How to do more with your email using Alpine
Table of Contents

  Alpine's Editor: pico
How to Use a Signature
How to Select a Printer
Where Mail is Stored
How to Save a Message to a File
How to Mail an Existing File
Other Handy Alpine Functions
Configuration File

The document How to Use Alpine (for email) should be enough to get you started with Alpine. More About Using A;pine covers some of the more advanced features. Further information about these features can be found via the on-line help. The primary documentation for Alpine is the context-sensitive help screens within the software. A Unix manual page is available by typing man Alpine at the Unix prompt.

Alpine's Editor: Pico

The default editor for composing messages is called pico (stands for Alpine's Composer). Pico is also a stand-alone editor. It can be used outside of Alpine to edit text files by typing the command pico (remember to use lowercase) at the Unix prompt.

It is a simple editor with word-wrap, paragraph justification and a simple spelling-checker. If you need to edit long lines with pico, remember to turn off the word-wrap ability using: pico -w

In this example, a "$" at the start or the end of a line shows that an unwrapped line extends beyond the display area.

Pico always displays a menu of commands across the bottom of the screen. The caret character "^" represents the <Ctrl> key -- hold it down while typing the following letter. The menu shows the control letters in uppercase, but they will also work in lowercase. To find out more about pico: 1) enter pico at the Unix prompt; 2) enter <Ctrl>g to Get Help.

To edit a file that has already been created, just add the file name to the end of the pico command.

How to Make a Signature File

You may wish to have a signature file inserted in each message you send. The standard information to put in a signature is your name and your e-mail address. You may also want to add the name of the organization to which you belong, a postal address, and perhaps a telephone number. People often use signatures in highly imaginative ways as well, including quotations, drawings, or jokes.

To create a signature for your email messages, type s (Setup) from the Main Menu. Type s (Signature) to enter the Signature Editor. Type in what you want to appear as your signature. Press the <Ctrl>x to save your signature file and exit the editor. Type y to confirm that you want to exit and apply the changes. To modify this file, repeat the steps followed to create it.

How to Select a Printer

From the MAIN MENU, select s (Setup). You will be prompted to choose a setup task. Type: p (Printer). Your current default printer setting will be highlighted in the SETUP PRINTER screen. Type n (Next) to move through the selections.

The personally selected print command is the most reliable method for printing messages in ACN Computing Lab. It is the third main option in the list. (See next image.) The first time you select it, attach-to-ansi will be the only item in the Printer List. Type a (Add Printer) to add a printer to this list. You will be asked to enter a printer name; hit the enter key once. Next, you will be asked to enter a command for the printer; type the command line as specified on the printers in the lab in where you are located.

Command line examples

Machray Hall Computing Lab lpr -Pmhepson#
Dafoe Computing Lab lpr -Pdafoe8_pq1#

Once a command line has been entered, it will remain on the list and you can select it during future sessions.

The Standard Unix print command (see next image) may be convenient if you will be using the same lab to print your messages. The printer that will be selected depends on the value of your PRINTER environment variable. To check the value of your PRINTER environment variable: type printenv PRINTER at the UNIX prompt.

To have the value of your PRINTER environment maintained from session to session, you must edit your .login file. Change the value of PRINTER to a printer in the lab where you use email. If you are printing email from the computing labs, it is recommended that you establish the value of the PRINTER environment variable for each session. At the Unix prompt type setenv PRINTER=x, where x is the name of the printer. Once you have logged off, this setting will be removed.

Printer name examples

Dafoe Computing Lab setenv PRINTER=dafoe8_printer2
Machray Hall Computing Lab setenv PRINTER=mhepson3

The Printer attached to IBM PC or compatible, Macintosh option (see picture below) is not recommended in the computing labs on campus. This method is known to print messages to a local printer, if you are logging in from a PC or a Macintosh with a printer attached and using Kermit, MacKermit, Procomm or NCSA Telnet. However, it may not work with other emulators.

Where Mail is Stored

By default, Alpine stores all your mail and folders in the directory called Mail in your home directory. The one exception is that your incoming mail is stored outside your home directory, in a location represented as an INBOX folder, until you either save it elsewhere or delete it.

If you use the s command from the FOLDER INDEX or MESSAGE TEXT screen to save messages, and you don't name a folder, Alpine puts the messages into a folder called saved-messages.

You can also designate a folder; for example, you could save email about your biology course in a folder named 'biology.' To add a folder, in the FOLDER LIST, type a. You will be asked for the folder name to add. Type it in and then press the enter key to have this new folder added to the list.

Copies of messages that you send go into the obox folder. Alpine tries to keep your mail organized: once a month the program offers to start a new obox folder. If you accept, the folder is renamed with the name of the previous month (obox-mail-dec-1998).

When you quit Alpine, it will ask if it can move the messages you have read from your INBOX folder to your mbox folder.

How to Save a Message to a File

To save one of your mail messages to a file, press e (Export). You will be asked to supply a filename to save the message text in. Remember filenames in Unix are case-sensitive. You can export a message from the FOLDER INDEX screen or the MESSAGE TEXT screen. In the FOLDER INDEX screen, the highlighted message will be the one saved. !

How to Mail an Existing File

To include a file in a message, enter <Ctrl>r (Read) from the Message Text part of the COMPOSE MESSAGE screen. You will be prompted for a file name. Remember filenames in Unix are case-sensitive. If you cannot remember the name, tab down to the attachment line (Attchmnt:), then use <Ctrl>t (To Files) to look at all your files. You can then browse through the list and select the one you wish to mail.

Other Handy Alpine Functions

Alpine can help you do many other things. Here's a list of capabilities. Try them out!

Type Location Applied Function
r FOLDER INDEX or MESSAGE TEXT screen Reply to a message, optionally including the original message
f FOLDER INDEX or MESSAGE TEXT screen Forward a message to a new recipient, with your own comments added.
b FOLDER INDEX or MESSAGE TEXT screen Bounce a misdirected message to a new recipient.
$ FOLDER INDEX screen Sort Index by subject, arrival, date, etc., or to reverse the current order.
w FOLDER INDEX screen or in the body of a message. Search for specified words within the applicable text.
s,n MAIN MENU Change your Unix account password.
t MESSAGE TEXT screen Take an address from a message that has been sent to you.
<Ctrl>o COMPOSE MESSAGE Postpone compostion of a message
<Ctrl>t COMPOSE MESSAGE Check the spelling in messages you are composing.

Configuration File

Alpine has a system-wide configuration file and each user has a personal configuration file .pinerc found in their home directory. It contains comments to help explain what each setting does. You can use pico to edit your .pinerc file and change the default settings.

Note: All information applies to Alpine version 4.58.


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