TFM:Alpine

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Alpine

Grant Heinrich, Piers Johnson and Nicholas FitzRoy-Dale

Alpine is a email-reading program that is the successor to, and is backwards-compatible with, Pine, which was named after a tree[1]. Alpine remains popular in many circles to this day, at least partially because it's so beginner-friendly.

The latest -- and, for now it seems, last -- version of Alpine is 2.00, released in 2008, so it's highly unlikely that the information contained herein will dramatically change any time soon. In fact, you can even use this chapter as a guide to "classic" Pine. Apart from several new features such as Unicode and HTML email support, and a (slight) name change, very little has changed. Simply replace the word "alpine" with "pine" in your mind, and you should be set.

This chapter discusses sending and receiving email using Alpine, and gives some configuration hints to get you started. Alpine is available on FEIT machines, and on the ProgSoc network.

Basic Alpine

To start Alpine, type alpine at your shell prompt.

This is the main menu :

 ALPINE 2.00   MAIN MENU                            Folder: INBOX  69 Messages


      ?     HELP               -  Get help using Alpine

      C     COMPOSE MESSAGE    -  Compose and send/post a message

      I     FOLDER INDEX       -  View messages in current folder

      L     FOLDER LIST        -  Select a folder to view

      A     ADDRESS BOOK       -  Update address book

      S     SETUP              -  Configure Alpine Options

      Q     QUIT               -  Exit the Alpine program


            Copyright 2006-2008 University of Washington.
                   [Folder "INBOX" opened with 69 messages]
? Help                     P PrevCmd                  R RelNotes
O OTHER CMDS > [ListFldrs] N NextCmd                  K KBLock

From this page you can see more top-level commands by typing O (OTHER CMDS):

? Help       Q Quit Alpine  L ListFldrs   I Index       S Setup       # Role      
O OTHER CMDS C Compose      G GotoFldr    J Journal     A AddrBook

You can return to the main menu from almost anywhere in Alpine by typing M. Usually, ? displays a relevant help screen.

Generally, Alpine's interface consists of a two-line "command bar" down the bottom, and the main window above.

Sending mail

Type C} for compose in the main menu. Alpine displays a screen like this.[2]

 ALPINE 2.00   COMPOSE MESSAGE           Folder: INBOX          11 Messages   
 
 To      : 
 Cc      : 
 Attchmnt: 
 Subject : 
 ----- Message Text -----    
 
 
 ^G Get Help  ^X Send      ^R Rich Hdr  ^Y PrvPg/Top ^K Cut Line  ^O Postpone  
 ^C Cancel    ^D Del Char  ^J Attach    ^V NxtPg/End ^U UnDel Line^T To AddrBk

The Compose menu is in two parts. The header (the information above <tt>Message~Text) tells Alpine where to send the e-mail; the lines To: Cc: etc are fields, explained below. The e-mail message is entered below Message~Text.

The receiver's e-mail address goes on the To: line. For other users on the FEIT system, a logname like agnarfle or hhefner is enough. For users on other networks, use their complete address (eg, Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au), or an alias set up by PINE's Address Book (explained later this chapter). To e-mail multiple users, separate each name with a comma:

 To      : agnarfle, progsoc, Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au

You should have something relevant on the subject line. It's not compulsory, just helpful.

If another user is to receive a copy of the mail but it doesn't concern them directly, put their username in the Cc: field[3]. You don't have to do this, but it keeps things neat and amuses the larval bureaucrats. If you hit the ^R (Rich header) option, you'll get a much more interesting series of headers, including a Bcc: header. This stands for "Blind courtesy copy". Anybody included on a Bcc list won't see others on the Bcc list, and anybody on the To or Cc lists won't see them either. This is a useful trick if want to invite people to a large gathering but don't want your idiot friends replying to the whole list to say "I'LL BE THERE!!!!"[4] Simply put your own email address in the To field, and everyone else in the Bcc field.

Header fields can be changed any time before the mail is sent: for example, you could send it to someone else by changing the recipent's name.

