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8. Various

8.1 Process/Prefix  A convention used by many treatment commands.
8.2 Interactive  Making Gnus ask you many questions.
8.3 Formatting Variables  You can specify what buffers should look like.
8.4 Windows Configuration  Configuring the Gnus buffer windows.
8.5 Compilation  How to speed Gnus up.
8.6 Mode Lines  Displaying information in the mode lines.
8.7 Highlighting and Menus  Making buffers look all nice and cozy.
8.8 Buttons  Get tendonitis in ten easy steps!
8.9 Daemons  Gnus can do things behind your back.
8.10 NoCeM  How to avoid spam and other fatty foods.
8.11 Picons  How to display pictures of what your reading.
8.12 Various Various  Things that are really various.

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8.1 Process/Prefix

Many functions, among them functions for moving, decoding and saving articles, use what is known as the Process/Prefix convention.

This is a method for figuring out what articles that the user wants the command to be performed on.

It goes like this:

If the numeric prefix is N, perform the operation on the next N articles, starting with the current one. If the numeric prefix is negative, perform the operation on the previous N articles, starting with the current one.

If transient-mark-mode in non-nil and the region is active, all articles in the region will be worked upon.

If there is no numeric prefix, but some articles are marked with the process mark, perform the operation on the articles that are marked with the process mark.

If there is neither a numeric prefix nor any articles marked with the process mark, just perform the operation on the current article.

Quite simple, really, but it needs to be made clear so that surprises are avoided.

One thing that seems to shock & horrify lots of people is that, for instance, 3 d does exactly the same as d d d. Since each d (which marks the current article as read) by default goes to the next unread article after marking, this means that 3 d will mark the next three unread articles as read, no matter what the summary buffer looks like. Set gnus-summary-goto-unread to nil for a more straightforward action.

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8.2 Interactive

If this variable is non-nil, you are either a newcomer to the World of Usenet, or you are very cautious, which is a nice thing to be, really. You will be given questions of the type "Are you sure you want to do this?" before doing anything dangerous. This is t by default.

If this variable is non-nil, you will never ever be asked any questions by Gnus. It will simply assume you know what you're doing, no matter how strange.

Require confirmation before catching up a group if non-nil. It is t by default.

Require confirmation before exiting Gnus. This variable is t by default.

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8.3 Formatting Variables

Throughout this manual you've probably noticed lots of variables that are called things like gnus-group-line-format and gnus-summary-mode-line-format. These control how Gnus is to output lines in the various buffers. There's quite a lot of them. Fortunately, they all use the same syntax, so there's not that much to be annoyed by.

Here's an example format spec (from the group buffer): `%M%S%5y: %(%g%)\n'. We see that it is indeed extremely ugly, and that there are lots of percentages everywhere.

Each `%' element will be replaced by some string or other when the buffer in question is generated. `%5y' means "insert the `y' spec, and pad with spaces to get a 5-character field". Just like a normal format spec, almost.

You can also say `%6,4y', which means that the field will never be more than 6 characters wide and never less than 4 characters wide.

There are also specs for highlighting, and these are shared by all the format variables. Text inside the `%(' and `%)' specifiers will get the special mouse-face property set, which means that it will be highlighted (with gnus-mouse-face) when you put the mouse pointer over it.

Text inside the `%[' and `%]' specifiers will have their normal faces set using gnus-face-0, which is bold by default. If you say `%1[' instead, you'll get gnus-face-1 instead, and so on. Create as many faces as you wish. The same goes for the mouse-face specs--you can say `%3(hello%)' to have `hello' mouse-highlighted with gnus-mouse-face-3.

Here's an alternative recipe for the group buffer:

;; Create three face types.
(setq gnus-face-1 'bold)
(setq gnus-face-3 'italic)

;; We want the article count to be in 
;; a bold and green face.  So we create 
;; a new face called `my-green-bold'.
(copy-face 'bold 'my-green-bold)
;; Set the color.
(set-face-foreground 'my-green-bold "ForestGreen")
(setq gnus-face-2 'my-green-bold)

;; Set the new & fancy format.
(setq gnus-group-line-format 
      "%M%S%3{%5y%}%2[:%] %(%1{%g%}%)\n")

I'm sure you'll be able to use this scheme to create totally unreadable and extremely vulgar displays. Have fun!

