Usenet is kind of under appriciated these days, but it’s usenet that’s hidden behind Google Groups and it’s a world of information if you find the right group to read. A good news reader is important to the usenet reading experience. Nice clear text, easy navigation is the thing that makes or break a news reader as reading news should be the place you spend the most time, but things like ease of usage in setting it up and downloading is also important. If you’re in groups with a lot of noise, things like filters and killfiles are important. I’ve searched for all the newsreaders I could find for the PocketPC and this is what I found. Alternatives that I haven’t tested: Kawara (can’t post and has no thread view) and the old freeware version of Qusnetsofts reader.
All of these usenet news readers contain basic functionality like multiple servers, threading and posting. There is a lot of differences in ease of usage and speed, but I suggest that you try them to see which of them fits your need. I’ve been using New Yanoff (http://www.palmyanoff.com/) on the Palm, which is simply stuffed with functionality, so the bar is rather right for me. I did a simple test of the PPC programs’ speed by subscribing to rec.arts.sf.written on my local server and downloading the latest 500 messages. The x50v was using the net connection through the cradle.
A4Pocket Newsreader (us$24.95 “Free trial for ever”) http://www.a4pocket.com/
It took 261 seconds to download the latest 443 articles from rec.arts.sf.written (haven’t figured why it only got 443 and not 500, maybe a filter?) – 2 seconds to thread them. As the only one, this reader can download a newsgroup list and let you add groups from it. This is nice, but not always practical functionality as this list can get very, very big. Has a nice and easy to understand tabbed user interface (grouplist/articlelist/article), but the font for the article view seemed a bit big and I couldn’t get it to change (there’s an option for it in the settings, but I couldn’t get it to work). I’m not sure what all the buttons on the article view page does, and I can’t seem to find a manual. You can only view the article in the article pane, if you want to reply or forward or anything else you have to do it from the thread view – strange. Crashes every time I try to reply to group (but I usually move to my desktop if I have to reply..). The hardware buttons are preprogrammed to next article and next thread which is nice, but an option to customize that would be nice. The Handango description says “free trial for ever” which I guess means that it’s okay if you don’t register.
Qusnetsoft Newreader 3.1/3.3 (us$18.97 – 15 days trial version). http://www.newsreader.tk/
It took 137 seconds to download the latest 500 articles from
rec.arts.sf.written – 25 seconds to thread them. Full featured newsreader with a split screen interface (you can, by the press of a button change it to thread-view or article view). I only have one real problem with this program, it’s rather slow to load the threaded view of the news groups, besides that it seems like a nice program with lots of feature (maybe it would be faster if they didn’t update the screen during the threading process). The user interface is really nice, but a bit hard to get used to. As the only one this program either used the vga resolution of the x50v or it uses the ClearText functionality of WinMob – I’m not sure, but either way the text looks a lot better than in the other programs, making the reading experience a lot better. Has programmable hardware buttons, but misses functions you can bind. Doesn’t have a killfilter.
P.S. [may 2005]: I’ve brought and installed version 188.8.131.52 and it still has the slow threading. Damn annoying!
Ink Spot Ce (us$25 – trial limited to 25 downloads) http://www.dejavusoftware.com
It took 96 seconds to download 500 articles from rec.arts.sf.written – 7 seconds to thread them. Nice with a few errors in the user interface
(the text on the tabs disappears, but it’s easy to guess what was supposed to be there, so you can still use the program). Has rather limited support for pen-less reading – you can do scroll-up and down and next article with the D pad but that’s it. The interface seems to be build with some kind of non-standard windowing system, which, as mentioned, doesn’t do to well on 2003SE and which seems kind of … hm… ugly. Besides that, nice and with lots of features, including a killfilter and a setup wizard.
P.S. August 25th 2005: Development on Ink Spot Ce has stopped and the price has been lowered to 10us$. Still haven’t been updated since 2003.
QMAIL 2.9.16 (freeware) http://q3.snak.org/wiki/ (added Oct 2005)
Qmail is primarily a email program (pop3 and IMAP), but it also supports RSS and Usenet. I’ll limit myself to commenting on the usenet usage for this blog, any only note that the email client is now my default mail program on my PPC.
Qmail took 228 seconds to download 500 messages, but this was over a slower line to a more remote server, so it’s a bit hard to do a direct comparison. Download speed is satisfactory. Threading time is the best of them all ? 0 seconds to thread up to 1200 messages (which is the highest I’ve tried). The basic strength of Qmail is that everything can be configured. In the user interface you can turn on and off the group list, the thread view, the message preview, the toolbars, the statusbar, there are twenty configurations screens, you can setup view filters, synchronization (download) filters, signatures, standard texts, editor, colors etc etc. There’s only three things missing: An option to setup hardware key actions, a manual and a simpler way to do some of the more complicated things (like adding somebody to a kill file, without editing a filter). There are so many options and possibilities in this program that it’s a real shame that there isn’t a good (english) manual out there. There is an faq which is a really good place to start : http://www.azol.ru/texts/QMail3_eng_FAQ.htm but that’s it. It does have a few bug is it, but nothing lethal. The worst one is that when a rule has run, it doesn’t remove the popup dialogbox, forcing you to kill the application (I’m using ?Magic Button?). If you don’t mind spending a bit of time experimenting, this is the program to use for usenet new on the PPC! Continuously updated.
Currently my favorite pocketpc application!
New conclusion (Oct. 2005). If you have the inclination to experiment and do a bit of digging QMAIL is the program for you. It’s free and it’s the most feature packed of them all. It could look better and programmable hardware keys would be nice, but the default keys are okay.
Old conclusion: if you want to spend money and want something a bit easier to configure:
(short version: Get the Qusnetsoft one, unless you subscribe to high-trafic groups)). I’m not rightly sure what my conclusion is – I really like the interface in Qusnetsoftreader and the text just looks so sharp and clear compared to the other programs, but it’s also the slowest in the threading department, which is rather annoying. It badly needs a new index somewhere or to stop updating the screen while it does the threading (show a progress bar instead). Non of the programs are really optimized for pen-free reading, but again Qusnetsoft comes closes with an option for user definable hardware keys, sadly it wasn’t possible to program a key
for my favorite functionality “kill thread” (a.k.a. “mark current thread read and move to next unread message”).
For now, I’ll live with the short comings of A4’s reader. I simply can’t get my self to pay for one of these programs, as none of them really does what I want. If A4 got vga/cleartext support, a better user interface, a manual/help and faster download I would pay for it. If Qusnetsofts reader got faster threading and a “next thread/kill thread” function I
could bind to a key, I would pay for it, a killfilter would be nice to. If Ink Spot Ce got vga/cleartext support, better hardware button support and fixed the small bugs, I might get that one. It’s all a question of selecting the program by the people who seems to be willing to innovate and add new functionality as needed. What I don’t want is to pay 19 or 25 us$ and get a program that’s not going to be updated. QuesnetSofts reader is continiusly updated, A4 was updated October 2004, Ink Spot Ce last updated November 2003 – which gives points to Qusnetsoft and takes Ink Spot of the list of possible contenders for my money. P.S.: But you really should give qmail a try.