Configuring alpine

Alpine is a text-only screen-based mail program. (The previous version was called pine. This version is still present on some older systems at Nevis. If the alpine command doesn't work, try pine.) It was designed by the University of Washington to have a large set of features, and yet be easy for novices to use. Alpine displays a list of your available options at the bottom of the screen, along with the keypresses to invoke them, so you always know what you're able to do. You can learn about alpine from within the program; just type alpine to run the program, and type ? whenever you need help.

Alpine is full-featured mail program, including mail aliases (which are called address books), folders for organizing mail messages, and full support for MIME enclosures. Since it is text-based, it can be run from remote computer systems via ssh, and the user interface will be the same as if you were running it on a terminal at Nevis. Alpine supports the IMAP protocol, and you can use it to see mail on remote computer systems that run IMAP. It's quicker to specifically identify yourself as a particular user who's reading your mail using the IMAP server. To do this, from the alpine main menu type "S", then "C", then move the cursor down to the inbox path option, and type:

{mail.nevis.columbia.edu/ssl/novalidate-cert/user=????}inbox

...where ???? should be replaced by your account name. Note the use of curly brackets (they're not parentheses).

If you use the above method, you'll have to type in your password every time you start up alpine. This web page describes how to avoid this.

On many systems, alpine switches the colors in the display window to white text on a black background. If you find this annoying, you use this command before running Alpine:

setenv TERM vt100

Note: if you do this, you may lose some of the color highlighting in text-based displays such as man pages and in emacs -nw. Rather than placing this command in your ~/.mycshrc file, you may wish to start a special xterm just for reading mail via alpine, with the terminal type preset to vt100:

xterm -tn vt100

...or use a sub-shell:

(setenv TERM vt100; alpine)

A minor disadvantage of alpine is it uses pico as its default editor for composing messages. Pico is a full-featured editor, but it does not enable a backup buffer; if you experience an error while composing a message you can lose your work.

You can configure alpine to use emacs to compose mail messages instead. To do this, from the Alpine main menu type "S", then "C", then move the cursor down to the editor option, and change it to emacs -nw. You can also use vi if you wish. Both of these editors create backup files, so if you experience a problem after you've spent an hour composing a message, you have a chance to recover it.

Topic revision: r1 - 2009-02-19 - WilliamSeligman
 
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