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Gravity Quick Start Guide

Document History
Edited by Tom B Aug 10, 2002 Removed dead links and invalid material
Version Two March 6, 1999 More content in the view filter section
Version One January 19, 1999 Document created.

Overview

This document is designed to provide a single document to get you over the hump, particularly if you used a different newsreader in the past.  It is a supplement for the online help, but is certainly not a replacement.  While the FAQ is mostly designed to help you diagnose problems after they occur, new users will derive benefit from glancing at this guide prior to getting started with Gravity.  This document will be updated on an ongoing basis.


Viewing Images

Images are usually encoded during posting in one of two formats (UUENCODING, MIME encoding) and may be broken into a series of individual articles to keep them small.  Viewing an image involves retrieving all of the parts, decoding them (translating them from the text-based encoded form into the proper image format), and showing them in a viewer.

What to do:

In all cases, if the image is broken into more than one article, Gravity will automatically fetch all parts to assemble.

Use the Image Factory (Ctrl+I) to view the list of articles waiting to be fetched and decoded, to re-order that list, or to see what items have been completed during the session.

Use the Image Gallery to view decoded binaries and to file them away to other directories.

You probably want to disable the Image Gallery option to "Auto-display when Gravity launches an image."  If the option is enabled, then the Image Gallery will pop up for each item that is decoded, which is quite annoying if that is not what you want.

Please note that there are two views in the Image Gallery - all images and those decoded during this Gravity session.  You can toggle between the two views using the This Session Only toolbar button.

What not to do:

You do not need to use rules to decode and view binaries (although they can be used to do this).  For example, if you manually run the Decode Binaries Rule on a newsgroup, the rule will be applied to every article in the newsgroup.  This will cause all articles to be queued up to be fetched and decoded.  If you do this inadvertently, use the Image Factory to remove all queued items by using Select All on the queued jobs and Delete to delete them.

Do not enable the "Decode Binary Rule" unless you intend for all binaries to be fetched and decoded.

Do not disable the Global Options/Decoding/Resume Decoding after a connection is established.  Disabling this option will cause the Image Factory to pause whenever an article cannot be fetched (such as when you go offline).  To restart the factory, you have to click Resume.  Leave the option enabled - trust us.


Newsgroups

The news server provided by your ISP probably has thousands of groups.  No one can keep up with every newsgroup, so you must make a list of the groups you want to read.   Use Newsgroup/Subscribe (Ctrl+B) to pick the groups you will keep up with.


Retrieving Headers and Article Bodies

It is often helpful to understand what happens during header retrieval.  The phases of header retrieval are as follows:

  1. Purge the group according to either global or newsgroup purging definitions.
  2. Get the headers according to the most recently updated server information.  This is performed during the "Update Server Counts" phase that either runs automatically if configured or can be done manually.  The fields normally retrieved includes Subject, Posting Date and Time, Line Count, Article Number, and Author, and References (message-ids of the article that the article as a follow-up to).
  3. Get the cross references (XREF) if doing cross-post management (optional)
  4. Get the list of article numbers currently available in the group so that expiration can be performed.  This can be turned off by disabling Server/Properties/Operation/Verify Local Headers.
  5. Remove expired articles from the thread pane if Verify Local Headers is enabled.
  6. Apply Scoring
  7. Apply Rules

After retrieving headers, you can scan through the list to see what articles you want to read.  At this point Gravity only has the headers, but not the article bodies. When you double click in the Thread Pane, Gravity will retrieve the full text of the article and display it in the Article Pane.


Offline Reading

To read articles when you're not connected, you must first download the article bodies into Gravity database.  After all the article bodies have been downloaded, you can disconnect from the server.  When you read these articles, Gravity will fetch the full text of the article from the database on your local drive and won't need a connection to the news server.

What to do:


Working with Subscribed Groups

Most of the time you want Gravity to connect and automatically download new headers.   You can configure this by going to Server/Properties/Operation  and checking "Retrieve headers for subscribed groups upon connecting"

If you want to do this manually, use these keys:

To retrieve headers for specific groups:


Speedups

To minimize the time it takes to retrieve headers, you can configure Gravity to not download extra information. You will lose some features, but Gravity will download headers for newsgroups more quickly.

What to do:

Cross-post management
Cross-posting is what happens when an author posts the same message to several newsgroups at the same time. The article has one unique message-id, but appears in 2 or 3 different groups.  Gravity's cross-post management takes advantage of this.  If you read the article in one group, the article is treated as read in the other groups automatically.
Verify Local Headers
By default Gravity stores article headers in the database.  When your news server expires old articles, Gravity may have the article header, but the news server has expired the article.  To prevent Gravity from showing article headers for messages you can't read anyway, check this option.

Note that you can avoid seeing expired articles even if you have Verify Local Headers turned by setting up Gravity to  purge more frequently than the server expires articles.


