You are new to Usenet or you finally want to get rid of Outlook Express? You find Xnews too complicated and MicroPlanet Gravity too colourful? Well, in that case you've come to the right place.
This tutorial, or rather quickstart, is about Forté Agent 1.92 and its free version, Free Agent 1.92. Agent has a handy filtering system and with the help of its shortcuts you will struggle yourself through the jungle of messages that Usenet produces every day in no time, quick and easy. This quickstart certainly isn't complete and can't compete with the 200 pages counting User Guide that you can download from Forté's website
One disadvantage of Agent is that the full version isn't free and that the free version - Free Agent - misses some fun stuff, like the possibility of sending and receiving e-mails, yEnc-support and filtering. However, the full version, Forté Agent 1.92, is sold at a reasonable price: $29 or €29,81. An other disadvantage is that Agent doesn't have a multiserver option - yet. In version 2.x this option will finally be integrated and meanwhile, there is a solution to this problem.
You can download both versions from the Forté Inc. website:
Download (Free) Agent 1.92
After downloading, doubleclick on the file
Note: Forté released 1.93 (24 dec 2002), so the file for the English version is now called
a32en193.exe. If, for some reason, you want to download a previous version, just click here. If you will check the release notes, then you will see that 1.93 isn't so much different from 1.92. In other words: you can still use this tutorial.
In the window that follows you choose
This is a new install.
Next, just follow the installation program and install Agent to
c:\Program Files\Agent (or somewhere else). If this is done and your shortcuts are created, then click on
When you start up Agent for the first time, you will see this window:
You can choose for a 30-day trial version to see what the full version is all about. After that period, you will automatically switch over to Free Agent, unless you pay for it and register.
Because the full version is the most interesting, this will be the version I will explain in this quickstart. The differences between (full) Agent and Free Agent are explained here.
So you choose
I'd like to begin a free 30-day Trial of Agent. and proceed.
[!] Don't forget that this version will change into to Free Agent after 30 days.
After this, the Agent Setup window will appear and you will have to fill in some settings.
First, you have to fill in a newsserver. Since my provider is Telenet I have chosen for news.telenet.be, but you can also use a free newsserver like fb1.euro.net or, of course, the newsserver of your ISP.
Then you have to fill in the outgoing mailserver or SMTP of your ISP. You can use a free POP-account, but most ISPs block "external" SMTP servers. You can use Agent as a basic mailclient, nothing more, nothing less. Agent doesn't support HTML, not as a newsreader, not as a mail client. If everything is installed correctly, then you will be able to send and receive e-mails.
E-mail Address field you fill in an e-mail address. Notice that I used a munged e-mail address in the example. This is done to countereffect spam. Also notice that I closed this fake and invalid address with
.invalid. The reason why this is done is explained here. In short: if you want to munge your e-mail address in a correct manner, you should end it with
However, it is advised to fill in a valid e-mail address. You can do this in your
Reply-To-header (explained later). The invalid address is located in the
The last field you fill in is
Full Name; the name, nick or handle you wish to use in the newsgroups. For this part, I will translate SatCP's advice: "Don't take a name that uses the full width of your monitor and try to suppress the childish need to use ASCII-art. This will only make it more difficult to read for other people. Provoking names can have the effect that people ignore you. If you want to follow RFC850 then the name can't have any brackets (as well
>). Besides that, the use of a
; isn't advised.
OK and Agent will download all available groups from the chosen newsserver. What follows is this window:
The sun-like icon next to each group indicates that it is a new group. Since this is the first time that Agent is used, all groups are considered new.
By clicking in the
All Groups window and typing
Ctrl+F (Find), you can look for the name of a group. In this example: pandora.test, the local testgroup of my ISP. Once you have found the group, rightclick on this group and choose
A little newspaper appears in front of the group's name to show that you are subscribed to this group.
Now you can download the headers of the selected group(s). You can do this through the
Online menu. You can either download some of the headers (
Sample Headers) or download them all (
Get All Headers). Since it is a testgroup, it isn't advised to download all headers, so I'll choose
Sample Headers Of Selected Groups.
