[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1. 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 in your Emacs.

If you want to start Gnus in a different frame, you can use the command M-x gnus-other-frame instead.

If things do not go smoothly at startup, you have to twiddle some variables in your `~/.gnus.el' file. This file is similar to `~/.emacs', but is read when Gnus starts.

If you puzzle at any terms used in this manual, please refer to the terminology section (see section 10.4 Terminology).

1.1 Finding the News  Choosing a method for getting news.
1.2 The First Time  What does Gnus do the first time you start it?
1.3 The Server is Down  How can I read my mail then?
1.4 Slave Gnusae  You can have more than one Gnus active at a time.
1.5 New Groups  What is Gnus supposed to do with new groups?
1.6 Changing Servers  You may want to move from one server to another.
1.7 Startup Files  Those pesky startup files---`.newsrc'.
1.8 Auto Save  Recovering from a crash.
1.9 The Active File  Reading the active file over a slow line Takes Time.
1.10 Startup Variables  Other variables you might change.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.1 Finding the News

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

For instance, if the `news.somewhere.edu' NNTP server is where you want to get your daily dosage of news from, 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. But do not use the local spool if your server is running Leafnode (which is a simple, standalone private news server); in this case, use (nntp "localhost").

If this variable is not set, Gnus will take a look at the NNTPSERVER environment variable. If that variable isn't set, Gnus will see whether gnus-nntpserver-file (`/etc/nntpserver' by default) has any opinions on the matter. If that fails as well, Gnus will try to use the machine running Emacs as an NNTP server. That's a long shot, though.

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. (Note that this will set gnus-nntp-server, which means that if you then M-x gnus later in the same Emacs session, Gnus will contact the same server.)

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 B command in 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 2.9 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 back end to read your mail, you would typically set this variable to

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

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.2 The First Time

If no startup files exist (see section 1.7 Startup Files), 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 arbitrarily picked groups (i.e., `*.newusers'). (Arbitrary is defined here 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.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.3 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 you decide to continue and have no foreign groups, you'll find it difficult to actually do anything in the group buffer. But, hey, that's your problem. Blllrph!

If you know that the server is definitely down, or you just want to read your mail without bothering with the server at all, you can use the gnus-no-server command to start Gnus. That might come in handy if you're in a hurry as well. This command will not attempt to contact your primary server--instead, it will just activate all groups on level 1 and 2. (You should preferably keep no native groups on those two levels.) Also see section 2.6 Group Levels.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.4 Slave Gnusae

You might want to run more than one Emacs with more than one Gnus at the same time. If you are using different `.newsrc' files (e.g., if you are using the two different Gnusae to read from two different servers), that is no problem whatsoever. You just do it.

The problem appears when you want to run two Gnusae that use the same `.newsrc' file.

To work around that problem some, we here at the Think-Tank at the Gnus Towers have come up with a new concept: Masters and slaves. (We have applied for a patent on this concept, and have taken out a copyright on those words. If you wish to use those words in conjunction with each other, you have to send $1 per usage instance to me. Usage of the patent (Master/Slave Relationships In Computer Applications) will be much more expensive, of course.)

Anyway, you start one Gnus up the normal way with M-x gnus (or however you do it). Each subsequent slave Gnusae should be started with M-x gnus-slave. These slaves won't save normal `.newsrc' files, but instead save slave files that contain information only on what groups have been read in the slave session. When a master Gnus starts, it will read (and delete) these slave files, incorporating all information from them. (The slave files will be read in the sequence they were created, so the latest changes will have precedence.)

Information from the slave files has, of course, precedence over the information in the normal (i.e., master) `.newsrc' file.

If the `.newsrc*' files have not been saved in the master when the slave starts, you may be prompted as to whether to read an auto-save file. If you answer "yes", the unsaved changes to the master will be incorporated into the slave. If you answer "no", the slave may see some messages as unread that have been read in the master.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.5 New Groups

If you are satisfied that you really never want to see any new groups, you can 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 2.13 Group Maintenance). This variable is ask-server by default. If you set this variable to always, then Gnus will query the back ends for new groups even when you do the g command (see section 2.17.1 Scanning New Messages).

1.5.1 Checking New Groups  Determining what groups are new.
1.5.2 Subscription Methods  What Gnus should do with new groups.
1.5.3 Filtering New Groups  Making Gnus ignore certain new groups.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.5.1 Checking New Groups

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 and 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 command.

