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Usenet newsgroups are some of the Internet's best-kept secrets. They're public, unmoderated discussion forums on every subject imaginable, both technical and non-technical. Typically, they're accessed through a program called a newsreader, which uses a protocol called NNTP. They can also be read through a Web interface, such as Google Groups.
Most groups are not controlled by anyone in particular, but some are created by specific companies or interests. For instance, Microsoft runs its own news servers that supply discussions about Microsoft-related products and technologies to other news servers.
Outlook Express, the stripped-down version of Microsoft Outlook, has a newsgroup reader in it. But, in what has to be one of the grander ironies imaginable, the full version of Microsoft Outlook does not.
MAPILab has stepped in to fill this feature void with NNTP for Outlook, a tool that lets you use your Microsoft Outlook e-mail client as a newsreader.
MAPILab NNTP works as a full MAPI transport, so that a newsgroup account behaves in much the same way as a full e-mail account. It can be set to synchronize or send to other MAPI accounts, depending on the current profile. Messages can also be sent or received through NNTP on a pre-defined schedule or on-demand, and stored locally in a .PST file or Exchange Server public folder.
The remote-headers function in Microsoft Outlook lets you retrieve lists of posts in newsgroups without actually downloading the messages themselves (which is more or less how regular NNTP newsreaders normally work), so you can download just the messages you want to read, and skip the rest.
The trial version of the program is fully functional for 30 days and has no limits except the timeout. A single-user license is U.S. $24; an unlimited site license (up to 1,500 users) is U.S. $899.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.
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This was first published in April 2006