This window will appear:
You can choose to download a certain amount of postings or all headers from the postings that were posted during the last X days. For the first option, Agent's standard is set to 50 and in my opinion, that isn't much, certainly if you want to watch a group that contains binaries. A better method is perhaps the second, where you can download the messages that are recently posted. In the example I have chosen to download the headers of the postings from the last 4 days.
At the bottom of your screen, you can see what happens and how things are progressing:
All messages should appear in the message window. For now, this window is located at the upper-right. All postings are coloured red which means that these messages are unread (you can change this colour if you want, as well as the colour of the quoted text). If you want to read a posting, you can doubleclick on it or you can select it and push
Enter to download the body of the message.
Most people dislike Agent's layout at first, certainly people who are used to Outlook Express. That's why an alternative Window Layout is proposed in this chapter. Some other settings are also explained. Once you have mastered Agent you can experiment with these settings and "fine-tune" Agent the way you like. It seems a lot to read, but remember: you only have to do it once. After that, it's easy.
Many OE-users dislike Agent's layout at first, because it looks so different from that of OE. You can change the standard look using the
Options menu. In the
Options menu you choose for
Window Layout and in the following window you choose the these options:
After this, Agent's layout changes in a big way. You can also change the size of the windows (by dragging it), but don't forget to save this changes through
Options > Save As Default Window Layout. This way, your settings are saved and next time Agent will look a bit like this:
By clicking on the Groups Window's bar the view is changed from
All Groups to
However, under the
Options-menu, there are several settings you can change and this will be discussed step by step.
User field you should fill in a valid Reply address and - if needed - your login and password. Some newsservers demand that you give these in order to be able to post to the server.
You can leave
Organization blank, but some ISPs fill in their own name automatically if you do this. If you don't like this and you're out of inspiration, you can even type a single dot.
Reply-To-field you have to fill in a valid (!) reply address. For people who fear spam: so-called spam harvesting bots only seem to look for addresses in the
From-header, but not in the
Reply-To-header. If you take a free POP-account or an expendable e-mail address, you don't have any excuse left to not use a valid reply address. If you only use this account for Usenet it isn't a big loss if you need to change it in case you do get spam.
System tab you shouldn't change anything. You can change the settings for another newsserver or smtp server and you can also change Agent's title bar.
Same thing goes for the
Online tab; normally you shouldn't change anything. In principle, Agent is an offline newsreader, but standard, it's set for online.
The last tab,
Dial-Up, is only needed when you are still using a dial-up account. It should be easy to install. Since I am a cable user I don't have much use for it (unless my cable lets me down).
Navigation Here you can switch off
Skipping to next unread Groups marks all messages in current group read. You can switch on
When replying to or forwarding a message.
Message List You can change this as follows:
The first two are switched on as a standard, but it's best to switch them off.
Follow-indention defines the space that is between the replies. Standard setting is 3, but I changed this to 4.
Maximum Follow-Up Level is standard set to 30, but I changed this to 20. With Agent 1.92 you can go up to 127, but your postings will fall off the screen and things become a bit chaotic.
You can set the
Initial thread setting to your own wishes. Personally I like to expand the unread threads.
URL Types and
Confirmations shouldn't need to be changed and you can change
Trash the way you want it.
URLs tab you can set Agent so it will look in all groups for a Message URL and that it opens in a new window.
MIME Types tab. You can choose which program Agent will use to open a certain extension. For example, for JPG and GIF you can choose for Internet Explorer, but also for a viewer like Irfanview.
Here you can change the
Colors that are used in Agent. You can set these the way you like it or keep the standard settings that Agent uses.
Line length is better kept at 70 characters and you also needn't change the follow-up crossposting action. This should be correct when you see
Follow-up crosspost action: prompt for action.
Signatures Here you can add or change your signature or "sig", a small text that is added to each message you post. Later, in
Properties, you can set a different sig for each group or even change it for each posting. In short: a proper signature is always proceeded with "-- " (without the " " ) and the rule of thumb is that your sig isn't longer than 4 lines.
introduction line can be changed in this menu. Standard setting is as follows:
On %date%, %from% wrote:\n
You should keep this line as short as possible (=1 line). Also, because
%from% shows the e-mail address of the poster you are replying to you should replace it with
%full-name%. So you'll get this:
On %date%, %full-name% wrote:\n
Even shorter (and better) would be:
In Agent's Helpfile (
F1) you can find more information about the composition of this introduction line. Search for Introduction string, composing.
