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Usenet Tutorial

The Format of a Usenet Article

A Usenet article has three parts: a header, a body, and an optional signature. An article may also have contain an attachment, that is, a separate file. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the same format as an email message. In fact, the description of a Usenet article is pretty much the same as for a mail message. The main difference is that Usenet articles have slightly different headers.

At the beginning of every article is a HEADER consisting of a number of specific HEADER LINES. These header lines contain technical information used by news servers and newsreader programs. As with email messages, there are many possible different types of header lines. I have listed the most important ones in the table below.

Header Line Description
From:Name and address of person who posted the article
Newsgroups:Groups to which the message was posted
Subject:The subject of the article
Date:The time and date the message was posted
Organization:The organization from which the article was sent
Lines:Number of lines in message (not counting header)

— hint —

Some newsreaders will not show you any header lines unless you ask for them explicitly. Other newsreaders will, by default, show you only the most important header lines: if you want to see other lines, you must tell your newsreader to display them.

For example, with Outlook Express, display the article. Then right-click on the Subject: line within the Subject box. Choose Properties and click on the Details tab.

After the header comes the BODY of the article, the main content. Most of the time, the body will be simple text. However, it is possible to use HTML in an article. If the body of an article contains a URL (Web address), most newsreaders will recognize it as such, and turn it into a link you can click on.

A SIGNATURE is a small amount of personalized information included at the end of an article. Having a signature is optional, though many people use one. A typical signature might contain your name, mail address, and a link to your Web site, blog, or Facebook or Myspace page. Here is an example:

Harley Hahn            http://www.harley.com/
(202) 456-1414        harley@littleweedly.com

Before you can use a signature, you must create it. With many newsreaders, you simply type of signature into a box that you will see when you configure the program with your name and email address. Typically, this is part of the option-setting facility, so you can change your signature whenever you want. With some newsreaders, your signature is kept is a separate file, called a SIGNATURE FILE, which you must create. You then tell your newsreader that you want to use a signature and give it the location of the file.

In either case, once you turn on the signature feature, every time you post an article, your newsreader will automatically append the contents of your signature to the end of the article.

How long should your signature be? Remember, even though you won't see it, your signature will be appended to every article you post, which means that people who read your postings regularly will have to look at your signature over and over and over. In such cases, long signatures can be irritating: as a general rule, it is best to keep your signature to four lines or less.

Finally, a Usenet article can also include an ATTACHMENT. An attachment is a separate file that is sent out along with the article. As with email messages, attachments are usually binary files, such as pictures, documents, videos, music files, programs, and so on. When you include such a file, we say that you ATTACH it to the message.

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