Currently Gnus uses the following formatting variables: gnus-group-line-format, gnus-summary-line-format, gnus-server-line-format, gnus-topic-line-format, gnus-group-mode-line-format, gnus-summary-mode-line-format, gnus-article-mode-line-format, gnus-server-mode-line-format.

Note that the `%(' specs (and friends) do not make any sense on the mode-line variables.

All these format variables can also be arbitrary elisp forms. In that case, they will be evaled to insert the required lines.

Gnus includes a command to help you while creating your own format specs. M-x gnus-update-format will eval the current form, update the spec in question and pop you to a buffer where you can examine the resulting lisp code to be run to generate the line.

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8.4 Windows Configuration

No, there's nothing here about X, so be quiet.

If gnus-use-full-window non-nil, Gnus will delete all other windows and occupy the entire Emacs screen by itself. It is t by default.

gnus-buffer-configuration describes how much space each Gnus buffer should be given. Here's an excerpt of this variable:

((group (vertical 1.0 (group 1.0 point)
                      (if gnus-carpal (group-carpal 4))))
 (article (vertical 1.0 (summary 0.25 point) 
                        (article 1.0))))

This is an alist. The key is a symbol that names some action or other. For instance, when displaying the group buffer, the window configuration function will use group as the key. A full list of possible names is listed below.

The value (i. e., the split) says how much space each buffer should occupy. To take the article split as an example -

(article (vertical 1.0 (summary 0.25 point)
                       (article 1.0)))

This split says that the summary buffer should occupy 25% of upper half of the screen, and that it is placed over the article buffer. As you may have noticed, 100% + 25% is actually 125% (yup, I saw y'all reaching for that calculator there). However, the special number 1.0 is used to signal that this buffer should soak up all the rest of the space available after the rest of the buffers have taken whatever they need. There should be only one buffer with the 1.0 size spec per split.

Point will be put in the buffer that has the optional third element point.

Here's a more complicated example:

(article (vertical 1.0 (group 4)
                       (summary 0.25 point)
                       (if gnus-carpal (summary-carpal 4))
                       (article 1.0)))

If the size spec is an integer instead of a floating point number, then that number will be used to say how many lines a buffer should occupy, not a percentage.

If the split looks like something that can be evaled (to be precise--if the car of the split is a function or a subr), this split will be evaled. If the result is non-nil, it will be used as a split. This means that there will be three buffers if gnus-carpal is nil, and four buffers if gnus-carpal is non-nil.

Not complicated enough for you? Well, try this on for size:

(article (horizontal 1.0 
             (vertical 0.5
                 (group 1.0)
                 (gnus-carpal 4))
             (vertical 1.0
                 (summary 0.25 point)
                 (summary-carpal 4)
                 (article 1.0))))

Whoops. Two buffers with the mystery 100% tag. And what's that horizontal thingie?

If the first element in one of the split is horizontal, Gnus will split the window horizontally, giving you two windows side-by-side. Inside each of these strips you may carry on all you like in the normal fashion. The number following horizontal says what percentage of the screen is to be given to this strip.

For each split, there must be one element that has the 100% tag. The splitting is never accurate, and this buffer will eat any leftover lines from the splits.

To be slightly more formal, here's a definition of what a legal split may look like:

split       = frame | horizontal | vertical | buffer | form
frame       = "(frame " size *split ")"
horizontal  = "(horizontal " size *split ")"
vertical    = "(vertical " size *split ")"
buffer      = "(" buffer-name " " size *[ "point" ] ")"
size        = number | frame-params
buffer-name = group | article | summary ...

The limitations are that the frame split can only appear as the top-level split. form should be an Emacs Lisp form that should return a valid split. We see that each split is fully recursive, and may contain any number of vertical and horizontal splits.