Spelling Agent can do a spellcheck, but at the moment this only works for texts that are written in English. Since English isn't my native tongue, I don't have much experience with this spellchecker...
Agent can also be used as a (basic) mailclient and in this menu, you can fill in the necessary settings. If this is the first time you open this menu, then Agent will ask you to create an e-mail folder. Standard, this folder is named
Inbox, but you can change this. After that, a window appears and you have to fill in some data.
To not make this quickstart any longer than it already is, and because the explanation is meant for Agent as a newsreader, I won't explain this any further.
One remark though: Agent needs a valid
From-header to be able to send e-mails. To prevent that you send an e-mail instead of a follow-up you better leave the invalid
.invalid). When sending an e-mail, you should change this header to your valid address.
In this option, you can change the toolbar the way you like it by adding or deleting some of the buttons. The standard look of the toolbar:
From left to right:
Get New Headers in Subscribed Group
Get New Headers in Selected Groups
Get Marked Message Bodies
Get Selected Message Bodies
Post New Usenet Message
Post Follow-Up Message
Post New Email Message
Post Reply via Email
View Next Unread Message
View Next Unread Message in Thread
Skip to Next Unread Message
Skip to Next Unread Message in Thread
Skip to Next Unread Group
Find: this is a simple search tool (Agent also has a global search that you can use.)
Mark for Retrieval: an arrow, pointing down will appear in front of the selected posting(s) if you press this
Watch Thread: the bodies of the postings in this thread will automatically be downloaded when you download the new headers
Keep Message: symbol or icon for this action is a little lock
Ignore Thread: symbol is a traffic sign
Stop All Tasks
Default Properties are meant for all groups and
Properties are only meant for the selected group or groups. You can change the latter so you can surpass the default properties. Both menus can be opened by rightclicking in the
Crossposts Agent has a filter that gets rid of crosspostings as well as annoying multipostings. In the latter case, the subject of the posting should stay the same. Change the standard setting from
Retrieve the header normally to
Skip the header (do not retrieve it).
Post Here you can set your default signature as well as the
X-No-Archive-header. Normally, this header prevents that your postings are being archived by archiving systems like Google Groups. However, not all archiving systems respect this header and you also can't prevent that someone keeps a personal archive of (your) Usenet postings.
Send Files The yEnc encoding is getting more and more popular and it saves bytes, so perhaps you can set up Agent in a way that your attachments will be in yEnc.
[!] Free Agent can't work with yEnc. Also, you should set up Agent so that bigger postings will be divided in smaller pieces.
preface (0/N) section allows you to make a zero-posting at the beginning of a binary posting. This is a regular posting in plain text and without an attachment. Its purpose is to give an explanation or description of the binary/binaries that you are posting. In contrast with OE you can read this text without downloading the complete (or part of the) binary.
Receive Files Most of all, it is important that you have the attachments deleted in Agent after you have saved them to your HD. This prevents that your database will become too large.
So you better select
After saving an attachment, remove it from message
Directory In this menu you can choose where Agent has to save the attachments and which folder should be used to temporary store the attachments.
Mark Read Personally, I don't like the standard setting in this menu, so I changed it.
What to Purge You can set up Agent to automatically delete postings according to your wishes. With this, you can prevent that Agent's data folder becomes too big. It was told to me that purging will result in a bigger fragmentation of your HD, but according to some this can be neglected.
The settings I'm showing here are perhaps a bit extreme and someone who doesn't visit the newsgroups as frequently can perhaps choose to set a higher number of days.
When to Purge Here you can further set up Agent to save space and to let the purging/deleting happen automatically.
Retrieve Under Limit number of headers you can set the maximum amount of headers that you will download from a group each time or session. OE also has this option. You can set this up according to your own wishes. If you want to download all headers in a certain group, then
you can always use
Online > Get All Headers in Selected Groups
All settings described above can also be found under
Properties. The difference is that those
Properties only work for the group(s) that you have selected. Some of your possibilities are: a different signature for each group, a different distribution-header if needed or even a different name or e-mail address.
