This page lists hints, tips, and guidelines for using the USENET newsgroups.
Newsgroups, provided by an internet service called USENET and NNTP (Network News Transport Protocol),
are a sort of public bulletin board. There are tens of thousands of newsgroups covering every conceivable topic.
Any user anywhere in the world can post a question to a newsgroup and anyone else anywhere in the world can reply with an answer to the
original message. On Microsoft's NNTP server, there are groups for every product in the Microsoft
fleet, and many programs have multiple newgroups, each specializing in one aspect of using the program.
Typically, you use a newsgroup reader program such as Outlook Express or Windows Mail (provided with
Windows XP and Windows Vista, respectively), but there are many freeware/shareward readers available.
Some companies have created an HTML/Web front end for the newsgroups and refer to the newsgroups as
"communities" or "forums". The truth is, thouugh, most of these communities simply sit on top of the
basic NNTP service.
Unlike some newsgroups, the Microsoft newsgroups are not moderated. That means that there is no human
being allowing or rejecting messages. Microsoft does filter the groups for spam messages ("Get Viagra Now"),
but doesn't filter on content that may not be in Microsoft's best interest.
The first thing you need to use newsgroups is a newsgroup reader, often called the "news client". Windows XP and
earlier contain "Outlook Express" which a a general purpose email and news program. In Windows Vista, this
same program is called "Windows Mail". Open Outlook Express or Windows Mail, and go to the Tools menu and
choose Accounts. There, click "Add". In that dialog, click "Newsgroup Account" and click "Next". Fill out the
required fields on the subsequent dialogs. For the "News (NNTP) Server" item, enter
msnews.microsoft.com. Leave the "My new server requres me to log in" unchecked. Click Finish to return
to the main accounts screen. When you close this dialog, a message will appear asking you if you want to view a
list of available newsgroups. Click "Yes" to view the available newsgroups. From the list that follows, select
the newsgroups you want to connect to (called "subscribing" to a newsgroup). You can pick newsgroups directly
from the list or you can filter the list by entering a term in the "Display newsgroups that contain:" text box.
To view the Excel groups, enter 'Excel' in the filter box. To subscribe to a newsgroup, select it in the list
and click the "Subscribe" button. Repeat this process for each newsgroup to which you want to subscribe.
USENET, or just News, has been one of the services provided across the Internet long before HTML and
In short, a USENET group (and there are tens of thousands of groups) is dedicated to a single topic and
acts something like a public bulletin board. With the popularity of HTML/HTTP/Web, many providers have
web-based interfaces that sit on top of the NNTP (USENET) protocol. These web-based services are often
called "Communities" or "Forums", but really they are just web based front ends to the
There are tens of thousands of newgroups covering every imaginable (and some unimaginal) topic. For support
of Excel, there are three primary newsgroups: microsoft.public.excel.misc for miscellaneous questions,
microsoft.public.excel.programming for questions related to VB/VBA programming, and
microsoft.public.worksheet.functions, which concentrates on formulas in worksheet cells. While
there are a few other Excel-related newsgroups, the vast majority of questions and answers are in one
of these three groups.
A newsgroup is open to all internet users around the world. Anyone can post a question and anyone else in the
world can reply to that question with an answer. Newsgroups are an exceptionally efficient way to get
answers to your questions. Often, you'll have a reply within minutes. In order to keep the newsgroups
operating smoothly and efficiently, it is helpful to follow some guidelines. These are not hard and
fast rules and no one enforces them; they are merely suggestions based on the decades of collective experience by long-time
newsgroup users. Taken together as a group, the regular contributors and the Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) have
posted literaly millions of replies.
Post your question to only one newsgroup. There is rarely a need to post the question to more than
one newsgroups. Those people who spend a lot of time answering the questions review all the relevant
newsgroups, so posting to more than one group is of minimal benefit.
Post to the most appropriate group. If you question is regarding worksheet formulas, post in the formulas
group, not the programming group.
If you are unsure or which group to post to, post to the miscellaneous group.
Write clearly. If your post is too long, poorly written, ambiguous, or just badly written, there is
a good chance that no one will take the time to reply with a response. At a bare minimum, run the message
through a spell-checker.