Finding the right sizes can be a bit complicated. No window may be less than gnus-window-min-height (default 2) characters high, and all windows must be at least gnus-window-min-width (default 1) characters wide. Gnus will try to enforce this before applying the splits. If you want to use the normal Emacs window width/height limit, you can just set these two variables to nil.

If you're not familiar with Emacs terminology, horizontal and vertical splits may work the opposite way of what you'd expect. Windows inside a horizontal split are shown side-by-side, and windows within a vertical split are shown above each other.

If you want to experiment with window placement, a good tip is to call gnus-configure-frame directly with a split. This is the function that does all the real work when splitting buffers. Below is a pretty nonsensical configuration with 5 windows; two for the group buffer and three for the article buffer. (I said it was nonsensical.) If you eval the statement below, you can get an idea of how that would look straight away, without going through the normal Gnus channels. Play with it until you're satisfied, and then use gnus-add-configuration to add your new creation to the buffer configuration list.

 '(horizontal 1.0
    (vertical 10
      (group 1.0)
      (article 0.3 point))
    (vertical 1.0
      (article 1.0)
      (horizontal 4
        (group 1.0)
        (article 10)))))

You might want to have several frames as well. No prob--just use the frame split:

 '(frame 1.0
         (vertical 1.0
                   (summary 0.25 point)
                   (article 1.0))
         (vertical ((height . 5) (width . 15)
                    (user-position . t)
                    (left . -1) (top . 1))
                   (picon 1.0))))

This split will result in the familiar summary/article window configuration in the first (or "main") frame, while a small additional frame will be created where picons will be shown. As you can see, instead of the normal 1.0 top-level spec, each additional split should have a frame parameter alist as the size spec. See section `Frame Parameters' in The GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual.

Here's a list of all possible keys for gnus-buffer-configuration:

group, summary, article, server, browse, group-mail, summary-mail, summary-reply, info, summary-faq, edit-group, edit-server, reply, reply-yank, followup, followup-yank, edit-score.

Since the gnus-buffer-configuration variable is so long and complicated, there's a function you can use to ease changing the config of a single setting: gnus-add-configuration. If, for instance, you want to change the article setting, you could say:

 '(article (vertical 1.0
               (group 4)
               (summary .25 point)
               (article 1.0))))

You'd typically stick these gnus-add-configuration calls in your `.gnus' file or in some startup hook -- they should be run after Gnus has been loaded.

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8.5 Compilation

Remember all those line format specification variables? gnus-summary-line-format, gnus-group-line-format, and so on. Now, Gnus will of course heed whatever these variables are, but, unfortunately, changing them will mean a quite significant slow-down. (The default values of these variables have byte-compiled functions associated with them, while the user-generated versions do not, of course.)

To help with this, you can run M-x gnus-compile after you've fiddled around with the variables and feel that you're (kind of) satisfied. This will result in the new specs being byte-compiled, and you'll get top speed again.

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8.6 Mode Lines

gnus-updated-mode-lines says what buffers should keep their mode lines updated. It is a list of symbols. Supported symbols include group, article, summary, server, browse, and tree. If the corresponding symbol is present, Gnus will keep that mode line updated with information that may be pertinent. If this variable is nil, screen refresh may be quicker.

By default, Gnus displays information on the current article in the mode lines of the summary and article buffers. The information Gnus wishes to display (eg. the subject of the article) is often longer than the mode lines, and therefore have to be cut off at some point. The gnus-mode-non-string-length variable says how long the other elements on the line is (i.e., the non-info part). If you put additional elements on the mode line (eg. a clock), you should modify this variable:

(add-hook 'display-time-hook
          (lambda () (setq gnus-mode-non-string-length
                           (+ 21
                              (if line-number-mode 5 0)
                              (if column-number-mode 4 0)
                              (length display-time-string)))))

If this variable is nil (which is the default), the mode line strings won't be chopped off, and they won't be padded either.

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8.7 Highlighting and Menus

The gnus-visual variable controls most of the prettifying Gnus aspects. If nil, Gnus won't attempt to create menus or use fancy colors or fonts. This will also inhibit loading the `gnus-vis.el' file.

