Oregon State University

(Configure) Pine (Linux)

Configuring Pine (Linux)

Pine was developed by the University of Washington specifically to provide user access to electronic mail without complication. Pine was originally based on ELM but has evolved into a completely different program. Although we describe many of Pine's functions below, Pine is quite easy and natural to use, and is used daily by thousands of users at the University of Washington and elsewhere around the world. You may find that exploring it on your own and reading Pine's built-in help messages is the most enjoyable way to learn its features (and the most comprehensive).

For more help on getting connected to shell.onid.oregonstate.edu, please refer here.

Conventions Used In This Document

Commands you are instructed to type are shown in bold:

cd mail

Keys to press are shown surrounded by angle brackets: <RETURN> or <ALT>

Within Pine, menu function letters preceded by a caret (^) signify a control character. For example, "^G" means <CONTROL><G>, which means press and hold the <CONTROL> key, then press the <G> key and then release both keys.

Connecting To The Shell Server

For more help on getting connected to shell.onid.oregonstate.edu, please refer to: /och_helpdocs/onid/using-onid/shell

Using an SSH? program, open a connection to shell.onid.oregonstate.edu . When prompted, enter your ONID username and password to login.

Using Pine

After typing in your correct login and password you will be at the UNIX prompt. To run the Pine program type:


Then press the <RETURN> key and you will enter into the main menu of the Pine mail program:


Within Pine, each menu function is preceded by its one-letter command, usually shown highlighted in reverse video at the bottom of the screen. For example, entering a <?> will display help information, or entering a <Q> command will cause Pine to exit.

You can press <M> within most screens in Pine in order to return to this Main screen

How To Address Electronic Mail

When people begin using e-mail they often find the addressing system confusing. E-mail addresses are very similar to postal mail addresses. Both postal and e-mail addresses utilize a hierarchical addressing system; the information goes from very specific to very general. Here are some examples of e-mail addresses:


A breakdown of an e-mail address is as follows:

		george (user name or ID)
@ (this user is located at)
cac (a particular department)
washington (Washington campus network)
edu (education domain on the Internet)

Each element of information is separated by a period. The first element is the most specific. The @ symbol separates the user portion from the machine which holds this account. It is important to note that each part of the address is equally important. If any piece of the address is missing, your message cannot be delivered.

Composing And Sending Mail

To originate a message, choose COMPOSE <C> from the Pine main menu. The following screen will appear:


First you must enter the email addresses of the recipients of the message. Email addresses must be typed exactly without mistakes or the message will not reach its recipient(s). Undeliverable mail will usually be returned to you, or "bounced" but that is not guaranteed.

The To: line is where you specify the primary recipients of the message (you can specify more than one recipient if you separate the addresses with commas). On the Cc: or "carbon copy" line you can specify additional recipients (if any) who will receive a copy of the message.

The Attachment: or attachment line allows you to specify files that can be "attached" to your message, such as a word processing document or spreadsheet.

Entering and Editing Messages

After entering the subject of the message, you may begin to type the body of the message. While typing, Pine will "word wrap" the text; that is, you need not press <RETURN> or <ENTER> at the end of each line. If you make a typographical error, you can (if necessary) position the cursor using the arrow keys and use the <BACKSPACE> or <DELETE> key. You can also use the Cut Line command <CONTROL><K> to delete the entire line on which the cursor is positioned. A complete description of the editing capabilities is displayed by the Get Help command <CONTROL><G>.

Other commands you may find useful when entering a message include a spell checker, To Spell <CONTROL><T>, and a paragraph justifier, Justify <CONTROL><J>. If you wish to read the text of the message in from a file, or perhaps you transferred some data that you'd like to read in and include in the message, use the Read File command <CONTROL><R>.

If you decide you don't want to send your message any time during the editing process, you can either Cancel the message <CONTROL><C>, or Postpone it for later use <CONTROL><O>. If a message is postponed, Pine will ask you if you want to continue your postponed message the next time you compose a message.

When you have completed entering and editing your message, use the Send command <CONTROL><X>. Pine will ask you to confirm that you wish to send the message. If you answer yes, Pine sends the message and displays the main menu. If you answer no, Pine returns you to the editor.

The fact that Pine sends your message without presenting you with an error message does not mean your message was delivered or was addressed correctly. When Pine sends a message, it hands the message over to a mail delivery program that performs the actual transmission of the message. If the mail delivery program cannot deliver the message, it usually returns a copy of the message to you (often called a "bounced message") with a brief explanation as to the cause. Under certain circumstances, it can take several days for a message to be bounced, although in most cases it is returned within a few minutes if there is a problem. If you cannot understand why a particular message has bounced, contact the OSU Computer Helpdesk at 737-3474 or consulting@oregonstate.edu and they will try to determine the cause. By far the most common cause is a faulty address.

