subject you're currently viewing are collapsed outline-style into just their Subject (indicated with a plus sign). Many people find this is the most useful view to follow ongoing conversations.

    WebNews Outline View
    Outline View

    Blog View is a flat, webboard-style display that shows each message in the article order you choose (newest post on bottom or top). This view is particularly useful if you want to use the SFF Net Blogging Tools to embed your People newsgroup into a webpage to create a blog-style message board.

    WebNews Blog View
    Blog View

      Text Display Controls
      When reading a message in Article View or Outline View you'll notice you have a number of text display control buttons displayed in the Text Options sidebar on the left side of the message. You can use these buttons to choose how WebNews will display the message and associated information.

      WebNews Text Options

          • Headers
            Click this button to display the complete detailed headers of the message.

          • Raw Text
            Click this button when you want WebNews to display the message in the exact format in which it was posted to the news server. This view does no processing to help make the message more readable, so the lines of the message may be too long or too short for your display, formatted incorrectly for your browser, or otherwise appear somewhat strangely. Most of the time, you'll probably find Flow Text is a better choice. However, this view is good for viewing messages that were posted with spaces to create formatting, such as column lists or ASCII art. Messages in Raw Text mode are displayed in the font you've selected for fixed-width text in your WebNews Options.

          • Quotes
            Controls whether WebNews will display material quoted from previous messages.

          • Flow Text
            This option causes WebNews to apply sophisticated processing to ensure the message displays in a readable font and format regardless of how the message was originally posted to the news server. Extraneous spaces and line breaks are removed so that the message flows correctly to fill your available browser window. Flow Text also makes an educated guess about content and displays quoted material in a different color and applies various formatting such as bold and italic to assist in the readability of the message. The font used for this view is chosen by your variable width font setting in your WebNews Options.

          • Signatures
            Controls whether WebNews will display signature lines appended to the bottom of messages by a poster's newsreader. For newsgroup posting, the beginning of a signature is denoted by two dashes on a line by itself.

          • Thread
            This button toggles how WebNews displays the relationship of the current message to messages to which it is in reply and/or messages that are replies to it. When the Thread light is off, WebNews only shows the numerical References links which indicate previous messages in the thread (subject). When the light is Blue, WebNews displays the entire thread (both previous messages and replies) and shows the current message's position in the thread. When the light is Green, only replies to the current message are shown in a thread view.

          • Font
            The two Font buttons allow you to easily increase or decrease the font size being used to display the message.

    • How do I respond to a post?
      Open the message you wish to reply to so that you can read it. Click on the "Reply" button to compose and post your reply.

      Note you have the option of including a quote of the message to which you're responding in your reply. Be sure to edit the quote to include only the relevant portion of the post to which you're responding. No one likes to wade through pages of irrelevant quoted material.

    • How do I cancel a post?
      Find the post you want to delete in WebNews and read it in either Article View or Outline View. If you have rights to delete the post, the Cancel Article button will appear in the View Options sidebar on the left. Click that link and your message will be deleted from the server. Note: you can only delete your own messages (unless you are an owner of the newsgroup).

    • How do I create a new thread (topic)?
      Use Browse or Favorites to open the newsgroup in which you want to start the new thread, then click the "Start Thread" button. Be sure to use a descriptive subject line for your new thread.

      You can also change the thread in the middle of an existing conversation by posting a reply with a different subject line. Don't change the subject for each message you post in a thread - that makes it very difficult for readers to follow the conversation.


    Changing your WebNews Options
    If you're an SFF Net member, you can change the appearance and behavior of WebNews. To do this, click on the Options link from the top menu. You'll see the WebNews Settings page which will allow you to change your settings.

    WebNews View Options

    The first section of settings control how WebNews displays basic information:

    • The Reply email address field merely sets the email address that is displayed in your newsgroup postings. This does not affect your SFF Net email settings. Feel free to use a fake name here if you don't want newsgroup readers to know your email address. The portion of the name in parentheses is the name that displays in lists when you make a newsgroup post.

    • The Display timezone: controls how posting times are displayed in lists. Times displayed will match this setting, regardless of the timezone of the original poster. You should select your own timezone.

    • View Format selects whether WebNews should use the newer Table View layout style or the older Classic Look layout. Table View is highly recommended since some useful advanced features are only available in Table view.

    • First page after logon selects which page you want to be automatically displayed after you login; either the Welcome page (default), Favorites, or Browse.

    WebNews Appearance Options

    The next set of settings controls the overall appearance of WebNews, including HTML table settings, fonts, and colors. The settings are standard HTML selections and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. If you use the SFF Net Blogging Tools to embed your newgroup on a web page, the settings you make here will also control how your embedded group will appear.

    Keep in mind that fonts selected on this page may or may not be displayed correctly by your browser. On most Windows-based browsers, you can specify any installed Windows font as long as you use the actual typeface name (note this is often not the name shown when picking a font from within a program such as Word).

    WebNews Text Options

    The last group of settings controls how WebNews displays lists and messages. Note that many of the Message display options correspond to the text control buttons you see when reading messages. You can use these settings to set the default style and override them as needed using the control buttons at any time.

    Once you've made all of your changes, be sure to click the Apply button to save them. Click the Defaults button if you want to return WebNews to the default configuration and appearance.


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