This variable can be a list of visual properties that are enabled. The following elements are legal, and are all included by default:

Do highlights in the group buffer.
Do highlights in the summary buffer.
Do highlights in the article buffer.
Turn on highlighting in all buffers.
Create menus in the group buffer.
Create menus in the summary buffers.
Create menus in the article buffer.
Create menus in the browse buffer.
Create menus in the server buffer.
Create menus in the score buffers.
Create menus in all buffers.

So if you only want highlighting in the article buffer and menus in all buffers, you could say something like:

(setq gnus-visual '(article-highlight menu))

If you want only highlighting and no menus whatsoever, you'd say:

(setq gnus-visual '(highlight))

If gnus-visual is t, highlighting and menus will be used in all Gnus buffers.

Other general variables that influence the look of all buffers include:

This is the face (i.e., font) used for mouse highlighting in Gnus. No mouse highlights will be done if gnus-visual is nil.

This variable is symbol indicating the display type Emacs is running under. The symbol should be one of color, grayscale or mono. If Gnus guesses this display attribute wrongly, either set this variable in your `~/.emacs' or set the resource Emacs.displayType in your `~/.Xdefaults'.

This is a symbol indicating the Emacs background brightness. The symbol should be one of light or dark. If Gnus guesses this frame attribute wrongly, either set this variable in your `~/.emacs' or set the resource Emacs.backgroundMode in your `~/.Xdefaults'. `gnus-display-type'.

There are hooks associated with the creation of all the different menus:

Hook called after creating the article mode menu.

Hook called after creating the group mode menu.

Hook called after creating the summary mode menu.

Hook called after creating the server mode menu.

Hook called after creating the browse mode menu.

Hook called after creating the score mode menu.

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8.8 Buttons

Those new-fangled mouse contraptions is very popular with the young, hep kids who don't want to learn the proper way to do things these days. Why, I remember way back in the summer of '89, when I was using Emacs on a Tops 20 system. Three hundred users on one single machine, and every user was running Simula compilers. Bah!


Well, you can make Gnus display bufferfuls of buttons you can click to do anything by setting gnus-carpal to t. Pretty simple, really. Tell the chiropractor I sent you.

Hook run in all carpal mode buffers.

Face used on buttons.

Face used on carpal buffer headers.

Buttons in the group buffer.

Buttons in the summary buffer.

Buttons in the server buffer.

Buttons in the browse buffer.

All the buttons variables are lists. The elements in these list is either a cons cell where the car contains a text to be displayed and the cdr contains a function symbol, or a simple string.

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8.9 Daemons

Gnus, being larger than any program ever written (allegedly), does lots of strange stuff that you may wish to have done while you're not present. For instance, you may want it to check for new mail once in a while. Or you may want it to close down all connections to all servers when you leave Emacs idle. And stuff like that.

Gnus will let you do stuff like that by defining various handlers. Each handler consists of three elements: A function, a time, and an idle parameter.

Here's an example of a handler that closes connections when Emacs has been idle for thirty minutes:

(gnus-demon-close-connections nil 30)

Here's a handler that scans for PGP headers every hour when Emacs is idle:

(gnus-demon-scan-pgp 60 t)

This time parameter and than idle parameter works together in a strange, but wonderful fashion. Basically, if idle is nil, then the function will be called every time minutes.

If idle is t, then the function will be called after time minutes only if Emacs is idle. So if Emacs is never idle, the function will never be called. But once Emacs goes idle, the function will be called every time minutes.

If idle is a number and time is a number, the function will be called every time minutes only when Emacs has been idle for idle minutes.

If idle is a number and time is nil, the function will be called once every time Emacs has been idle for idle minutes.

And if time is a string, it should look like `07:31', and the function will then be called once every day somewhere near that time. Modified by the idle parameter, of course.

(When I say "minute" here, I really mean gnus-demon-timestep seconds. This is 60 by default. If you change that variable, all the timings in the handlers will be affected.)

To set the whole thing in motion, though, you have to set gnus-use-demon to t.