Put the cursor below Message~Text to enter your e-mail text. Alpine uses the Nano editor, which sucks strongly[5]. (ProgSoc's editor of choice is Vi. See Alpine Options for an explanation how to call Vi from Alpine to edit mail.) When the text and header are complete, use CTRL-X to send.

Compose Menu Options

  • CTRL-X Send message.
  • CTRL-O Postpone message: returns you to the main menu with the current message saved. When you next compose Alpine will ask if you want to complete the postponed letter.
  • CTRL-C Cancel message. You'll be asked to confirm. A cancelled message is lost forever[6]. If you think you'll want to finish it later, use postpone.[7]
  • CTRL-K Delete a line. This also works in the Header --- for example, it will delete a recipient from the To: line.
  • CTRL-U Undelete lines. Restores the most recently deleted group of lines --- if you deleted six in a row, they're all restored.
  • CTRL-J Justify: takes raggedly formatted paragraphs and makes them nice. Be careful with this. Alpine considers a paragraph to be any series of lines with a blank line at either end.
  • CTRL-R Read a file: inserts a file at the current line.
  • CTRL-_ Change to the alternate editor. See Defining Vi As Alternate Editor.

Reading Your Mail

Type I from the main menu to examine your mail index. Alpine will open folder inbox if you haven't changed folders (see Mail Folders). New mail is always stored in inbox.

My mail index:

      ALPINE 2.00       MAIL INDEX       Folder:inbox  Message 11 of 11          

   1   Feb 18 Stephen Boyd Gowin  (1,415) Re: ProgSoc: The VPs FYI!            
   2   Feb 22 A.Wright@uts.edu.a  (1,799) Re: clubs and societies (late!)      
   3   Feb 23 osborn@agouti       (1,909) Info                                 
   4   Feb 23 Max Hoffmann        (3,714) Re: REVIEW: STRICTLY BALLROOM        
   5   Feb 24 brian               (1,756) Re: Tlot Tlot campus mini tour dates 
   6   Feb 24 Bill Hagarty        (6,922)                                      
   7   Feb 24 dennis@agouti       (1,093) Hi Ho! Hi Ho!                        
   8   Feb 25 Mark Colston        (1,083) New Address                          
   9   Feb 25 Stephen Boyd Gowin    (763) alpine intro                           
 N 10  Feb 26 morgan@agouti         (982) PP Meeting                           
 
 
 ? Help       < FldrList   P PrevMsg       - PrevPage D Delete     R Reply       
 O OTHER CMDS > [ViewMsg]  N NextMsg     Spc NextPage U Undelete   F Forward    

There are 10 messages in inbox. Message 10 is prefixed with N}, which means it's new mail --- I haven't read it yet.

In the Index Menu, the cursor keys scroll up and down; SPACE and <tt>- move forward and backward one screen respectively. Hit return to read the message under the cursor.

Mail Reading Options

  • P Previous message (the one before this in the index).
  • N Next message (in the index).
  • T Take address. Adds the sender's address to your alias file (explained in the Address Book section).
  • W Where is? Search for text.
  • D Marks current message for deletion. Mail is not deleted until you eXpunge or Quit. (see The Index Menu and Exiting Alpine).
  • S Saves mail to a folder. (See Folders.) The message is copied to the new folder; the original copy is marked for deletion.
  • C Compose mail. Same as compose from the main menu.
  • R Reply (see below)
  • F Forward (see below).

Answering Mail

There are three options: Reply, Forward or Compose.


Reply Type R to reply.

Alpine will prompt Reply to all recipients? (y/n) [n]:

The default is to reply to the sender only; but you can choose to reply to every address in the To: and Cc: lines (all recipients).

You will also be asked

Include original message in Reply? (y/n) [n]:

A yes requests that the current message be copied to your message text screen, where you can scribble all over it.

It's common practice to distinguish any quoted text (for example, the message you are scribbling on) by prefacing each line with a >, like so:

>I am a quoted line.