Be nice. Those of us who answer the questions (many of us have individually racked up well over
replies over the years) do not work for Microsoft. We are simply individual users who enjoy helping
others and tackling the complicated problems that sometimes arise in a newsgroup post. We don't work
for Microsoft and we can't change Microsoft's policies. We're merely helpful civilians. Don't compain
about Microsoft software. Microsoft doesn't read these newsgroups and there is nothing we can
do to change Microsft's software.
Economize your question. Before posting a message, break your code down into logical units and find the
code that is causing the problem. If you post perhaps a dozen lines of code, you'll likely get an answer.
If you post a hundred or more lines of code, you won't get an answer. Post the least amount of code that
illustrates the problem.
Post code that can be copied and pasted from the newsgroup message into a VBA module. If a responder
has to spend a lot of time just to get your code to compile, you will likely not get an answer.
Remember that we don't know your business or your lingo and slang, or your abbreviations. Don't assume
that we know what you are writing about. Explain your terms.
Don't post attachment files. While it may be so that an attachment can clarify a question, we don't know
who you are and thus we cannot trust that your attached code won't start deleting all the files on the hard
Be polite. Nothing destroys a newsgroup conversation faster than personal attacks. Often, when I see
a conversation leading toward personal confrontation, I mark the conversion as read so it will be ignored.
Among the various Microsoft newsgrops, the Excel groups are the most cordial and polite. We want to keep them
that way. Personal attacks contribute nothing the newsgroups and are a sure fire way to have your post ignored.
Top Posting Or Bottom Posting: This is a debate that has been going on since the earliest days of USENET.
When replying to a message, you can put your reply before and above the original message. This is top posting.
Bottom posting is when you put your response at the end of the message, after all of the original text.
This debate raises suprisingly strong conflict -- some people take top posting as a
cardinal sin. Over the years,
the Microsoft newsgroups have informally adopted the top posting model. You should adpot it, too.
International Issues: Because USENET spans the world, not everyone speaks the same language or expresses
values in the same manner. For example, in some countries, the date 04-09-2008 indicates the 9th day of April, 2008.
In other locales, the same string indicates the 4th day of September, 2008. When working with dates,
express them in an unambiguous format, such as 9-April-2008.
We don't know your abbreviations. Before using an abbreviation, spell it out in
the full words, and explain what it means. Many of us are generalist programmers, developing applications for a wide variety of
industries and we cannot be expected to understand some abbreviation used within your industry.
Always indicate what version of Office and Windows you are using. A solution
that may work in Excel 2003 may not work in Excel 2002.
Use a meaningful subject line. A subject like "Help Me" or "Urgent" will not garner much support. Instead,
briefly state the problem in the subject line. For example, "Trouble With Filters In Excel
2003". By the same
token, don't explain everything in the subject line and leave the body of the message empty. Use the
body of the message to explain the detals of the problem.
Tell us what you have tried, the data you used, the results that came back, and the results you actually
want. This will make debugging the problem much easier. Isolate the problem to as few lines as possible
and post only those lines. Don't expect us to spend 45 minutes to just configure a workbook before getting
to the actual testing.
Be very specific with error messages. If the code displays a message box, include the exact text
of the message. Do not say just, "It doesn't work".
Wait for your question to be answered. While some messages are answered with hours, even minutes, others
aren't answered for a day. If you don't receive an anser after a day passes, don't just repost the question.
Rewrite the question, omitting irrelvent details and clarifying the problem.
Many posts go unanswered because the responder has no idea what you are
attempting to do.
Provide technical documentatin about your system. Inclue the manufacturer name, the model name, the
operating system you are using, the version of Office (including what Server Packs are installed -- available
from the "About" item on the "Help" menu), the amount of RAM you have installed, and other technical
USENET was originally and still is primarily a text-based system. Post your meesage in plain text format, not HTML.
Don't try to format the text for bold or italics. Plain text should suffice.
The Excel newsgroups are not "I hate Microsoft" newgroups. There are plenty of other venues for this
sort of commentary. Honest and sincere critcism does have a place here, but generic
rants about Microsoft are strongly frowned upon.
Microsoft employees do not read these newsgroups. These are not the forums to complain about existing
features or to suggest new features. New feature requests can be sent to
Note that everything you post to a public newgroups is visible by anyone anywhere in the world. Proof read
your message before sending them to ensure they are grammatically correct, polite, and do not contain
any private information.
This page last updated: 15-Sept-2008