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-- by Serdar Yegulalp
To get all the latest and greatest news, you need a good news agent on your side. The best Windows-based Internet newsreader available today may be Forte's Agent .99. It aggressively tracks message traffic on the Usenet, keeps logs of posts and follows threads of discussions, and downloads and decodes UUencoded files in the background.
Agent's multitasking environment creates multiple connections to your news server. You can set up manual or automatic downloads. You can't connect to more than one news server, however.
It's possible to configure the server to automatically go offline after a download-useful for offline message answering. By selecting the threads to be watched, you can automatically download future posts to that thread.
Agent's most outstanding feature is the watch/kill filter list. You can create rules for specific newsgroups, forcing Agent to automatically download, keep and thread-watch certain types of articles. In addition, you can set up rules for articles that Agent should block or ignore to reduce your total message count. This is an indispensable feature on Usenet, where some groups generate as many as 1,000 messages a day. One of the few things Agent .99 can't do is add custom X headers to outgoing messages, such as Alta Vista's "X-no-archive" header.
Agent's other remarkable features include multilingual dictionaries for spell-checking posts and e-mails, and the ability to have completely newsgroup-specific settings. Each newsgroup you subscribe to can have unique retrieval behavior, signature files and purging behavior. The program's handling of downloaded binaries is excellent. In a batch download, Agent automatically figures out where one binary starts and another ends, and decodes appropriately.
Agent is listed as a .99 revision-meaning prerelease-but I worked with it extensively and found no obvious problems. Registered users of Agent .99 can get a free upgrade to the 1.0 revision when it becomes available.
A freeware, 16- or 32- bit version of Agent, Free Agent 1.1, is available for free download from Forte's Web site (http://www.forteinc.com). It lacks the watch/kill feature, dictionaries and other capabilities, but it's a good way to determine if the full Agent product is right for you.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.