Alpine will do this if requested. (See Reply Styles.)

Forward

You can re-send e-mail to other users using F for forward. That option puts you into the Compose menu with a copy of the mail to be forwarded; all you need do is enter the forward address.

Compose

As explained before.

Quoted text can be edited freely --- interject, delete anything you're not interested in, whatever you want. Correcting spelling and grammar is impolite; changing the message's meaning is particulary rude[8]. See the previous Chapter on email etiquette for some more guidelines on how to include quoted text so that people will love you.

Using the Index Screen

The index screen allows you to reply to and forward mail, add addresses to the address book using T and delete and save mail, as well as changing folders and composing new mail.

An important index menu option is eXpunge (X). Mail you tag for deletion is not permanently removed from the index until you eXpunge or Quit (see Exiting Alpine).

Folders

When you first use Alpine, you have a single folder, inbox}. This can be thought of as similar to having a single directory for your account; eventually, you'll need some form of organisation.

The simplest method is to create other folders; for instance, all mail from <tt>hhefner could be kept in the hhefner folder. Folders are created by saving mail (see Mail Reading Options) to a new folder name.

Folders are stored in your local directory Mail (\~{}yourusername/Mail). To change folders, use G (Go to folder --- this option works while reading mail and from the Index Menu).

If you know the folder name, type it in. If you can't remember, or get some kind of sick thrill each time you see your folder list, CTRL-T lists all folders: select one with the cursor. Alpine places you in the index menu again, which works the same way for all folders.

When you want to read any new mail, change folders back to your inbox.

Saved Mail (The sent-mail folder)

All messages you send are saved to the folder sent-mail. You should expunge this regularly (either saving messages to other folders, or deleting them), or it becomes impractically large to look through.

The Address Book

You must specify a complete address to send mail outside the FEIT network, such as:

Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au.

(Mail addressing is explained in Email: the Concept.)

Big Ted's address is a bugger to type repeatedly. Alpine saves your typing fingers by keeping an address book. From the main menu, type A. You'll see this:

     ALPINE 2.00      ADDRESS BOOK      Folder:inbox  Message 10 of 10           
 bigted     BIG TED!                            Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au
 jemimah    Jemimah the Raggedy doll            Jemimah@playschool.TV.au
 smart      Mr Smart                            smart@cleverland.mr.men.com.uk
 johnboy    Johnboy Walton                      johnboy_walton@mountain.com
 camille    Camille Paglia (More porn!)         camille@random.house.com.org

 mymailer   All my imaginary friends            DISTRIBUTION LIST:
                                              bigted
                                              camille
                                              jemimah
                                              johnboy
                                              smart


 ? Help       < Main Menu     P PrevEntry    - PrevPage @ AddNew    C ComposeTo  
 O OTHER CMDS > [View/Update] N NextEntry  Spc NextPage D Delete    W WhereIs   

Or you would if all your friends were Mr Men, Playschool characters and contentious feminists. Your address book should be empty. The line

 bigted     BIG TED!                            Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au

is an alias for Big Ted, whose email address is Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au. To send mail to Big Ted, I put bigted --- his alias --- in the To: field. Alpine expands this as

 To      :  BIG TED!  <Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au>

Creating New Aliases

From the main menu, type A for the Address Book menu. From there, @ adds a new alias. You'll be prompted for the receiver's full name (BIG TED! in this case, although My Little Furry Friend or pretty much anything else is acceptable. Be warned that Alpine tags your name for this person onto any mail you send them). Alpine also asks for a nickname --- this is the alias used in the To: field. It must be one word; being succinct helps. Then enter their complete e-mail address. Alpine stores addresses in alphabetical order by full name.

To create an alias for your friend Brian at bwahwah@office.com.au}

Nickname  : brian
Fullname  : Wah-Wah, Brian
Fcc       : 
Comment   : 
Addresses : bwahwah@office.com.au

The mysterious <tt>Fcc field stands for "File Carbon Copy". If your messages to Brian are so important that they should be saved in their own file, you can specify that file here.

