June 18, 2024

7 Better USENET Readers for Linux

A photograph of a laptop on top of a wooden desk.

USENET is a massively decentralized information distribution system. It was first developed in the early 1980s and grew to become one of the largest messaging networks in the world. At its peak, USENET facilitated over 100,000 newsgroups that discussed just about anything.

Because of the decentralized nature of USENET, there are multiple ways of accessing the network. One such way is through Google Groups. While that may appeal to some, others may prefer one of these Linux USENET readers.

The Best Linux USENET Readers

Availability Interface Memory Consumption Overall Security
Mozilla Thunderbird Available in most Linux distros. GUI-based Consumes around 365 MB on idle. Supports both PGP and SSL.
Claws Mail Available in most Linux distros. GUI-based Consumes around 85 MB on idle. Supports both PGP and SSL.
SeaMonkey Not available in Debian and Ubuntu. GUI-based Consumes around 300 MB on idle. Supports both PGP and SSL.
Pan Available in most Linux distros. GUI-based Consumes around 74 MB on idle. Supports both PGP and SSL.
TIN Available in most Linux distros. CLI-based Consumes around 40 MB on idle. Supports both PGP and SSL.
slrn Available in most Linux distros. CLI-based Consumes around 31 MB on idle. Supports SSL/TLS.
Alpine Available in most Linux distros. CLI-based Consumes around 26 MB on idle. Supports SSL/TLS.

1. Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird is a great client for browsing USENET. The application already allows you to read your email and RSS feeds offline; however, it can also be used to connect to a USENET server to fetch news posts.

A screenshot of Mozilla Thunderbird running with a single email account.

To install Thunderbird in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

sudo apt install thunderbird

For Fedora, use dnf:

sudo dnf install thunderbird

To enable USENET in Thunderbird, go to the Options menu and click the Account Settings option.

A screenshot highlighting the

Click Account Actions -> Add Newsgroup Account.

A screenshot highlighting the

Provide your name and the email address where people can reach you.

A screenshot showing a sample identity for the newsgroup account in Thunderbird.

Type the address of the USENET server you want to connect to. In my case, I am connecting through Eternal September.

A screenshot showing the address for the USENET provider in Thunderbird.

Click Next to finish the wizard. This will create a server entry in Thunderbird and provide a page where you can manage your USENET subscriptions.

Good to know: learn some of the best email clients for Linux.

2. Claws Mail

Similar to Thunderbird, Claws Mail is a graphical email client that can also read newsgroups. One advantage of Claws over Thunderbird is that it is extremely lightweight, so you can run it on any computer as long as it supports a graphical screen.

A screenshot showing a working session of Claws Mail.

To install Claws Mail in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

sudo apt install claws-mail

In Fedora, use dnf:

sudo dnf install claws-mail

To add a USENET server to Claws Mail, click Configuration in the menu bar, then Create New Account.

A screenshot highlighting the

Click the Protocol drop-down list and select News (NNTP).

A screenshot highlighting the

Tick the This server requires authentication textbox, then provide the details of your USENET provider along with your username and password.

A screenshot highlighting the USENET provider's details as well as the user's account details.

Click OK to apply your new settings. You can now browse for newsgroups by right-clicking the news (nntp) folder in the Server List and selecting Subscribe to Newsgroup.

3. SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey is a powerful “all-in-one” internet suite for Linux. Just like with Thunderbird and Claws Mail, SeaMonkey provides a newsgroup browsing experience that’s tightly integrated with its other internet-oriented features. This makes it attractive to users who want a single program for all their online activities.

A screenshot showing the SeaMonkey internet suite working.

To install SeaMonkey on Debian and Ubuntu, download its binary from the developer’s website.

For Fedora, you can use dnf:

sudo dnf install seamonkey

To start using SeaMonkey with USENET, click Mail icon on the program’s bottom bar.

A screenshot highlighting the "Mail" module on the SeaMonkey browser's lower left corner.

Click the Create a new account link on the page’s home menu.

Select Newsgroup account, then click Next.

A screenshot highlighting the

Provide your name and your email address, then click Next.

Type the address of your USENET provider, then press Next. In my case, I’m connecting to Eternal September.

A screenshot highlighting the USENET provider's address in SeaMonkey.

Click Next, then Finish to save your provider’s credentials.

Select your USENET account on SeaMonkey’s left panel, then click View settings for this account.

A screenshot highlighting the account settings menu in SeaMonkey.

Click Server Settings, then change the value of the Connection Security dropdown box from “none” to “SSL/TLS.”

Tap the Always request authentication when connecting to this server checkbox, then click OK to save your settings.

A screenshot highlighting the security options for SeaMonkey.

Confirm that the program is working properly by clicking Manage Subscriptions, then Refresh on your SeaMonkey account’s page.

4. Pan

Unlike Thunderbird, Claws Mail and SeaMonkey, Pan is a dedicated graphical newsreader for Linux. Because of that, Pan comes with USENET-only features, such as post queuing, article header caching, and scorefiles. These features make Pan a more attractive option for someone who wants to have an easy-to-use newsreader.

A screenshot showing the Pan reader working.

To install Pan in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

In Fedora, use dnf:

To add a USENET server to Pan, open the program then provide the address of your USENET provider as well as the username and password of your account.