I bet I know what you're thinking now: How do I find out whether my server supports ask-server? No? Good, because I don't have a fail-safe answer. I would suggest just setting this variable to ask-server and see whether any new groups appear within the next few days. If any do, then it works. If none do, then it doesn't work. I could write a function to make Gnus guess whether the server supports ask-server, but it would just be a guess. So I won't. You could telnet to the server and say HELP and see whether it lists `NEWGROUPS' among the commands it understands. If it does, then it might work. (But there are servers that lists `NEWGROUPS' without supporting the function properly.)

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 bliss.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.5.2 Subscription Methods

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

This variable should contain a function. This function will be called with the name of the new group as the only parameter.

Some handy pre-fab functions are:

Make all new groups zombies. This is the default. You can browse the zombies later (with A z) and either kill them all off properly (with S z), or subscribe to them (with u).

Subscribe all new groups in arbitrary order. This really means that all new groups will be added at "the top" of the group buffer.

Subscribe all new groups in alphabetical order.

Subscribe all new groups hierarchically. The difference between this function and gnus-subscribe-alphabetically is slight. gnus-subscribe-alphabetically will subscribe new groups in a strictly alphabetical fashion, while this function will enter groups into its hierarchy. So if you want to have the `rec' hierarchy before the `comp' hierarchy, this function will not mess that configuration up. Or something like that.

Subscribe new groups interactively. This means that Gnus will ask you about all new groups. The groups you choose to subscribe to will be subscribed hierarchically.

Kill all new groups.

Put the groups into the topic that has a matching subscribe topic parameter (see section 2.16.5 Topic Parameters). For instance, a subscribe topic parameter that looks like


will mean that all groups that match that regex will be subscribed under that topic.

If no topics match the groups, the groups will be subscribed in the top-level topic.

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 mistake is to set the variable a few paragraphs above (gnus-subscribe-newsgroup-method) to gnus-subscribe-hierarchical-interactive. This is an error. This will not work. This is ga-ga. So don't do it.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.5.3 Filtering New Groups

A nice and portable 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 new group matches the former, it will be unconditionally subscribed, and if it matches the latter, it will be ignored.

Yet another variable that meddles here is gnus-auto-subscribed-groups. It works exactly like gnus-options-subscribe, and is therefore really superfluous, but I thought it would be nice to have two of these. This variable is more meant for setting some ground rules, while the other variable is used more for user fiddling. By default this variable makes all new groups that come from mail back ends (nnml, nnbabyl, nnfolder, nnmbox, nnmh, and nnmaildir) subscribed. If you don't like that, just set this variable to nil.

New groups that match this regexp are subscribed using gnus-subscribe-options-newsgroup-method.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.6 Changing Servers

Sometimes it is necessary to move from one NNTP server to another. This happens very rarely, but perhaps you change jobs, or one server is very flaky and you want to use another.

Changing the server is pretty easy, right? You just change gnus-select-method to point to the new server?


Article numbers are not (in any way) kept synchronized between different NNTP servers, and the only way Gnus keeps track of what articles you have read is by keeping track of article numbers. So when you change gnus-select-method, your `.newsrc' file becomes worthless.

Gnus provides a few functions to attempt to translate a `.newsrc' file from one server to another. They all have one thing in common--they take a looong time to run. You don't want to use these functions more than absolutely necessary.

If you have access to both servers, Gnus can request the headers for all the articles you have read and compare Message-IDs and map the article numbers of the read articles and article marks. The M-x gnus-change-server command will do this for all your native groups. It will prompt for the method you want to move to.

You can also move individual groups with the M-x gnus-group-move-group-to-server command. This is useful if you want to move a (foreign) group from one server to another.

If you don't have access to both the old and new server, all your marks and read ranges have become worthless. You can use the M-x gnus-group-clear-data-on-native-groups command to clear out all data that you have on your native groups. Use with caution.

Clear the data from the current group only--nix out marks and the list of read articles (gnus-group-clear-data).

After changing servers, you must move the cache hierarchy away, since the cached articles will have wrong article numbers, which will affect which articles Gnus thinks are read. gnus-group-clear-data-on-native-groups will ask you if you want to have it done automatically; for gnus-group-clear-data, you can use M-x gnus-cache-move-cache (but beware, it will move the cache for all groups).

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.7 Startup Files

Most common Unix news readers use a shared startup file called `.newsrc'. This file contains all the information about what groups are subscribed, and which articles in these groups have been read.