The new line in the address book will read:

 brian      Wah-Wah, Brian                      bwahwah@office.com.au

You can edit aliases using >, delete them with D; other options are listed at the bottom of the Address Book Menu.

To send mail to Brian and Big Ted, enter their aliases on the To: line:

 To      : brian, bigted

Alpine expands this to:

 To      : BIG TED  <Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au>,

Wah-Wah, Brian <bwahwah@office.com.au>

While reading mail, or while in the index screen, the Take Address command (T) creates an alias for the sender of the current mail. (You have to specify their nickname and sometimes the full name; Alpine usually only copies the e-mail address to the address book. The full name will be whatever alias the sender has given themselves, if there is one[9].) Nicknames can can only be added one at a time --- you'll have to use T multiple times for multiple names.

Alpine can also create distribution lists, which are lists of people referenced by one nickname. Any mail sent to that nickname will be received by all parties. Here is an example

 mymailer   All my imaginary friends            DISTRIBUTION LIST:
                                              bigted
                                              camille
                                              jemimah
                                              johnboy
                                              smart

(The nicknames on the right hand side have already been defined in my address book, but a complete address such as Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au is also valid.)

When I put mymailer in the To: field of e-mail, Alpine expands it to:

 To  : All my imaginary friends -- BIG TED! <Big_Ted@playschool.TV.au>,
     Jemimah the Raggedy doll <Jemimah@playschool.TV.au>,
     Mr Smart <smart@cleverland.mr.men.com.uk>,
     Johnboy Walton <johnboy_walton@mountain.com>,
     Camille Paglia (More porn!) <camille@random.house.com.org>

The mail goes to Big Ted, Camille Paglia, Jemimah, Johnboy Walton and Mr Smart[10]. All my imaginary friends is the list description (name) defined in the Address Book; like a full name</tt>, it could by any name you want.

Note: addresses can be removed from To: using CTRL-K for delete. (If a particular message about bear trapping, for instance, was too heartbreaking, Big Ted could be removed from the To: line to protect his innocence.)

S creates a new list in the Address Book Menu. You'll be asked for a list description, a nickname to refer to the list, and the aliases or addresses of each member. Press RETURN twice when finished.

You can add new people to an already created list: place the cursor within the list and type Z. Alpine will ask for the person's alias. It will keep on asking for names until you just hit RETURN without any name. Names can either be predefined nicknames or full addresses. If you use a short name that isn't a nickname, the user-domain field will be added to it.[11]

Exiting Alpine

Q for quit works from most screens. Alpine will ask you to confirm, and if you want to expunge the current folder; if so, Alpine destroys all messages marked for deletion. Other times you might have to press < first.

Alpine Options: .pinerc

When you first run Alpine , it writes a file to your home directory called .pinerc (for backwards compatibility with Pine). Playing with .pinerc changes your Alpine defaults: the alternate editor, your .signature file and other bits and pieces you can work out yourselves. .pinerc changes take effect the next time you use Alpine after saving .pinerc --- try exiting and restarting. Use Vi to edit .pinerc.

.signature Files

A .sig (pronounced "dot sig") is a text file appended to every piece of mail you send. They usually include your name, an email address and sometimes business or home phone numbers, fax numbers, addresses, etc. They sometimes include quotes that only the sender finds funny[12]. A .sig file is traditionally named .signature, and kept in your home directory. Here is an example .sig.

 -- Hugh Hefner  ( hhefner@playboy.mansion.com )
 Gimmie some sugar, baby!

(See? That quote isn't funny if you don't know which film it's from --- and dubiously so if you do.) It is best to keep a .sig short; otherwise, people will assume you're a wanker.

Alpine will automatically include your signature file in email messages if a file called .signature is present in your home directory. If you've decided to be different for no good reason and have your signature file named something other than .signature, Alpine can be told to use that file too - see below.