A screenshot showing the default server details window for Pan.

Note: It may take a while to fully initialize Pan after providing your info. This is because Pan will download all of the newsgroups from your service before listing it to you.

Subscribe to a newsgroup by right clicking on a group and selecting Subscribe in the context menu.

A screenshot highlighting the newsgroup

FYI: learn how you can use access USENET in Emacs with Gnus.

5. TIN

TIN is one of the most lightweight terminal-based USENET readers for Linux. It supports both remote (NNTP) and locally (/var/spool) sourced newsgroups.

A terminal showing TIN loading two newsgroups.

TIN also supports article threading, scorefiles, and the ability to use your favorite text editor to send messages. TIN is, therefore, useful for people who are more comfortable with terminal-based applications.

To install TIN in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

In Fedora, use dnf:

To start using TIN, create the “.newsrc” file using your favorite text editor:

Paste the following line of code to subscribe to a couple of the currently active USENET newsgroups:

news.announce.important:
comp.os.linux.misc:
A terminal showing two sample newsgroup subscriptions for TIN.

Note: You can also block certain newsgroups from showing on the reader by replacing the colon (:) symbol with an exclamation mark (!).

Create the authentication file for your TIN client. This is important if you’re connecting to USENET providers that require a username and password:

Paste the following inside your authentication file:

your.usenet.provider.com YOUR-PASSWORD YOUR-USERNAME

Replace the first argument with the address of your USENET provider. In my case, I’m using Eternal September.

A terminal with a highlight on the USENET provider's address.

Replace the second and third arguments with your account’s password and username.

A terminal with a highlight on the user's credentials on the USENET provider's server.

Save your authentication file, then run the following command to secure its permission bits:

With that done, you can now connect to USENET with TIN by running the following:

tin -Ar -g your.usenet.provider.com

6. slrn

Similar to TIN, slrn is a terminal-based newsreader that also supports article threading, scorefiles, and using your favorite text editor to write your posts. However, unlike TIN, slrn automatically generates your .newsrc file and provides you with all the newsgroups that your USENET provider hosts.

A terminal showing slrn running with five sample newsgroup subscriptions.

Further, slrn also has its own configuration file, allowing you to further customize and configure its behavior. This makes it one of the most flexible USENET readers available for Linux.

To install slrn in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

For Fedora, use dnf:

To start using slrn, copy the “.slrnrc” file from the program’s installation directory:

cp /usr/share/doc/slrn/examples/slrn.rc.gz ~/
gunzip -c ~/slrn.rc.gz > ~/.slrnrc

Open your local copy of the “.slrnrc” file using your favorite text editor, then look for the line that starts with set username. In GNU Nano, you can do that by pressing Ctrl + W, then typing “set username.”

Remove the “%” sign at the beginning of the line, then set the value of the username variable with the username of your email address.

Change the value of the hostname variable to the domain of your email address.

Replace the realname variable with the name that you want to display on the client.

A terminal with a highlight on the user's personal details for slrn.

Find the line that starts with “%nnrpaccess”, then replace the first argument with the address of your USENET provider.

A terminal with a highlight in the nnrp variable for slrn's config file.

Replace the second and third arguments with your username and password for your provider.

A terminal with a highlight in the user's credentials under the nnrp variable in slrn.

Save your “.slrnrc” file, then run the following commands to set slrn’s default USENET provider:

NNTPSERVER=your.usenet.provider.com
export NNTPSERVER

Generate the “.newsrc” file for slrn:

slrn -f ~/.jnewsrc --create

Lastly, subscribe to your newsgroups by pressing L to search for your particular group, then pressing S to subscribe to it.

7. Alpine

Alpine is an easy-to-use terminal-based email and USENET reader for Linux. Originally a fork of the Pine client, it provides a clean and simple way of accessing emails and news posts straight from the command line.

A terminal showing the Alpine client working and loading newsgroup messages.

One of the key selling points of Alpine is that it comes with its own configuration menu and it doesn’t need to create any additional configuration files after your install it. This makes it handy for users who want to use a terminal-based newsreader but find the configuration process fiddly and tedious.

To install Alpine in Debian and Ubuntu, use apt:

In Fedora, use dnf:

To get started with Alpine, create a “.newsrc” file using your favorite text editor:

Paste the following lines of code to your “.newsrc” file:

news.announce.important:
comp.os.linux.misc:

Save your “.newsrc” file, then run the following command to open Alpine on the current terminal session:

Inside, press S, then C. This will bring you to Alpine’s built-in configuration menu.

A terminal showing the default Alpine configuration screen.

Scroll down to the line that starts with “NNTP Server”, press Enter then type the address of your USENET provider.

A terminal showing a highlight of the NNTP Server variable for Alpine.

Press E, then Y to save your current configuration and go back to Alpine’s main menu.

Check if Alpine can connect to your USENET provider by pressing L, then selecting your USENET server on the app’s folder index.

A terminal showing a highlight of the Eternal September server in Alpine.

Exploring some of the best USENET readers in Linux is just the first step in using this wonderful system. Learn just what this OS can do for you by checking out the best free software for Linux.

Image credit: Anomaly via Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Red.

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Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

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