By switching on
Override default settings you get the opportunity to make other preferences than those made in the standard (default) setting.
subscribe a newsgroup was already explained earlier. In the
Groups Window you can choose for
All Groups after which you can use the
Ctrl+F to search for a group you want to add to your (subscribed) list. To unsubscribe, select the group(s), rightclick and switch off
Subscribe. Note: you can also do this with the
Subscribe-button in the task bar.
Before you post a message in a newsgroup, you better make sure that you post in the right group (on-topic). See to it that your posting is relevant for the chosen newsgroup. To prevent that you ask a question that has been asked a thousand times before you better follow this procedure: read the group for a couple of days before you start posting and look if there is a FAQ (= Frequently Asked Questions) that gives the answer(s) to your question(s). Some FAQ lists or charters with behaviour rules are posted on a weekly basis. Most FAQs can easily be found through the vast archives of Google Groups.
If you want to start up a new thread, you can do this by sending a new posting. You can do this in several ways. Select the newsgroup where you want to post your message to and:
P (Post Usenet Message)
- in the menu
Post you choose for
New Usenet Message
- in the task bar you press the button
Post New Usenet Message
In the window that follows you can press
Ctrl+D to look at
All fields. OE has something similar with
View > All headers, but with Agent you have more options. By showing all fields you can easily change the headers of each posting you send (for instance:
Followup To or you From-header). It's also easy for choosing a signature.
Notice that you can't see your signature when composing a posting. However, in the all fields section you can see which signature will be used in the posting. You can make the signature visible by adding it manually. You can do this by using the shortcut
Ctrl+I. In the posting in the screenshot, the follow-up is also changed. A reply or rather follow-up to this posting will appear in be.test.
[!] If you change the follow-up of a posting or crossposting, you should make this clear by adding a line on top of the body of your posting.
[Follow-up set to: (name newsgroup)]. This way, you can prevent misunderstandings.
Make sure your
Subject is short and to the point. A vague subject like Help (see inside) isn't advised. Also, try to watch your language and the use of punctuation marks is always welcome. All this makes your message easier and more interesting to read.
Attachments-button you can add attachments to your postings. Attachments are only allowed in so-called binary groups. In plain text groups they aren't really appreciated (or allowed).
Notice that the task bar is changed for the composition of a posting.
At the moment, the first two buttons are important. With the first one you choose for
Send Now and your posting will be sent instantly. With the second button,
Send Later, your posting will be put in the
Outbox, so you can send it later. You can open you Outbox with
Window > Open Outbox.
The best way to reply to a message or how to quote correctly can be read at this site. The main thing here is remembering that with Agent it's easy to cut in message. After all, cutting lines in a message is important to keep your answer short and clear.
Cutting lines can easily be done as follows: you select the lines that you want to keep (cite or quote) and press
F (Follow-Up Usenet Message). This way, the rest of the lines will be cut automatically and you can type your answer at the bottom, under the quote. If you press
R, you will send a reply (through e-mail) to the author of the posting. You should only do this in case of an exception and if the author specifically asks for it.
If the original posting is selected, then pressing
F will do the trick. The complete message will be quoted and if there is a correct signature ("-- "), it will be automatically cut by Agent.
Sometimes you send a posting without thinking about it and after you've sent it you already regret it. This happens to everybody from time to time. Luckily you can cancel such postings. However, you only remove the posting from the newsserver. People who already downloaded your posting will keep it. In your own list, the posting will also stay visible, but for those who download new headers after your cancel, the posting doesn't exist.
You can cancel your posting by selecting it in the message list and choosing as follows:
Post > Cancel Usenet Message. In the next window you just have to press the Send Now button. After a few seconds your posting should be removed from the newsserver. You can only cancel postings that are yours. So-called third party cancels aren't allowed.
Some (binary) groups like <news:alt.binaries.photos.original> are completely dedicated to the posting of images. In Agent, you will have to set up an Image Viewer to watch these since it doesn't have an in-line viewer like OE. This was already discussed in Options - General Preferences. In
MIME Types you will have to choose with which program (viewer) the files will be opened.