Reply Styles

Unlike other, more sensible mail systems, Alpine places the .signature at the beginning of your mail, not the end. Fortunately, there is a configuration option to reinstate this behaviour - it's called "signature-at-bottom". Learn how to configure it in the next section. :-)

Setting up made easy

Alpine's setup mechanism has been incorporated into the application itself. In the old days, you had to do everything in the .pinerc file, but with Alpine 2.00, much of that functionality is a few keystrokes away, so you don't need to edit .pinerc at all, unless you're feeling particularly masochistic[13]. Access this by typing S (as listed in Alpine's opening screen/main menu). The bottom of the screen will change to:

 ? Help       E Exit Setup N Newpassword S Signature   L collectionLi D Directory
 O OTHER CMDS P Printer    C Config      A AddressBook R Rules        K Kolor   

Typing CTRL-G to get help will give you this simple message:

 Select one of the setup tasks by typing the capitalised letter.

The N --- New Password option is the same as typing passwd at your UNIX prompt. The screen will look a bit like this:

 ALPINE 2.00   MAIN MENU                           Folder: INBOX   69 Messages   


Changing password for piers.
Old password:
New password:
Retype new password:

The P --- Printer option allows one to choose which type of printer to use. It's a single screen of information.

The C --- Config option is a replacement for the old .pinerc setup procedure. Type C and you'll see this:

personal-name            = Ol' BT  
user-domain              = <Value is Fixed: using "progsoc.uts.edu.au">              
smtp-server              = <No Value Set>                                       
nntp-server              = <No Value Set>           
inbox-path               = <No Value Set: using "/home/progsoc-users/wzdd/inbox">           
incoming-archive-folders = <No Value Set>                                       
pruned-folders           = <No Value Set>                                       
default-fcc              = <No Value Set: using "sent-mail">                    
default-saved-msg-folder = <No Value Set: using "saved-messages">               
postponed-folder         = <No Value Set: using "postponed-msgs">               
read-message-folder      = <No Value Set>                                       
form-letter-folder       = <No Value Set>                                       
literal-signature        = <No Value Set>                                       
signature-file           = <No Value Set: using ".signature">                   
feature-list             =
           Set    Feature Name
           ---  ----------------------
 [ Composer Preferences ]
           [ ]  alternate-compose-menu                     
? Help      E Exit Setup   P Prev         - PrevPage A Add Value  % Print       
            C [Change Val] N Next       Spc NextPage D Delete Val W WhereIs    

This is the first screen of the setup, there's a lot more to come yet. One of the best things about Alpine, though, is that each of these options are exquisitely well-documented. To get documentation for a particular option, press "?" while that option is highlighted. When you're done, hit E.

I'll go through a couple of the more useful configuration options.

personal-name is an alias for yourself, similar to those you use for other people in the address book, and your full e-mail address will follow your alias in the headers of any mail you send. (e.g. From: Ol' BT <piers@progsoc.uts.edu.au> ) The user-domain field is the default location for user names for outgoing mail. For instance, with the above configuration, if you just type piers in the To: field, the text @it.uts.edu.au will automatically be appended when you hit return. If you have specified a domain (i.e. used @some.machine), the text will not be appended. Don't change this! It saves time when sending mail to other people at FEIT. The smtp-server and nntp-server fields also shouldn't be changed, as they're the defaults for FEIT. If you wish to have your inbox folder located somewhere strange, you can set this with the inbox-path field.

Alpine has a frustrating habit of hiding functionality from people behind configuration options. For example, to use an alternate editor, such as vi, you'd hit CTRL-_. But that doesn't actually work until you enable the "enable-alternate-editor-cmd" option in Alpine setup.

Other useful configuration options to add are enable-sigdashes} which tells Alpine to follow a de facto standard for <tt>.sig files, reply-always-uses-reply-to which needs no explanation and is probably what you want, signature-at-bottom which discourages top posting (see the etiquette section), probably all the options in Viewer Preferences relating to attachments and probably most of the Advanced Command Preferences (Once again, these don't actually force you to do anything "Advanced" - they merely ensure that the menu option is there should you wish to use them).

