A newsreader makes it possible to navigate the thousands of newsgroups available via the Usenet service offered as part of the Internet. These programs operate similarly to some very familiar pieces of software but use an entirely different protocol to perform their functions.
They come in various types, some of which allow for advanced features like the previewing of images in posts and some which are simple, text-based devices used to scan only conversations. They are usually used along with other software to make it easy to navigate and use the service.
A newsreader will look something like a hybrid between one's email program and an online discussion forum. The articles will be threaded together by subject and the user can page through them on the interface as they would on their email program.
They provide an easy way to access the sometimes voluminous content found on newsgroups because of their organization scheme. The entire Usenet system, in fact, is based on the sensible hierarchical categorizing of information and is one of the easiest systems to use for online conversations.
Newsreader software is available in free and paid types. There are versions available for all operating system platforms, including rarer operating systems such as Linux and UNIX. The simple text readers are by far the fastest but are only truly useful for those who wish to only read text posts and do little else.
For those who wish to leverage the true power of the Usenet system, one must have a more complex reader which can avail the user of features which will cut down on time, effort and increase the productivity of the time spent browsing the various newsgroups.
Many newsreader software packages can allow a user to preview attachments added to posts before they download.
Pictures, for example, can be viewed right in the software's window instead of having to be downloaded and opened.
Others are sophisticated enough to interface with other software on a user's computer, allowing audio files to be opened directly in one's MP3 or other music file player, for instance. These larger programs do consume more resources but their needs are still very light compared to other types of software used for similar purposes. Most will run quickly and efficiently on just about any computer, even older models.
Newsreader software will also allow users to subscribe to specific newsgroups. Given the thousands available, there are certainly going to be many which are of no real interest to a given user. The subscription set up means that the newsreader will download all new posts from the desired group and ignore the others.
These software products are also capable of indentifying duplicate postings and eliminating them from the download process, further saving time. Depending on one's usage requirements, they may be able to get by with a very simple reader to start with and, as they come to use the system more and more, choose a more powerful software for their needs.