So, if you want to add a handler, you could put something like this in your `.gnus' file:

(gnus-demon-add-handler 'gnus-demon-close-connections nil 30)

Some ready-made functions to do this has been created: gnus-demon-add-nocem, gnus-demon-add-disconnection, and gnus-demon-add-scanmail. Just put those functions in your `.gnus' if you want those abilities.

If you add handlers to gnus-demon-handlers directly, you should run gnus-demon-init to make the changes take hold. To cancel all daemons, you can use the gnus-demon-cancel function.

Note that adding daemons can be pretty naughty if you overdo it. Adding functions that scan all news and mail from all servers every two seconds is a sure-fire way of getting booted off any respectable system. So behave.

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8.10 NoCeM

Spamming is posting the same article lots and lots of times. Spamming is bad. Spamming is evil.

Spamming is usually canceled within a day or so by various anti-spamming agencies. These agencies usually also send out NoCeM messages. NoCeM is pronounced "no see-'em", and means what the name implies--these are messages that make the offending articles, like, go away.

What use are these NoCeM messages if the articles are canceled anyway? Some sites do not honor cancel messages and some sites just honor cancels from a select few people. Then you may wish to make use of the NoCeM messages, which are distributed in the `alt.nocem.misc' newsgroup.

Gnus can read and parse the messages in this group automatically, and this will make spam disappear.

There are some variables to customize, of course:

Set this variable to t to set the ball rolling. It is nil by default.

Gnus will look for NoCeM messages in the groups in this list. The default is ("alt.nocem.misc" "news.admin.net-abuse.announce").

There are many people issuing NoCeM messages. This list says what people you want to listen to. The default is ("Automoose-1" "clewis@ferret.ocunix.on.ca;" "jem@xpat.com;" "red@redpoll.mrfs.oh.us (Richard E. Depew)"); fine, upstanding citizens all of them.

Known despammers that you can put in this list include:

Chris Lewis--Major Canadian despammer who has probably canceled more usenet abuse than anybody else.

The CancelMoose[tm] on autopilot. The CancelMoose[tm] is reputed to be Norwegian, and was the person(s) who invented NoCeM.

Jem--Korean despammer who is getting very busy these days.

`red@redpoll.mrfs.oh.us (Richard E. Depew)'
Richard E. Depew--lone American despammer. He mostly cancels binary postings to non-binary groups and removes spews (regurgitated articles).

You do not have to heed NoCeM messages from all these people--just the ones you want to listen to.

This is where Gnus will store its NoCeM cache files. The default is `~/News/NoCeM/'.

The number of days before removing old NoCeM entries from the cache. The default is 15. If you make it shorter Gnus will be faster, but you might then see old spam.

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8.11 Picons

So... You want to slow down your news reader even more! This is a good way to do so. Its also a great way to impress people staring over your shoulder as you read news.

8.11.1 Picon Basics  What are picons and How do I get them.
8.11.2 Picon Requirements  Don't go further if you aren't using XEmacs.
8.11.3 Easy Picons  Displaying Picons -- the easy way.
8.11.4 Hard Picons  The way you should do it. You'll learn something.
8.11.5 Picon Configuration  Other variables you can trash/tweak/munge/play with.

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8.11.1 Picon Basics

What are Picons? To quote directly from the Picons Web site (`http://www.cs.indiana.edu/picons/ftp/index.html'):

Picons is short for "personal icons". They're small, constrained images used to represent users and domains on the net, organized into databases so that the appropriate image for a given e-mail address can be found. Besides users and domains, there are picon databases for Usenet newsgroups and weather forecasts. The picons are in either monochrome XBM format or color XPM and GIF formats.

Please see the above mentioned web site for instructions on obtaining and installing the picons databases, or the following ftp site: `http://www.cs.indiana.edu/picons/ftp/index.html'.

Gnus expects picons to be installed into a location pointed to by gnus-picons-database.

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8.11.2 Picon Requirements

To use have Gnus display Picons for you, you must be running XEmacs 19.13 or greater since all other versions of Emacs aren't yet able to display images.

Additionally, you must have xpm support compiled into XEmacs.

If you want to display faces from X-Face headers, you must have the netpbm utilities installed, or munge the gnus-picons-convert-x-face variable to use something else.