There are a number of other cute options that change your xterm icon if you've got new mail, and that ensure that you move onto the next message when you delete the one you're currently viewing, that I will leave for you to find.

Folder Collections

One of the more useful configuration options is that of folder collections. These The most useful option on this screen is the folder-collections} field. With this, you may specify mail located on other machines, such as niflheim and rerun so that you can read that mail without having to log into that machine. Mine is listed as:

 folder-collections     = Mail/[]
   			 {niflheim}Mail/[]

The first line is on the local machine (in this case, lucy), and the second line allows me to access my mail on niflheim. The server name goes in braces, followed by the directory in which your mail is held (normally Mail). This must be followed by <tt>/[ ], which allows all the mail folders within your mail directory to be read[14]. Note that when adding folders, you should use A for Add Value, not C for Change Value, otherwise you won't be able to read your local mail. Once you have added other servers, you will be able to access them through L (Folder List). When you select a remote machine, you will be prompted for your login and password on that machine, even if you have an .rhosts file. It will look something like this:


 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Folder-collection <Mail/[] on niflheim>                          (Remote)
 HOST: niflheim  ENTER LOGIN NAME: kaleid                                         
 ^G Help
 ^C Cancel   Ret Accept

The rest of this screen is self explanatory, with the exception of three fields. The signature-file and address-book fields are useful, but don't really need to be changed. The feature-list starts on the first page, but continues for another two pages (see below). When you have moved down into the feature list, the commands available change as the next page shows:

 ALPINE 2.00   SETUP CONFIGURATION                  Folder: INBOX  69 Messages
           [ ]  auto-open-next-unread
           [ ]  compose-sets-newsgroup-without-confirm
           [ ]  delete-skips-deleted
           [ ]  enable-aggregate-command-set
           [X]  enable-alternate-editor-cmd
           [ ]  enable-alternate-editor-implicitly
           [X]  enable-bounce-cmd
           [ ]  enable-flag-cmd
           [X]  enable-full-header-cmd
           [ ]  enable-incoming-folders
           [X]  enable-jump-shortcut
           [ ]  enable-mail-check-cue
           [ ]  enable-suspend
           [ ]  enable-tab-completion
           [X]  enable-unix-pipe-cmd
           [ ]  expanded-view-of-addressbooks
           [ ]  expanded-view-of-folders
           [ ]  expunge-without-confirm
           [ ]  include-attachments-in-reply
 ? Help       E Exit Config P Prev       - PrevPage
              X [Set/Unset] N Next     Spc NextPage                  W WhereIs

enable-suspend allows one to use CTRL-Z while reading mail with Alpine. All the feature list options on the previous two pages, and the next, can be set by typing X when the option to be changed is highlighted. This is in contrast to the options which by default have <No Value Set>; these are changed by the C or A options (see the first page, above). Options for some sections are set using S for select (as in fcc-name-rule, etc.) The appropriate commands are shown on the bottom two lines as you move down the list.

I think most of the options in the feature list are self-explanatory[15]. I prefer to have my signature at the bottom of my mail (who doesn't?), so I've marked that box.

 ALPINE 2.00   SETUP CONFIGURATION                  Folder: INBOX  69 Messages
 
           [ ]  include-header-in-reply
           [ ]  include-text-in-reply
           [ ]  news-post-without-validation
           [ ]  news-read-in-newsrc-order
           [ ]  quit-without-confirm
           [ ]  save-will-quote-leading-froms
           [ ]  save-will-not-delete
           [ ]  save-will-advance
           [ ]  select-without-confirm
           [ ]  show-selected-in-boldface
           [X]  signature-at-bottom
           [ ]  use-current-dir
           [ ]  user-lookup-even-if-domain-mismatch
 initial-keystroke-list = <No Value Set>
 default-composer-hdrs  = <No Value Set>
 customized-hdrs        = <No Value Set>
 saved-msg-name-rule    =
           Set       Rule Values
           ---   ----------------------
 
 ? Help       E Exit Config P Prev       - PrevPage
              X [Set/Unset] N Next     Spc NextPage                  W WhereIs

The options that follow under a Set heading use the S for Select command.

