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Starting Gnus

If your system administrator has set things up properly, starting Gnus and reading news is extremely easy - you just type M-x gnus.

If things do not go smoothly at startup, you have to twiddle some variables.

Finding the News

The gnus-select-method variable controls how Gnus finds news. This variable should be a list where the first element says how and the second element says where. This method is is your native method. All groups that are not fetched with this method are foreign groups.

For instance, if you want to get your daily dosage of news from the `news.somewhere.edu' NNTP server, you'd say:

(setq gnus-select-method '(nntp "news.somewhere.edu"))

If you want to read directly from the local spool, say:

(setq gnus-select-method '(nnspool ""))

If you can use a local spool, you probably should, as it will almost certainly be much faster.

If this variable is not set, Gnus will take a look at the NNTPSERVER environment variable. If that isn't set either, it will try to use the machine that is running Emacs as an NNTP server.

If gnus-nntp-server is set, this variable will override gnus-select-method. You should therefore set gnus-nntp-server to nil, which is what it is by default.

You can also make Gnus prompt you interactively for the name of an NNTP server. If you give a non-numerical prefix to gnus (i.e., C-u M-x gnus), Gnus will let you choose between the servers in the gnus-secondary-servers list (if any). You can also just type in the name of any server you feel like visiting.

However, if you use one NNTP server regularly, and are just interested in a couple of groups from a different server, you would be better served by using the gnus-group-browse-foreign-server command from the group buffer. It will let you have a look at what groups are available, and you can subscribe to any of the groups you want to. This also makes `.newsrc' maintenance much tidier. See section Foreign Groups.

A slightly different approach to foreign groups is to set the gnus-secondary-select-methods variable. The select methods listed in this variable are in many ways just as native as the gnus-select-method server. They will also be queried for active files during startup (if that's required), and new newsgroups that appear on these servers will be subscribed (or not) just as native groups are.

For instance, if you use the nnmbox backend to read you mail, you would typically set this variable to

(setq gnus-secondary-select-methods '((nnmbox "")))

The First Time

If no startup files exist, Gnus will try to determine what groups should be subscribed by default.

If the variable gnus-default-subscribed-newsgroups is set, Gnus will subscribe you to just those groups in that list, leaving the rest killed. Your system administrator should have set this variable to something useful.

Since she hasn't, Gnus will just subscribe you to a few randomly picked groups (i.e., `*.newusers'). (Random is here defined as "whatever Lars thinks you should read".)

You'll also be subscribed to the Gnus documentation group, which should help you with most common problems.

If gnus-default-subscribed-newsgroups is t, Gnus will just use the normal functions for handling new groups, and not do anything special.

The Server is Down

If the default server is down, Gnus will understandably have some problems starting. However, if you have some mail groups in addition to the news groups, you may want to start Gnus anyway.

Gnus, being the trusting sort of program, will ask whether to proceed without a native select method if that server can't be contacted. This will happen whether the server doesn't actually exist (i.e., you have given the wrong address) or the server has just momentarily taken ill for some reason or other.

If Gnus says "nntp server on <your server> can't be opened. Continue?", you do not want to continue unless you have some foreign groups that you want to read. Even if you don't, Gnus will let you continue, but you'll find it difficult to actually do anything in the group buffer. But, hey, that's your problem. Blllrph!

New Groups

What Gnus does when it encounters a new group is determined by the gnus-subscribe-newsgroup-method variable.

This variable should contain a function. Some handy pre-fab values are:

Subscribe all new groups randomly.
Subscribe all new groups alphabetically.
Subscribe all new groups hierarchically.
Subscribe new groups interactively. This means that Gnus will ask you about all new groups.
Make all new groups zombies. You can browse the zombies later and either kill them all off properly, or subscribe to them. This is the default.

A closely related variable is gnus-subscribe-hierarchical-interactive. (That's quite a mouthful.) If this variable is non-nil, Gnus will ask you in a hierarchical fashion whether to subscribe to new groups or not. Gnus will ask you for each sub-hierarchy whether you want to descend the hierarchy or not.

One common way to control which new newsgroups should be subscribed or ignored is to put an options line at the start of the `.newsrc' file. Here's an example:

options -n !alt.all !rec.all sci.all

This line obviously belongs to a serious-minded intellectual scientific person (or she may just be plain old boring), because it says that all groups that have names beginning with `alt' and `rec' should be ignored, and all groups with names beginning with `sci' should be subscribed. Gnus will not use the normal subscription method for subscribing these groups. gnus-subscribe-options-newsgroup-method is used instead. This variable defaults to gnus-subscribe-alphabetically.

If you don't want to mess with your `.newsrc' file, you can just set the two variables gnus-options-subscribe and gnus-options-not-subscribe. These two variables do exactly the same as the `.newsrc' options -n trick. Both are regexps, and if the the new group matches the first, it will be unconditionally subscribed, and if it matches the latter, it will be ignored.

If you are satisfied that you really never want to see any new groups, you could set gnus-check-new-newsgroups to nil. This will also save you some time at startup. Even if this variable is nil, you can always subscribe to the new groups just by pressing U in the group buffer (see section Group Maintenance).

