The default format of the group buffer is nice and dull, but you can make it as exciting and ugly as you feel like.
Here's a couple of example group lines:
25: news.announce.newusers * 0: alt.fan.andrea-dworkin
Quite simple, huh?
You can see that there are 25 unread articles in ‘news.announce.newusers’. There are no unread articles, but some ticked articles, in ‘alt.fan.andrea-dworkin’ (see that little asterisk at the beginning of the line?).
You can change that format to whatever you want by fiddling with the
gnus-group-line-format variable. This variable works along the
lines of a
format specification, which is pretty much the same as
printf specifications, for those of you who use (feh!) C.
See Formatting Variables.
‘%M%S%5y:%B%(%g%)\n’ is the value that produced those lines above.
There should always be a colon on the line; the cursor always moves to the colon after performing an operation. See Positioning Point. Nothing else is required—not even the group name. All displayed text is just window dressing, and is never examined by Gnus. Gnus stores all real information it needs using text properties.
(Note that if you make a really strange, wonderful, spreadsheet-like layout, everybody will believe you are hard at work with the accounting instead of wasting time reading news.)
Here's a list of all available format characters:
Gnus uses this estimation because the NNTP protocol provides efficient access to max-number and min-number but getting the true unread message count is not possible efficiently. For hysterical raisins, even the mail back ends, where the true number of unread messages might be available efficiently, use the same limited interface. To remove this restriction from Gnus means that the back end interface has to be changed, which is not an easy job.
The nnml backend (see Mail Spool) has a feature called “group
compaction” which circumvents this deficiency: the idea is to
renumber all articles from 1, removing all gaps between numbers, hence
getting a correct total count. Other backends may support this in the
future. In order to keep your total article count relatively up to
date, you might want to compact your groups (or even directly your
server) from time to time. See Misc Group Stuff, See Server Commands.
gnus-read-active-fileor use the group buffer M-d command.
gnus-group-uncollapsed-levelsvariable says how many levels to leave at the end of the group name. The default is 1—this will mean that group names like ‘gnu.emacs.gnus’ will be shortened to ‘g.e.gnus’.
gnus-new-mail-mark) if there has arrived new mail to the group lately.
gnus-process-mark) if the group is process marked.
gnus-user-format-function-‘X’, where ‘X’ is the letter following ‘%u’. The function will be passed a single dummy parameter as argument. The function should return a string, which will be inserted into the buffer just like information from any other specifier.
All the “number-of” specs will be filled with an asterisk (‘*’) if no info is available—for instance, if it is a non-activated foreign group, or a bogus native group.