I've chosen to open JPG and GIF files with Irfanview,
but you can also choose another viewer like QuickTime. Your browser will also do the trick, but for safety reasons you may want to consider another program to view your images. (Note: Irfanview is freeware.) Through the
Browse button you can choose the path to the wanted *.exe file.
If the image is sent through a multipart posting, then Agent will join these parts automatically (autojoin). Launching the attachment can be done in several ways:
- you click on the
Message Window and press
L (Launch Attachment);
- you click on the
Launch Attachment button in the task bar;
- you doubleclick on the icon in the
After that, Agent will open the file with the program you chose and the image will be displayed.
I will not go into detail about this in this quickstart. Agent recognizes the used codes (UUEncoded, yEnc, MIME) automatically and you don't have to do anything special in your settings. You can download several postings at the same time by selecting them and pressing
Enter. You can also mark them by pressing
M. This way, you can download the postings later.
How to-part of the Helpfile (
F1) you can find more information about downloading attachments. Search for How to Save and Launch Attachments. It may be interesting to know that you can choose a different download directory for each group though
Properties > Directory (
Override default settings).
You can search in each window with the help of the
Find-button or with
Ctrl+F, but the
Global Search is probably the best. You can open this tool with the shortcut
Ctrl+G or through the menu
Edit > Global Search (Ctrl+G).
Help-button will give more information about this search tool. If you've downloaded the complete postings (with body), then you can even search for keywords in the headers.
By using shortcuts you can easily work yourself through the tons of postings that Usenet produces every day. An oversight of all shortcuts is to be found if you search for Shortcuts, keyboard in the Helpfile (
F1). The ones I use the most:
1 - Pane (Groups/Folders)
2 - Pane (Message List)
3 - Pane (Message)
This way, you can easily jump from window to window.
P - Post New Usenet Message
F - Follow-Up Usenet Message
Control+M - New E-mail Message
R - Reply via E-mail
U - Up to Previous Message
D - Down to Next Message
N - Skip to Next Unread Message
B - Skip to Next Unread Message Body
L - Launch Attachment
H - Show All Header Fields; handy if you work with message-IDs or References
O - Word Wrap
Control+I - Insert a signature.
Space - Can be used to scroll in a message.
Enter - View Selected Group/This Message
M - Mark for Retrieval
K - Keep
I - Ignore Thread
W - Watch Thread; the bodies of postings in this thread will
automatically be downloaded when checking for new headers.
Control+K - Kill filter
Sometimes it can be interesting to filter certain messages. This can be done in a positive way, by means of a watch filter, but it can also be done in a negative way by using a kill filter. Both filters will be briefly explained. For more information you can always look in the Helpfile
F1 - How to) or in the User Guide you can find at Forté Inc.. Every filter that you make can be found through
Window > Open Usenet Filters. This way, you can always edit or delete your filters.
The shortcut for this filter is
Ctrl+W, but you can also use the Message-option in the task bar. In the message window you select the posting you want to filter. Then you open a menu by rightclicking in the window and choosing
Filters > Add Watch Filter
You can filter by Subject or even by Author. In case of the latter you have a choice between the entire field, the address only or the name only. With caps in the text the filter is case-sensitive, but of you use
Lower Case, this effect will be gone.
Choose what to do in
Watch Action. You can also set the filter to expire after several days or give it a priority number. This is handy when you are working with several filters and you want to give certain filters priority on others.
If you quickly want to activate a watch filter on a thread, then you can use the shortcut
Hint: It could be interesting to make a watch filter (author) for your own postings in certain (non-binary) groups.
This filter does exactly the opposite of a watch filter and instead of downloading the body of a posting or following a thread, here you can choose to ignore a thread, mark it as read or even delete it. The latter isn't advised, unless for reply-bots (automated scripts) and such. In most cases, "mark read" (and a strong personal will in some cases) will suffice.
It's best that you put a time-limit on a kill filter, so it stops automatically. For example: if you're having trouble with a troll 15 days should be enough.
If you are filtering by Subject, then it is interesting to make a filter that is sensitive to the activity in the thread. The filter below for example, is set to end automatically when there is no activity in the thread during 5 successive days.
For both filters you can use so-called wildcards. These are clearly explained in the Helpfile (
F1) and also in the User Guide. Search for Agents Expression Language en Expression Examples.
