Internet Gurus Guide to UNIX E-Mail: Using Pine

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If you use a UNIX shell account, you probably use the Pine e-mail program. If you don't use Pine, consider switching to it, because Pine is by far the easiest e-mail to use. Try typing pine at the UNIX prompt; if nothing happens, complain to your system adminsitrator or Internet provider. When e-mail messages arrive addressed to you, your UNIX system holds onto them until the next time you are logged in. To read the messages, run Pine.

Pine is a rather nice mail program with a full-screen terminal interface. Pine can also be used to read Usenet newsgroups. It's generally available from most shell providers, since it's (no! wait! you guessed!) free. If you're using a shell system, Pine runs on your provider's computer, and you type commands at it using a terminal program on your computer.

Running Pine

Run Pine by typing pine. You see Pine's main menu.

Sending Mail

Press c to compose a new message. Pine displays a nice, blank message, all ready for your to fill in. On the To line, type the address you want to send mail to and press Enter (or Return -- same thing).

At the bottom of the screen are a bunch of options preceded by a funny-looking caret sign and a letter. The caret sign indicates the Ctrl key on your keyboard. To choose an option, press the Ctrl key and the letter of the option that interests you (such as Ctrl-G for ^G to get help). On the Cc: line you can enter addresses of other people to whom you want to send a copy of this message. Press Enter to get to the line labeled Attchmnt:

Whether the programmers can't spell or the lazy typists have struck or they abbreviate things so that people won't know that they can't spell, no one really knows. But this line is for attachments -- files you want to send along with your message. You can enter the name of a file, even a file that contains stuff that isn't text, and Pine will send it along with your message. Press Enter to get to the subject of your message, and then enter something descriptive about the content of your message.

Subject lines that say something like "A message from Harley" are somewhat less useful than something like this:

Subject: Hound dogs

Press Enter to get to part we've all been waiting for and enter your message. It can say anything you want, and it can be as long as you want. Here's a short example:

When you said that I ain't nothing but a hound dog, did you mean a greyhound, a basset hound, or some other kind of hound?
Signed, A Curious Admirer

To enter the message text, Pine automatically runs the simple text editor pico, which, with any luck, you already know how to use. If you don't know how to run pico but you know how to run another UNIX editor, ask your Internet service provide to help you set up Pine to use the editor you do know how to run. (Some providers ask you when they configure your account.) You have to be able to stumble through some type of editor, so if you don't know any, starting with pico is as good a place as any.

If you don't know how to use any editor features, you can use pico perfectly well without using any. Just type your message. Press the arrow keys on the keyboard to move around if you need to make changes.

When you're finished, press Ctrl-X to save the message and return to Pine. Pine responds with this message: Send message? [y] :

Press y or Enter to send your message. The Pine program responds with a cheery [Sending mail.....] message, and you're all set.

Receiving Mail

When you log in to your shell account, you usually get a little message that says "You have new mail" if you do, or "You have mail" if stuff you've already seen is hanging around. Depending on some obscure parameter, your mail gets checked periodically, and when you have new mail you get the "You have new mail" message again.

Pine's main menu lets you choose from a variety of activities, but if you have mail, the choice L, Folder list is highlighted. Press Enter to see the list of folders you can choose from.

When you're just starting out, you don't have much to choose from, but that can change. Right now you're interested in the one labeled INBOX. INBOX should be highlighted. Press Enter to see a list of messages,.

The message that is highlighted is the current message. To choose a different one, press the arrow keys or press P for the previous message or N for the next message. When you've chosen the message you want to read, press Enter. Pine displays your message.

After you've read a message, you have several choices about what to do with it. We talk about the details of deleting, forwarding, and filing messages later in this Web page. To read your next message, press N; to read the preceding message, press P; to return to the index of messages in the folder you are reading (in our case, INBOX), press I.

When you're finished reading mail, press Q to quit. Pine asks you whether you really want to do that. (What -- leave this program? But it's so wonderful!) Reassure it by pressing Y.

Dealing with Your Mail

Once you have read an e-mail message, you have a number of ways to deal with it.

  • To reply to a message, press R. Pine asks if you want to include the text of the original message (the message you are replying to). Press Y or N.
  • To forward a message to someone else, press F for Forward. Pine begins a new message, allowing space for your message, followed by a broken line labeled Forwarded Message with the text of the forwarded message at the bottom. Notice that Pine uses the subject of the forwarded message as the subject of this message with (fwd) at the end to alert the reader that this message has been forwarded. Enter in the To: and Cc: fields the address where you want the message forwarded. Enter any commentary you want in the message field. Notice that you can edit the forwarded message just as you can edit your own message. Press Ctrl-X to send the message along.
  • To save a message in a folder, press s when you are looking at the message, or when it is highlighted on your list of messages. To create a new folder, tell Pine to save a message to a folder that doesn't exist (yet). Pine asks if you want to create it -- press y to do so.
  • To delete the message, press D for Delete.

Attaching Files to E-Mail Messages

To attach stuff with Pine, enter the filenames of what you want to attach, separated by commas. When you press Enter after you're entered your attachments, Pine goes and gets the file. If it can't find it, it enters it in your list of attachments anyway, but tells you that it can't find it, so pay careful attention.

When Pine reads a message with attachments, it tells you which attachments you have and displays them if they're in a format that's comprehensible to it. Generally what happens is that you save them with a filename of your choosing and then read them with other software.

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