Watch and Ignore

If you find that a thread contains an interesting conversation and you want to read everything in the thread, you can decide to watch the thread. Select one article in the thread and press [W].  Gravity will download the bodies for these articles.  Furthermore, in the future any follow-up articles that belong to the thread will be downloaded automatically.

If you have pressed [W] by mistake,  you can un-watch a thread by pressing [W] again.

Ignore does the opposite.  You decide that a thread contains useless information, and you don't want to see it.  Select one article in the thread and press [I].   Gravity will mark these articles as read and any follow up articles will be marked as read automatically.  Additionally, when you ignore a thread it is removed from the display right away.


Opening a second connection to the news server

If Gravity is busy downloading articles, you can still read individual articles.   By double-clicking on an article, Gravity will attempt to start a second connection to the news server and use it to fetch the article body. Since the first connection is busy downloading articles, this minimizes the time you have to wait  The activity on the second connection will show up as red on Gravity's status bar.


Scoring

Scoring is a way to assign a number value to an article.  You can access this by going to the Tools Menu / Scoring...  Basically you can assign scores to articles based on whether it contains a key phrase.

MicroPlanet suggests that you use scoring to emphasize the "good" articles that you want to read.  To accomplish this, there are two options you should configure.

Go to View / Global Options / Display  and change "Threads Display" to "Sort by score."  This will make the threads with the highest scores appear at the top of your screen.

Additionally, you might want to use the Tools / Score Colors ... dialog box to assign colors to different score ranges.  Since the standard colors don't work well as background colors, you will probably want to define some "softer" custom colors that provide better contrast with the text color.

If you want to find the individual articles that have the highest scores, you can click on the top of the Score column to sort the articles according to score.

Keys to Use

[S] - to add a score entry for the current group. Check Re-score current group  to re-score the entire group automatically (re-calculate the scores based on your new score entry).

Ctrl+Shift+G - display the main scoring window.  Use this to review what phrases are being scored in which groups and to perform periodic maintenance to remove unused scores..

Ctrl+Shift+I - use this to manually re-score all of the articles in the current group.

You can create groups in the main scoring dialog that contain wildcards.  For example, alt.binaries.* would represent all groups starting with alt.binaries.

Effective Use

Scoring is very powerful and combined with rules to simplify and speed your newsgroup reading.  For example:


Posting and Replying

Posting involves composing a new article and transmitting it to the news server.   While e-mail messages are sent to another person, all articles are posted to one or more newsgroups.

To Post a message

To Reply to the author via email

After you press the send button, Gravity will store the article in the Outbox (View / Outbox...) Every five seconds, Gravity will check if you are connected to the news server and if so, will send any waiting messages.  Once the message is sent successfully, the status of the message in the Outbox will change to a check mark.

Note that the outbox holds both your waiting messages as well as all your sent messages.  The Outbox holds both the articles you've posted to newsgroups, and the Replies you've sent to people.

Sending Errors

If the message is not sent successfully, the article will be marked with a red X in the Outbox window.  You can look at the Event Log (View / Event Log)  to find further information on the error.  It may be a transmission problem, or the article may have been transmitted properly, but the news server rejected the article.

Note that some servers reject an article if it has very little new content.  For example, if the majority of your post consists of quoted-text from a previous message, and only one line of new text, the server may reject the article.

If you believe that the article is OK, and you want to submit the article for posting again, use the Outbox window.  Select the article and click "Back to Editing".  This will show you a Posting window again. Click the Send button on the toolbar and the article will be marked as an outbound message again.

Cannot Post

Quoted Text

By default, Gravity will limit the amount of text that is automatically included in a follow up.  If you wish to change this, go to View / Global Options / Replying   and change the "Limit quoted text" setting.  If you uncheck the item, you will always include the entire message in your follow up.

As a convenience, Gravity has a feature called "selective follow up".   When you are reading an article, you can use the mouse to select one line or one paragraph of the text.  Then press the [F] key.  Gravity will quote the selected text and leave the rest behind.

To hide your true email address

Go to Server / Properties / Setup

Enter your  true email address under "email address".   This address will be used when you Reply to an article via email

Enter your fake email address under "Reply address for posts".  This address will be used when you Post or Follow-up to an article.

To use different email addresses in specific groups

Select the newsgroup and right-click to summon the popup menu.  Select Properties... and switch to the Overrides tab.  Check "Override E-mail address" and enter your email address.  Check "Override Full name" and enter your name.


Controlling what you see (View Filters)

Use Gravity's view filters to manage the headers you see on screen.  For example, suppose you have 100 headers in your newsgroup and you have read 75 of those articles.   If the "Unread Articles" filter is active, Gravity will filter out the read articles and your screen should show the 25 article headers that are unread.   Note that all 100 headers are still in your database, but Gravity is only showing 25.  If you switch back to the "All Articles" filter, you will again see everything.