 ALPINE 2.00   SETUP CONFIGURATION                  Folder: INBOX  69 Messages
 
           ( )  by-sender
           (*)  by-from
           ( )  by-recipient
           ( )  last-folder-used
           ( )  default-folder
 fcc-name-rule          =
           Set       Rule Values
           ---   ----------------------
           ( )  by-recipient
           ( )  last-fcc-used
           (*)  default-fcc
 sort-key               =
           Set       Sort Options
           ---   ----------------------
           ( )  Date
           (*)  Arrival
           ( )  From
           ( )  Subject
           ( )  OrderedSubj
 
 ? Help       E Exit Config P Prev       - PrevPage
              S [Select]    N Next     Spc NextPage                  W WhereIs

Some explanatory notes here. saved-msg-name-rule is how mail in any of your saved message folders are headed; fcc-name-rule is how copies of mail in your sent mail folder are headed; sort-key is how mail in your inbox is arranged; addrbook-sort-rule is how your, er..., address book is ordered. Easy, hein?

 ALPINE 2.00   SETUP CONFIGURATION                  Folder: INBOX  69 Messages
 
           ( )  Reverse Date
           ( )  Reverse Arrival
           ( )  Reverse From
           ( )  Reverse Subject
           ( )  Reverse OrderedSubj
 addrbook-sort-rule     =
           Set       Rule Values
           ---   ----------------------
           ( )  fullname-with-lists-last
           ( )  fullname
           (*)  nickname-with-lists-last
           ( )  nickname
           ( )  dont-sort
 character-set          = <No Value Set>
 editor                 = <No Value Set: using "/usr/bin/vi">
 image-viewer           = <No Value Set: using "/usr/bin/X11/xv">
 use-only-domain-name   = Yes
 
 
 ? Help       E Exit Config P Prev       - PrevPage
              S [Select]    N Next     Spc NextPage                  W WhereIs

This is the last page (whew!). Much of the same here --- sorting for folders and the address book, as well as options for changing external applications. If you change these, make sure the paths are correct, or you'll get error messages when you try and do things. Also, if you use a different editor, make sure the enable-alternate-editor-cmd option is set (it's listed on the second page of the feature list). There's also an enable-alternate-editor-implicitly option, which I prefer not to set by default --- Nano is fine for ordinary spontaneous typing as one employs when writing mail, I only use my alternate editor (vi, the default choice) for certain things.

The old way of configuring Alpine was by using your .pinerc file. Alpine still uses this approach (a bit); look at the end of this chapter for more information on this daunting approach to configuring Alpine.

Folder Collections

The folder collections in Alpine have changed their appearance somewhat recently. Earlier versions defaulted to showing you all of your folders, on all of your machines (local or remote) in the expanded format. Now, Alpine is a bit more compact, and L will show you a screen something like this:


 ALPINE 2.00   FOLDER LIST                         Folder: INBOX   69 Messages   
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                           Incoming Message Folders
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 INBOX               {niflheim}
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Folder-collection <Mail/[]>  ** Default for Saves **                     (Local)
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                     [ Select Here to See Expanded List ]
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Folder-collection <Mail/[] on niflheim>                                  (Remote)
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                     [ Select Here to See Expanded List ]
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 ? Help       M Main Menu  P PrevFldr    - PrevPage    D Delete      R Rename
 O OTHER CMDS V [ViewFldr] N NextFldr  Spc NextPage    A Add
 
 ...

These screens show all your Mail collections (and news collections) on any machines you specified in the folder-collections field, covered above under Config. This field does not include the Incoming message folders. You have to set this up yourself by using the Add option with the cursor higlighting something in the top section (your INBOX would be good). You would then type the name of the remote server. An alternative approach would be to edit your .pinerc file. Find the line incoming-folders= and add {niflheim} to it.

