Old-School Secret: Delve Into Usenet With GrabIt

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Usenet is the ultimate discussion board, orders of magnitude larger than the largest Internet forum, and includes petabytes of binary files. Unfortunately it can be daunting to new users. Most newsreaders are clogged with arcane and confusing features, unnecessary to all but the most advanced users. If Usenet's complexity has scared you away in the past, you may want to give it another go with GrabIt. It is a great, free newsreader that will appeal to Usenet newbies.

GrabIt screenshot
GrabIt may stand out for its binary capabilities, but it's also fully functional for reading articles.

GrabIt's interface is simple and comprehensible, with large visible buttons for the most basic functions. There are other newsreaders, such as Xnews and Agent, which provide similarly accessible ways to read articles. But GrabIt's handling of binary files is what really sets it apart, especially from other freeware--only paid programs such as Newsleecher and NewsBin Pro can compare. Getting files from Usenet is considerably more difficult than from P2P programs. Large files must be split over multiple posts due to technical limitations, so getting all the data and recombining it back into a usable file can be tricky. The process involves finding all the posts, downloading and decoding them, then extracting from a multivolume archive. To complicate matters more, parts are often missing, requiring the use of repair files (*.par2) to replace the data. Luckily GrabIt automates this process. It supports *.nzb files, which list the locations of all the posts containing parts of a desired binary file. Given a *.nzb, GrabIt will do all the downloading, decoding, repairing, and extracting, and leave you with a nice neat file ready to use.

Despite its simplicity, GrabIt has enough features to satisfy intermediate users. GrabIt supports multiple servers, concurrent server connections, and SSL encryption. You can tweak advanced settings such as article cache size and error handling in the preferences window, hidden from the main interface.

While the program itself is free, GrabIt does offer a paid subscription service which allows you to search articles without downloading bandwidth-consuming headers. The program functions fully without this subscription, so feel free to ignore it. Usenet veterans may prefer a more nitty-gritty (and probably more expensive) program, but GrabIt is perfect for basic, robust functionality.

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