Custom View Filters

Starting with Gravity 2.1, a view filter controls both which articles are displayed, and also how the articles appear on screen.  A filter may be set to display unread articles, but it can also control whether the articles are threaded into conversations or not.   If the articles are not threaded, they can be sorted by From, Subject, Lines, Date or Score.

Each newsgroup can be linked to its own view filter.  Use the small "chain-link" icon found on the filter bar to link a filter to a group.  The end result is that every newsgroup can have its own customized way to arrange articles.  For rec.pets.cats, you would probably want to use a threaded view.  For alt.binaries.pictures.supermodels, you might want to use a view that puts the largest line counts first.

View Filter Summary


Using Zoom

You can use the [Z] key to zoom any pane.   While zoomed you can still use the Tab key to switch to different panes.

Try this:

As you can see, the ESC key returns you to the previous level.


Rules

Rules are an advanced feature that allows you to program Gravity.  Rules have 3 parts

  1. The newsgroups that the rule will operate on
  2. The condition that will trigger the rule
  3. The rule action.

For instance, suppose you want to automatically decode every article that has more than 1000 lines, and you only want to do this for the newsgroup alt.binaries.pictures.animals.   You must have already subscribed to the newsgroup using Ctrl+B

Create the Rule

  1. Go to Tools / Rules...
  2. click the Add button
  3. enter a name for the Rule.  e.g. "Decodes big articles"

Specify the target newsgroups

  1. Go to the General Tab
  2. switch to "Rule applies to specific newsgroups"
  3. use the buttons to select alt.binaries.pictures.animals

Specify the condition

  1. Switch to the Conditions Tab
  2. configure Article has more than 1000 lines
  3. click the "Add Condition" button

Specify the action

  1. Check Decode article(s)
  2. Click OK

At this point the main Rule dialog should display your new rule.  Enable the rule by selecting it and clicking the "Enable/Disable" button.

When do Rules run?

If a rule is disabled, the rule runs only when you apply it manually.  You can do this either with the dockable rule toolbar (rule bar), or with "Tools / Apply a Rule Manually.."

If a rule is enabled, the rule automatically test each header as Gravity fetches them from the server.  Rules that have body conditions are tested when the body arrives from the server.

How do I find the articles that are less than 1000 lines?

Use the NOT button to create your rule condition

Not
lines > 999

Important facts about running rules manually


Glossary

Image Gallery

Ctrl+G The Image Gallery is an application that you use to view and organize images.  You can view either whole images or thumbnails of them.  You can also restrict the view to only those items decoded since you started Gravity.
Image Factory Ctrl+I The Image Factory shows:
  • articles waiting to be decoded (or viewed)
  • the current decode job being processed
  • articles that have already been processed

You can remove or re-order decode jobs in the Image Factory.

Rule Bar Use the rule bar to quickly run a specific rule.
Filter Bar Use the filter bar to change what is being displayed in the Thread Pane.
Outbox Bar Use the Outbox bar to view the outbox, which contains items that are waiting to be sent, and items that have already been sent.
Thread Pane The Thread Pane displays articles headers.  The items are either displayed in a threaded manner (indicating the relationship between articles), or sorted by a specific column.  How the thread pane is displayed is governed by the currently selected View Filter.
Newsgroup Pane The Newsgroup Pane displays the list of subscribed newsgroups.  Next to each newsgroup is the number of unread articles that you have already retrieved and the number of unread articles at the server that you have not yet retrieved.
Article Pane The Article Pane is used to display the contents of a single article.

Getting Support

Many questions can be answered by simple perusal of the Help file.  In our experience, most users never use the Find tab within the Help system.  That's a shame, since most information can be located via this method.  Keep in mind that the Index tab only contains words and phrases that the Help author has added to the Index, whereas all words and phrases can be searched for using Find.

Two newsgroups that are read by knowledgeable Gravity users include::

If you have tried help and USENET, check the FAQ

Occasionally the best way to illustrate a problem you are having is to create a trace log of the communication between the news server and Gravity.  The FAQ has instructions about how to do this.


Miscellaneous

Q: What are Keep Alive messages?

A: Many news servers are configured to drop inactive connections.  To prevent being dropped Gravity will periodically send some commands to the news server.  This will generate some traffic and hopefully keep your line from being dropped.

Q: What does "update server counts" do?

A: Update server counts checks your server to see how many new articles have appeared in each of your subscribed newsgroups.

Q: After I read an article how do I mark it as unread again?

A: Select the article and use Ctrl+U

Q: How do I keep an article from being purged?

A: You should make sure you have downloaded the article body.  Use Ctrl+P to mark the article as protected.

Q: What does toggle full headers do?

You can configure Gravity to display just the header fields you want.   By default you see the Author, Subject, Date, Newsgroups and the Article Body.   If you use the [H] key, you will see the entire header for the article.  Turn this off by pressing the [H] key again.