If you have set the feature expanded-view-of-folders in your configuration[16] then you will have something approaching the old folder list. If you have this set, and use remote machines then you will have to supply a login and password for all of those machines whenever you use Alpine. Personally, I don't think it's worth doing. Having this flag set, or highlighting a section and pressing return will show something like this:

 ALPINE 2.00   FOLDER LIST                         Folder: INBOX   69 Messages
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                           Incoming Message Folders
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 INBOX               {niflheim}
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Folder-collection <Mail/[]>  ** Default for Saves **                     (Local)
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 sent-mail           3308sric            TADS                TFM
 ag298               anagrams            android             bong
 bongfool            bywong              chrisf              chromium
 cwchoy              greenland           funny               goaway
 iching              jeremy              jerome              jhomer
 jimmy               kevin               leroy               lists
 morag               mouser              niall               piers
 postponed-mail      progsoc             sbg                 sent-mail-apr-1995
 sent-mail-aug-1994  sent-mail-dec-1994  sent-mail-feb-1995  sent-mail-jan-1995
                         [Now in collection <Mail/[]>]
 ? Help       M Main Menu  P PrevFldr    - PrevPage    D Delete      R Rename
 O OTHER CMDS V [ViewFldr] N NextFldr  Spc NextPage    A Add

Using .pinerc

The old way of configuring Alpine was by using your .pinerc file. Alpine still uses this approach; but the internal reconfiguration scheme is much easier to use. You might need to use this if you can't run Alpine because of what you've done to your configuration. It looks something like this:

 # Alpine configuration file -- customize as needed.
 
 ########################### Essential Parameters ###########################
 
 # Over-rides your full name from Unix password file. Required for PC-Alpine.
 personal-name=
 
 # Sets domain part of From: and local addresses in outgoing mail.
 user-domain=
 
 # List of SMTP servers for sending mail. If blank: Unix Alpine uses sendmail.
 smtp-server=
 
 # NNTP server for posting news. Also sets news-collections for news reading.
 nntp-server=
 
 # Path of (local or remote) INBOX, e.g. ={mail.somewhere.edu}inbox
 # Normal Unix default is the local INBOX (usually /usr/spool/mail/$USER).
 inbox-path=

And so on.

As you can see, the .pinerc more or less replicates the functionality of the Alpine setup/config options[17], except that you have to know the names of the features. To be frank, the easiest way to recover from any fatal Alpine misconfigurations is simply to delete the .pinerc file from your home directory. It will be re-created (without, of course, any of your custom settings) next time you start Alpine.


  1. In particular, it's named after Elm, which is another mail reader. There's a long and rather dull history associated with this.
  2. Only longer. Alpine screens are mostly blank space.
  3. Cc: is based on the snailmail and memo convention - Carbon copy, aka Courtesy copy.
  4. Tragically, this happens way too often.
  5. Still, nothing sucks like a VAX --- Sub Ed.
  6. Well, Alpine may actually save a copy of it into a file called "dead.letter" in your home directory. This has the potential to be embarassing later. People cancel emails for a reason.
  7. Some antiquated telnet programs are reluctant to send CTRL-C}, or use it as the telnet interrupt. If you are cursed with one of these (Mac telnet on OS 9 and below comes to mind), we're terribly sorry.
  8. And not so clever. Most people keep copies of old mail --- they'll know if you change anything.
  9. As explained in Setting up made easy..., the personal-name field.
  10. "Sure," I can hear you saying. "As if you know Camille Paglia."
  11. See Section 3.
  12. Of course, being snooty about people's .sigs is almost as trendy as having one - Ed
  13. But in that case you'd be using mail anyway.
  14. If you wished to constrain the mail you could read from another machine, you would change the [ ]. For instance, if you made it niflheim}/[sent*], you would only have access to your sent-mail folders, or any others you might have which started with sent .}
  15. I shall cover expanded-view-of-folders later, when discussing folder collections.
  16. On the second page of the config screens, discussed above.
  17. Well, actually, the setup/config simplifies the functionality of the .pinerc approach...
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