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"Pan Newsreader for Linux" 
  11/15/2001

One of the problems that Linux has had attracting users to the OS is the inability to offer applications that were as easy to use as their Windows and Mac counterparts. This is not an argument against Linux, it’s just that most users (and especially beginners) want to just turn their machines on and use them. They often lack the insight or desire to study or learn command line applications or those with GUI’s that are obviously designed as after thoughts. This is not the case with all Linux applications as there are many that are arguably easier to use than those offered on competitive OS’s. Unfortunately, newsreaders are one area that is lacking although there are several very good offerings including Pan, perhaps the best of the available Linux newsreaders.

Most Windows users that are new to Linux are used to newsreaders like Forte Free Agent. This is a tough act to follow as it offers everything that a newsreader should. It’s standards compliant, offers a comprehensive list of features and works as advertised. It is free and doesn’t offer everything that the commercial version does but it is more than adequate for most users. When the typical user switches over to Linux, instead of fighting to learn a completely new way of using the Usenet, they can simply use Pan.

First, Pan resembles Free Agent in its GUI. When opened, you have three panes that are used for various activities. One is used for a list of newsgroups, one is a message list and the last is the messages themselves. You can change the interface, but the standard one works very nicely. The interface is very nice, but is certainly not the only feature worth mentioning. Like Free Agent, it is very stable. This might be its most important feature. After all, if an application offers every feature imaginable and crashes often, it wouldn’t be very beneficial.

Pan offers the ability to do all of the basic things that you need like downloading headers, or if you prefer, headers and body. If you wish to hide messages that have been read, Pan allows you to do so. Additioanlly, if you are searching for a particular newsgroup, Pan lets you search them with wildcards. For instance, if you are trying to locate a newsgroup with MP3’s, you can search for “mp3" or if you are looking for groups related to the National Football League, you can do a search for “nfl". Perhaps it best function is the ability to hide messages that are from individuals that frequent your favorite groups with SPAM. IF you don’t want to see the messages from “SPAM MAN", or messages with “*****" you can filter them so that they are not displayed.

For binary decoding, Pan more than holds its own. You can save files with a simple right click or view bitmaps inline. You can mark entire groups of related messages so that you can save all of the binaries or join a file that was split into multiple files for posting. Multiple connections are also supported, so articles can be read while binaries are downloading.

According to the Pan website (http://pan.rebelbase.com) it is loosely based on Agent and Gravity. This allows users that are already familiar with these excellent newsreaders to use Linux in a similarly productive manner. It offers all the typical features found in newsreaders in a very stable and effiecient package. It is an excellent solution for anyone using Linux.

 - by Clayton Crooks

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