The Text Based Internet
Part 3: Getting Your Mail Through Pine

When people wonder why I still use Pine, the answer is simple. Sure, I can access my e-mail from computer in the world that has a modem and dial-up software or internet access, be it an Ultra Spark 60 or a 8088. Of course, I don't have to download things just to delete them or worry about icky macroviruses, but those aren't the real reasons. I use it mainly because the pine commands are so easy that I don't want to pick up my mouse to push send.

I turn my nose up at Outlook, Netscape Mail (sorry JWZ) and all the other GUI based mail programs because in an effort to make e-mail userfriendly, they make it more complex and time consuming.

Okay, here you are at the command prompt-

You have 7 new messages, 3 read messages.
[otto@shell otto]$  
Type pine and press enter
[otto@shell otto]$ 

This will take you into the main menu for Pine.

          ?     HELP               -  Get help using Pine

          C     COMPOSE MESSAGE    -  Compose and send a message

          I     MESSAGE INDEX      -  View messages in current folder

          L     FOLDER LIST        -  Select a folder to view

          A     ADDRESS BOOK       -  Update address book

          S     SETUP              -  Configure Pine Options

          Q     QUIT               -  Leave the Pine program

   Copyright 1989-1999.  PINE is a trademark of the University of
                         [Sorting "INBOX" |   100%   |]
? Help                     P PrevCmd                 R RelNotes
O OTHER CMDS > [ListFldrs] N NextCmd                 K KBLock       

You can either use the arrow keys to highlight where you want to go, or you can push the hotkey listed before each item.

It is important to note that you can get back to the main menu from almost anywhere in Pine by pressing the letter m. The only exception is when you are in a screen where you can type, like on the compose message screen.


Help, as you would guess, takes you into the help menu.

The Pine help has TONS of information that you may find interesting and may want to read if you end up using Pine day to day or just happen to be bored. The important thing for me to mention about their help is that it is Context Sensitive, which means that when you go into help while, for an example, composing some e-mail, it will give you help with the commands that are available to you.

When you are composing a message, you access help by pressing ctrl-g or ^g. At all other times, you just need to push the question mark. To exit help, you simply press the letter e, and it will take you back to the screen that you were on.

Compose Message

This option will take you to the Compose message screen. It looks something like this:

  PINE 4.10   COMPOSE MESSAGE                      Folder: INBOX  39

To      :
Cc      :
Subject :
----- Message Text -----

In the To: field, type the address of who you are sending the message to. You can put multiple addresses in this field by seperating them by commas, like this:

To 	: otto@unixbigots.org, john@unixbigots.org,

The Cc: field is also for e-mail addresses. A throwback from the typewriter days, it stands for Carbon Copy and means that you are sending a copy to someone else. Like in the to field, you can put multiple addresses separated by commas.

The next field is Attachment:. This is for adding a file onto the e-mail. In order to add the file, you need to know where it is located. If it is in your home directory, just put the file name there and it should find it. If it is located anywhere else, you'll have to put the path name. Remember, the file that you want to send needs to be located on the server. The computer that you are sending the e-mail through is not the one that you are looking at in front of you. For more information on getting your file to the right place, check out the section on FTP

Type in the subject, if you want one. Now, type your message.

You're message is typed, now what? Look at the bottom of the screen. The last two lines list the most common options that you can do. ^X will send the message. ^C will cancel the message. ^T takes you to the spell check. The spell check in Pine is unusual. It just tells you that the word is spelled wrong, but does not suggest how to spell it right. ^O will postpone the message so that you can come back to it at a later time. You can get the message back by typing the letter C at any of the menu screens and choosing Yes when it asks you if you would like to continue the postponed message. (The symbol ^, as always, means the CTRL key.)

Okay, press ^X, and the message will be sent.

Message Index

The message index option will take you to the index of the last folder that you were in. That looks something like this:

     1 Mar  2 20 Past Midnight    (2,690) Culture Time: 20 PAST MIDNIGHT
+    2 Feb 23 nurd                (3,229) Re: Fwd: Insanity
+    3 Feb 15 Overlord            (1,546) Re: job posting -
  N  4 Mar  1 grrltalk-digest    (43,428) grrltalk-digest V1 #164           

The first line is the message number, then the date of the message, sender of the message, the message size in blocks and the subject. When you enter the index, it defaults to the first unread message in the list or, if there aren't any, to the last message. You can go from message to message using the arrow keys or by pushing the letter j and typing the message number and then enter. (Older versions don't require you to press enter.)

Now you are at the message.

  • Push enter to read the message.
  • Push s to save the message to another folder. It will then ask you to specify which folder. It will default to the saved-messages folder unless you specify a different one. You may want to do this, because if you leave your mail in the inbox it may fill up the spool causing you not to be able to get mail and because the sysadmin may be able to read it.
  • Push d to delete it.
  • Push u to undelete it.
  • Push f to forward it to all of your friends so that you can ridicule the sender. Okay, maybe not the last part.

Folder List

The folder list is just that, a list of folders. There are 3 standard folders -- Inbox, Sent Messages, and saved-messages. Inbox is where your mail comes in, sent messages is, well, your sent messages and saved-messages is where the messages go when they are saved if you don't tell it to save them somewhere else. You can get from folder to folder with the p and n keys or the arrow keys. When you hit enter, it takes you to the index list of that folder.

I must note that it is a good idea to delete the sent messages on a regular basis because they fill up the hard drive fast.

Address Book

The address book is, in my opinion, one of the best features of pine. When you enter the address book, it is empty (assuming no one has been added yet.) Press the @ sign to add a new entry.

Nickname  :
Fullname  :
Fcc       :
Comment   :
Addresses :

The nickname is what you want to type to e-mail a person. It's usually relatively short and easy to remember. For and example, for my friend Sidney, I would just put "sid" in the field.

Full name is the, go figure, full name of the person. This is mostly for reference and can be skipped if you really want to.

Just ignore the comment and fcc fields. I always do.

For the addresses, you can type in multiple e-mail addresses separated with commas. You can even use this for an improptu mailing list. If you do, remember that most ISP frown on this for fear of spamming. Assuming that you use only a few addresses, this should not be of issue. If you use more than 5 or 10, the mail may be blocked or you may have to explain yourself to a nervous sysadmin. If you do want to set up a mailing list among some friends, you may want to contact your ISP and see if they can advise you on this.


Okay, I'm going to cop out and do only one feature that is in setup. For the rest, you're just going to have to go in and explore the help menus, find some other on-line documentation, or wait until I put out an advanced Pine supplement, which may or may not happen.

On the other hand, the one feature that I will show you is unendingly cool and useful: The Signature.

Most of you should know what the signature is. If you don't, have you noticed that everytime you get some e-mail from some people, it has the same thing at the bottom of it every time. For example:

Otto's Punk Rock Ranch for Wayward Girls

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a 
rat. 						- Lily Tomlin

John, water the plants or they will die.

This appears at the bottom of every e-mail I send, unless I go through and delete it before sending the message.

If you want to set up your own, push s in the main menu for setup, then s for signature, and it take you to a screen where you can type whatever you want. Do a ^x to exit, and whatever you typed will show up whenever you reply or compose messages.


The last option is Quit. This will take you out of pine and let you do something else:

  • You can check out the newsgroups through tin.
  • You may want to download some files with ftp.
  • While you're at it, you should fiddle around with some miscellaneous commands and programs.

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