Gnus normally determines whether a group is new or not by comparing the list of groups from the active file(s) with the lists of subscribed and dead groups. This isn't a particularly fast method. If gnus-check-new-newsgroups is ask-server, Gnus will ask the server for new groups since the last time. This is both faster & cheaper. This also means that you can get rid of the list of killed groups altogether, so you may set gnus-save-killed-list to nil, which will save time both at startup, at exit, and all over. Saves disk space, too. Why isn't this the default, then? Unfortunately, not all servers support this function.

This variable can also be a list of select methods. If so, Gnus will issue an ask-server command to each of the select methods, and subscribe them (or not) using the normal methods. This might be handy if you are monitoring a few servers for new groups. A side effect is that startup will take much longer, so you can meditate while waiting. Use the mantra "dingnusdingnusdingnus" to achieve permanent happiness.

Startup Files

Now, you all know about the `.newsrc' file. All subscription information is traditionally stored in this file.

Things got a bit more complicated with GNUS. In addition to keeping the `.newsrc' file updated, it also used a file called `.newsrc.el' for storing all the information that didn't fit into the `.newsrc' file. (Actually, it duplicated everything in the `.newsrc' file.) GNUS would read whichever one of these files that were the most recently saved, which enabled people to swap between GNUS and other newsreaders.

That was kinda silly, so Gnus went one better: In addition to the `.newsrc' and `.newsrc.el' files, Gnus also has a file called `.newsrc.eld'. It will read whichever of these files that are most recent, but it will never write a `.newsrc.el' file.

You can also turn off writing the `.newsrc' file by setting gnus-save-newsrc-file to nil, which means you can delete the file and save some space, as well as making exit from Gnus faster. However, this will make it impossible to use other newsreaders than Gnus. But hey, who would want to, right?

If gnus-save-killed-list is nil, Gnus will not save the list of killed groups to the startup file. This will save both time (when starting and quitting) and space (on disk). It will also means that Gnus has no record of what groups are new or old, so the automatic new groups subscription methods become meaningless. You should always set gnus-check-new-newsgroups to nil or ask-server if you set this variable to nil (see section New Groups).

The gnus-startup-file variable says where the startup files are. The default value is `~/.newsrc', with the Gnus (El Dingo) startup file being whatever that one is with a `.eld' appended.

gnus-save-newsrc-hook is called before saving the `.newsrc' file.

Auto Save

Whenever you do something that changes the Gnus data (reading articles, catching up, killing/subscribing groups), the change is added to a special dribble buffer. This buffer is auto-saved the normal Emacs way. If your Emacs should crash before you have saved the `.newsrc' files, all changes you have made can be recovered from this file.

If Gnus detects this file at startup, it will ask the user whether to read it. The auto save file is deleted whenever the real startup file is saved.

If gnus-use-dribble-file is nil, Gnus won't create and maintain a dribble buffer.

The Active File

When Gnus starts, or indeed whenever it tries to determine whether new articles have arrived, it reads the active file. This is a very large file that lists all the active groups and articles on the NNTP server.

Before examining the active file, Gnus deletes all lines that match the regexp gnus-ignored-newsgroups. This is done primarily to reject any groups with bogus names, but you can use this variable to make Gnus ignore hierarchies you aren't ever interested in. This variable is nil by default, and will slow down active file handling somewhat if you set it to anything else.

The active file can be rather Huge, so if you have a slow network, you can set gnus-read-active-file to nil to prevent Gnus from reading the active file.

Gnus will try to make do by just getting information on the groups that you actually subscribe to.

Note that if you subscribe to lots and lots of groups, setting this variable to nil will probably make Gnus slower, not faster. At present, having this variable nil will slow Gnus down considerably, unless you read news over a 2400 baud modem.

This variable can also have the value some. Gnus will then attempt to read active info only on the subscribed groups. On some servers this is quite fast (on sparkling, brand new INN servers that support the `LIST ACTIVE group' command), on others this is not fast at all. In any case, some should be faster than nil, and is certainly faster than t over slow lines.

If this variable is nil, Gnus will as for group info in total lock-step, which isn't very fast. If it is some and you use an NNTP server, Gnus will pump out commands as fast as it can, and read all the replies in one swoop. This will normally result in better performance, but if the server does not support the aforementioned `LIST ACTIVE group' command, this isn't very nice to the server.

In any case, if you use some or nil, you should kill all groups that you aren't interested in.

Startup Variables

A hook that is run while Gnus is being loaded. Note that this hook will normally be run just once in a single Emacs session, no matter how many times you start Gnus.
A hook that is run after starting up Gnus successfully.
If non-nil, Gnus will check for and delete all bogus groups at startup. A bogus group is a group that you have in your `.newsrc' file, but doesn't exist on the news server. Checking for bogus groups isn't very quick, so to save time and resources, it's best to leave this option off, and instead do the checking for bogus groups once in a while from the group buffer (see section Group Maintenance).
If non-nil, the startup message won't be displayed. That way, your boss might not notice that you are reading news instead of doing your job.
Message displayed by Gnus when no groups are available.

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