Although Agent doesn't have a real multiserver option, which allows you to work with multiple servers in one (main) window, there is a solution to this problem. This solution is to be found in the Helpfile (
F1) if you look for Multiple server configuration.
1. Create a separate data folder for each user or news server (e.g.,
c:\Agent\Newsbin). This folder will store the databases for the new instance of Agent.
2. Copy file
AGENT.INI from the original data folder (
c:\Program Files\Agent\Data) to the folder you created in step (1).
3. Create a shortcut for each user or news server with the program (e.g.,
c:\Program Files\Agent\Agent.exe specified as the Target, and the user's or news server's folder (e.g.,
c:\Agent\Newsbin) in the
Start in field. The shortcut could be as follows:
Since my OS is in Dutch: "eigenschappen" = "properties", "snelkoppeling" = "shortcut", "pad" = "target"/"path" and "beginnen in" = "start in".
You can place this shortcut on your desktop or in your Start-menu or even in you task bar. Switching between the different Agent programs can be done easily and fast with the shortcut
Since Agent doesn't nest itself in the registry it is easy to make a backup. You can just move the Agent folder from one directory to another. Or even move it to a different partition or HD and start the program from there. Or you compress the Agent folder (.zip, .rar., .ace, ...) and burn it on a cd-r(w). For people who work with Norton Ghost and such: it is advised to move the data-directory to a different location than the c:-partition. This way, you don't loose your data if you have to restore the c:-partition.
In contradiction to Xnews and just like MicroPlanet Gravity Agent isn't standard equipped with the possibility of X-Faces. Through the headers you can see them and with copy&paste you can convert the jibberish with the help of this X-Face Converter. This way, you can see what they're supposed to be.
You can also use a patch to show other people's X-Faces. This patch is called Aggtool and can be found here.
If you want to go with the flow and want your own X-Face, then you'll have to use something like Hamster or use a hex editor and install the X-Face header manually. Or you can also use this patch.
Although this little manual may seem a whole lot to some, it is just a tiny part of what you can do with Agent. By experimenting on your own you will learn more and more about Agent's possibilities. Some things that can help with the experimenting:
- the Helpfile; just press
F1 and you're in;
- Agent's User Guide, to be found at Forté Inc. and theirFAQ;
- the newsgroup <news:alt.usenet.offline-reader.forte-agent> and its Unofficial FAQ;
- other Agent users.
10 Aug 2002 Beta 0.1 - A first preliminary version.
25 Aug 2002 1.0.0b - Final (test) version (in Dutch). HTML code cleaned up and converted to HTML 4.01 Transitional. CSS used. Changed screenshots from GIF to PNG.
25 Aug 2002 1.0.0 - Joris transforms the test version to XHTML and uploads it to his website.
01 Sept 2002 1.1.0 - Attempt to translate the test version in English.
03 Sept 2002 1.1.1 - With the help of some volunteers, a spell check was done.
06 Oct 2002 1.1.2 - Changed auorfa FAQ link.
10 Nov 2002 1.1.3 - Defined alt-tags.
29 Nov 2002 1.2.0 - HTML Transitional transformed to HTML 4.01 Strict. Minor change in CSS.
01 Jan 2003 1.2.1 - Added a note about Agent 1.93.
26 Jan 2003 1.2.2 - Some small changes in HTML and CSS.
14 Mar 2003 1.2.3 - Added Belstat.be counter.
12 Apr 2004 1.2.4 - Cloaked e-mail address and changed Belstat code.
26 July 2004 1.2.5 - Added Newsreaders.info and some X-Face info, changed intro (2.00 to 2.x).
A word of gratitude to SatCP who, with his quickstart about MicroPlanet Gravity, gave me the motivation to - finally - do something similar for Agent. The lending of his layout, CSS file and certain quotes from his tutorial was also very sympathetic of him. Furthermore, a thank you to Joris for transforming the original version to XHTML. And last, but not least, a big thanks to Nanga Parbat for persuading me to dump Outlook Express and replace it with Agent and for helping me to get started with it.
© Copyright 2002, s|b
If the author is mentioned and a link to the original website is present, then parts of this quickstart can be freely quoted.