This term is fairly unpopular and not many Usenet users know exactly what it means. There are two meanings that we are going to discuss in this article, so keep in mind that the term is being used interchangeably.
Newsgroup Index as in Newsgroup List
The term “newsgroup list” will sound more familiar to the average Usenet user. A newsgroup list is simply the list of newsgroups that your newsreader (or Web-to-news gateway) downloads and displays when you log into a news server. Most newsreaders download automatically, upon start up, to show you all the newsgroups that are available on the server.
The newsgroup index (or list) is usually quite long and it may take a while to download the entire newsgroup hierarchy and display it within the newsreader window. Most users, however, have favorite newsgroups that they frequently visit and do not need to wait for the entire list to be displayed. Instead they simply go to their favorite newsgroup and view the latest posts or search for an item, discussion or file of interest. First time Usenet surfers, however, should wait for the newsgroup index to load so they can see what newsgroups there are and pick the ones they want to go to.
Newsgroup Index as a Way of Storing Newsgroup Information
The term is also used to refer to the way newsgroup names are organized and stored on the servers. This meaning is closely related to the first meaning that we discussed before. The news server needs a way to store the newsgroup addresses (titles, names) and the hierarchies they belong to so it can display them in the correct order for you. An index file containing this information was created for this purpose and is updated every time an inactive newsgroup is removed from the server, or a new group is added to the server.
To see how the concept of newsgroup index works, you can log into one of the Fast Usenet servers and check out the index you get. To search for a particular file within the Usenet newsgroups, you can download our customized copy of GrabIt which has a built in newsgroup search feature – it’s a included with your membership, and it’s a fast and efficient way of conducting Usenet searches.