Agent News Bulletin

21-October-2004

Agent 2.1 Preview

As we get closer to the release of Agent 2.1, we want to give the Agent Community a preview of the new features.

Multiple News Servers

From a single instance of Agent, you will have access to multiple Usenet servers including free servers such as your ISP or premium news servers such as Agent Usenet.

You can also access private news servers that are independent of the public Usenet. Private servers are hosted by corporations and other organizations to provide product support and organization-related discussion groups.

To easily work with multiple servers, Agent 3.0 introduces a new interface called the Group Directory. This interface provides powerful search tools so you can quickly find groups that contain keywords such as "honda OR toyota" or "java*".

The Group Directory is also the window where you subscribe to newsgroups and organize them into folders and desktops.

Task Management

To better utilize multiple news servers, we completely rewrote the Task Manager that carries out Agent's online operations.

For example, Agent will create a background task whenever you Get Marked Messages. But, instead of creating one task for all marked messages, Agent 3.0 creates a separate task per newsgroup. Priority tasks such as Get Selected Bodies creates a separate task every time.

Smaller, granular tasks allow for better multi-tasking and finer control when you want to pause or cancel a task.

In Agent 3.0, you can modify tasks directly from the message browser (e.g., unmarking one or more messages to cancel their retrieval) or through Agent's new Task Monitoring window (e.g., pausing header retrieval for one or more groups).

Updating the list of groups in the Group Directory, retrieving message headers, and retrieving POP email are all run and managed as separate tasks.

Agent 3.0's Task Manager is extremely fault tolerant. When the Task Manager encounters a problem such as a server disconnect or network time-out, it will continually attempt to retry the task until told to stop.

The Task Monitor has separate tabs for Active Tasks, Completed Tasks, and Errors. Now it's easy to run Agent overnight and see if there were any errors the next day.

Multiple Connections to News Servers

Agent will open multiple, simultaneous connections to each news server to improve download throughput. Some news services (especially free services) control usage by capping the bandwidth of each connection, while other services allow multiple connections to improve multi-tasking.

Agent 3.0 lets you control how connections are allocated between background and priority tasks. For example, if a server allows 4 simultaneous connections, you can reserve 1 of those connections for priority tasks such as Get Selected Messages. If there are no background tasks such as Get Marked Messages in the task queue, all 4 connections are available for priority tasks.

Multiple Desktops

Agent's Group Pane has been redesigned to provide a richer layout for managing and navigating email and news folders. These enhancements will satisfy users who have requested multiple subscription lists and nested folders.

You can define as many "desks" as you like and assign folders to the desks. Each folder can reside on more than one desk. For example, you might create one desk for reading and another desk for filing or searching. There are many possibilities.

Within a desktop, you can organize the folders in any order. In the example screen shot, the folders in the "Email" desktop are organized in priority order. This capability gives you better control of Agent's "single space read" capability.

Desktops are a convenient way to perform an operation for several folders at the same time. For example, you can use a single menu command to perform a Get Headers or Get Marked Messages operation for all the newsgroups in a given desktop.

Folders can also be renamed. For example, the folder containing the newsgroup, "alt.usenet.offline-reader.forte-agent" was renamed to "auorfa".

Virtual Newsgroups

Create "virtual" newsgroups that combine Usenet feeds from several news servers. With each virtual newsgroup, you have total control over how Agent retrieves and posts. For different groups, you might use a different sequence of servers. If a message is missing on the first server, Agent can automatically find it on a different server in the sequence.

Estimated Time to Beta

We plan to begin Agent 2.1 beta testing in the current quarter. We added more features (e.g., multiple connections and multiple desktops) to Agent 2.1 than originally proposed, which delayed the start of beta testing. However, these features are crucial to the usability of multiple news servers and add significant value for all Agent users.

Regards,

The Forté Team

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