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8.11.3 Easy Picons

To enable displaying picons, simply put the following line in your `~/.gnus' file and start Gnus.

(setq gnus-use-picons t)
(add-hook 'gnus-article-display-hook 'gnus-article-display-picons t)
(add-hook 'gnus-summary-prepare-hook 'gnus-group-display-picons t)
(add-hook 'gnus-article-display-hook 'gnus-picons-article-display-x-face)

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8.11.4 Hard Picons

Gnus can display picons for you as you enter and leave groups and articles. It knows how to interact with three sections of the picons database. Namely, it can display the picons newsgroup pictures, author's face picture(s), and the authors domain. To enable this feature, you need to first decide where to display them.

Where the picon images should be displayed. It is picons by default (which by default maps to the buffer `*Picons*'). Other valid places could be article, summary, or `"*scratch*"' for all I care. Just make sure that you've made the buffer visible using the standard Gnus window configuration routines -- See section 8.4 Windows Configuration.

Note: If you set gnus-use-picons to t, it will set up your window configuration for you to include the picons buffer.

Now that you've made that decision, you need to add the following functions to the appropriate hooks so these pictures will get displayed at the right time.

Looks up and display the picons for the author and the author's domain in the gnus-picons-display-where buffer. Should be added to the gnus-article-display-hook.

Displays picons representing the current group. This function should be added to the gnus-summary-prepare-hook or to the gnus-article-display-hook if gnus-picons-display-where is set to article.

Decodes and displays the X-Face header if present. This function should be added to gnus-article-display-hook.

Note: You must append them to the hook, so make sure to specify 't' to the append flag of add-hook:

(add-hook 'gnus-article-display-hook 'gnus-article-display-picons t)

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8.11.5 Picon Configuration

The following variables offer further control over how things are done, where things are located, and other useless stuff you really don't need to worry about.

The location of the picons database. Should point to a directory containing the `news', `domains', `users' (and so on) subdirectories. Defaults to `/usr/local/faces'.

Sub-directory of the faces database containing the icons for newsgroups.

List of subdirectories to search in gnus-picons-database for user faces. Defaults to ("local" "users" "usenix" "misc/MISC").

List of subdirectories to search in gnus-picons-database for domain name faces. Defaults to ("domains"). Some people may want to add `unknown' to this list.

The command to use to convert the X-Face header to an X bitmap (xbm). Defaults to (format "{ echo '/* Width=48, Height=48 */'; uncompface; } | icontopbm | pbmtoxbm > %s" gnus-picons-x-face-file-name)

Names a temporary file to store the X-Face bitmap in. Defaults to (format "/tmp/picon-xface.%s.xbm" (user-login-name)).

The name of the buffer that picons points to. Defaults to `*Icon Buffer*'.

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8.12 Various Various

This variable is an integer between zero and ten. The higher the value, the more messages will be displayed. If this variable is zero, Gnus will never flash any messages, if it is seven (which is the default), most important messages will be shown, and if it is ten, Gnus won't ever shut up, but will flash so many messages it will make your head swim.

This variable works the same way as gnus-verbose, but it applies to the Gnus backends instead of Gnus proper.

When the backends read straight heads of articles, they all try to read as little as possible. This variable (default 4096) specifies the absolute max length the backends will try to read before giving up on finding a separator line between the head and the body. If this variable is nil, there is no upper read bound. If it is t, the backends won't try to read the articles piece by piece, but read the entire articles. This makes sense with some versions of ange-ftp.

This is an alist that says how to translate characters in file names. For instance, if `:' is illegal as a file character in file names on your system (you OS/2 user you), you could say something like:

(setq nnheader-file-name-translation-alist 
      '((?: . ?_)))

In fact, this is the default value for this variable on OS/2 and MS Windows (phooey) systems.

This is a list of properties to use to hide "invisible" text. It is (invisible t intangible t) by default on most systems, which makes invisible text invisible and intangible.

A hook called before parsing headers. It can be used, for instance, to gather statistics on the headers fetched, or perhaps you'd like to prune some headers. I don't see why you'd want that, though.

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