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 also duplicated everything in the `.newsrc' file.) GNUS would read whichever one of these files was 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 should never delete the `.newsrc.eld' file--it contains much information not stored in the `.newsrc' file.

You can 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 exiting from Gnus faster. However, this will make it impossible to use other newsreaders than Gnus. But hey, who would want to, right? Similarly, setting gnus-read-newsrc-file to nil makes Gnus ignore the `.newsrc' file and any `.newsrc-SERVER' files, which can be convenient if you use a different news reader occasionally, and you want to read a different subset of the available groups with that news reader.

If gnus-save-killed-list (default t) 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 mean 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 1.5 New Groups). This variable can also be a regular expression. If that's the case, remove all groups that do not match this regexp before saving. This can be useful in certain obscure situations that involve several servers where not all servers support ask-server.

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. If you want version control for this file, set gnus-backup-startup-file. It respects the same values as the version-control variable.

gnus-save-newsrc-hook is called before saving any of the newsrc files, while gnus-save-quick-newsrc-hook is called just before saving the `.newsrc.eld' file, and gnus-save-standard-newsrc-hook is called just before saving the `.newsrc' file. The latter two are commonly used to turn version control on or off. Version control is on by default when saving the startup files. If you want to turn backup creation off, say something like:

(defun turn-off-backup ()
  (set (make-local-variable 'backup-inhibited) t))

(add-hook 'gnus-save-quick-newsrc-hook 'turn-off-backup)
(add-hook 'gnus-save-standard-newsrc-hook 'turn-off-backup)

When Gnus starts, it will read the gnus-site-init-file (`.../site-lisp/gnus-init' by default) and gnus-init-file (`~/.gnus' by default) files. These are normal Emacs Lisp files and can be used to avoid cluttering your `~/.emacs' and `site-init' files with Gnus stuff. Gnus will also check for files with the same names as these, but with `.elc' and `.el' suffixes. In other words, if you have set gnus-init-file to `~/.gnus', it will look for `~/.gnus.elc', `~/.gnus.el', and finally `~/.gnus' (in this order). If Emacs was invoked with the `-q' or `--no-init-file' options (see section `Initial Options' in The Emacs Manual), Gnus doesn't read gnus-init-file.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.8 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 default is t.

Gnus will put the dribble file(s) in gnus-dribble-directory. If this variable is nil, which it is by default, Gnus will dribble into the directory where the `.newsrc' file is located. (This is normally the user's home directory.) The dribble file will get the same file permissions as the `.newsrc' file.

If gnus-always-read-dribble-file is non-nil, Gnus will read the dribble file on startup without querying the user.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.9 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 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. However, this is not recommended. In fact, it's highly discouraged. Instead, see section 1.5 New Groups for an overview of other variables that can be used instead.

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. This variable is some by default.

Gnus will try to make do by getting information just 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 isn't fast at all. In any case, some should be faster than nil, and is certainly faster than t over slow lines.

Some news servers (old versions of Leafnode and old versions of INN, for instance) do not support the LIST ACTIVE group. For these servers, nil is probably the most efficient value for this variable.

If this variable is nil, Gnus will ask 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.

If you think that starting up Gnus takes too long, try all the three different values for this variable and see what works best for you.

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

Note that this variable also affects active file retrieval from secondary select methods.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

1.10 Startup Variables

A hook run while Gnus is being loaded. Note that this hook will normally be run just once in each Emacs session, no matter how many times you start Gnus.

A hook run after starting up Gnus successfully.

A hook run as the very last thing after starting up Gnus

A hook that is run as the very last thing after starting up Gnus successfully.

A hook that is run after reading the `.newsrc' file(s), but before generating the group buffer.

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 can take quite a while, so to save time and resources it's best to leave this option off, and do the checking for bogus groups once in a while from the group buffer instead (see section 2.13 Group Maintenance).

If non-nil, the startup message won't be displayed. That way, your boss might not notice as easily that you are reading news instead of doing your job. Note that this variable is used before `~/.gnus.el' is loaded, so it should be set in `.emacs' instead.

Message displayed by Gnus when no groups are available.

If non-nil, play the Gnus jingle at startup.

Jingle to be played if the above variable is non-nil. The default is `Tuxedomoon.Jingle4.au'.

[ << ] [ >> ]           [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

This document was generated by XEmacs Webmaster on October, 2 2007 using texi2html