Viewing Mail

To view email messages you've received, choose the FOLDER INDEX command <I> from the main menu. A screen similar to the following will appear:

The first line of the screen displays the name of the mail folder you are reading, how many messages are present in the folder, and the number of the current message.

A mail folder is the computer equivalent of a file folder where you store messages. You can sort and separate your mail into different folders by topic or however you choose to organize messages. The folder that Pine reads when it is started is the Inbox folder and is where incoming messages are located.

The current message is the message you are selecting to view, reply to, forward, save, or delete, and is highlighted in reverse video in the index. You can change the current message selection by choosing the Next Msg or the next message command <N> and the Prev Msg or previous message command <P>. You can also use the up-arrow and down-arrow keys to move the selection.

For each message listed in the index, the following information appears:


Select the message you wish to read as above, then press the <RETURN> or <ENTER> key or choose the View Mail command <V>. The message is then displayed as shown below:


At this point you can choose to reply to <R>, delete <D> or save <S> this message (see below).

Sending a Reply

If you choose the Reply <R> command, Pine asks whether you wish to include the text of the original message in the reply. Pine tries its best to enter the proper return address in the To: field, but you should verify that the address lines are correct before sending the message.

Deleting a Message

To delete a message, choose the Delete command <D>. If you subsequently change your mind, the message can be "undeleted" any time before you quit from Pine using the Undelete command <U>. The message is not actually deleted from the inbox until you quit from Pine and instruct Pine to "expunge" messages from the inbox when asked. If you delete a message and there are additional messages in the current mail folder, Pine automatically views the next message.

Saving Messages

If you choose to retain a message after viewing it, you should not leave it in your inbox. It is a good idea to save the message in a folder where the name signifies the topic or sender. This makes it convenient to find the message again or download related messages to a personal computer for indefinite storage. After choosing the Save command <S>, Pine will ask for the name of the folder into which to save the message:

		SAVE Msg #1 to folder in <Mail> [saved-messages] :
^G Help ^T To Fldrs
^C Cancel Ret Accept

You can choose the default folder, saved-messages, by pressing the <RETURN> or <ENTER> keys or specify any folder name you wish (alphanumeric characters only, no spaces or tabs). If the named folder doesn't exist, Pine will ask you to confirm that you wish to create it. If you choose To Folders <^T>, Pine presents you with a menu of your folder names from which you can select by moving the cursor.


As was explained above, you can create mail folders and store messages in them. The FOLDER LIST command <L> from the main menu allows you to switch the current folder you are viewing to any of the mail folders that you have created.

You will first see the COLLECTION LIST. Press <RETURN> or <ENTER> to select Mail.


Next, you will see the FOLDER LIST.


To view mail in a listed folder, highlight it so that it shows in reverse video by selecting the folder name with the arrow keys, then press <RETURN> or <ENTER> or choose the [View Fldr] command <>>. Pine opens that folder and places you in the mail index.

Address Book

Pine allows you to maintain an address book of recipients to whom you frequently send e-mail. To use it, choose the ADDRESS BOOK command <A> from the main menu. You will then see the ADDRESS BOOK LIST. Choose the personal address book, .addressbook, by pressing <RETURN> or <ENTER>.


The Personal Address Book will look something like this:

For each recipient listed in the address book there are three pieces of information stored:

  1. A short, memorable nickname by which you refer to the recipient. This could be the recipient's first name, initials, login name, etc.
  2. The recipient's full name in English.
  3. The recipient's complete email address.

Use the Add command <@> to add additional entries to the address book.

Printing Messages

There are two alternative ways to obtain a hard copy printout of a message if you have your own printer. One method is to Export <E> the message to a file, transfer the file to your own computer, and then use the local printer and printing method you normally use on your system. (For help transferring files, please contact the OSU Computer Helpdesk at 737-3474 or consulting@oregonstate.edu.)

The other method is to print to the printer connected to your computer, choose "attached-to-ansi" under "Printer attached to IBM PC or compatible, Macintosh."

To print a message while viewing it, simply press the Print command <%>.

Logging Off The Shell Server

When you have finished using Pine, always Quit from Pine <Q> and issue the "logout" command to log you off the server and close the connection.

And Now a Few Words about E-mail Etiquette

  • Be brief. In most cases, try to fit your message into one screen of text.
  • Use blank space between paragraphs or other logical units of text to break it up for easier reading.
  • Use mixed upper and lower case and standard capitalization. Mixed-case text is much easier to read than all lower or all upper case. Even worse, USING UPPER CASE WHEN YOU WRITE IS LIKE SCREAMING WHEN YOU SPEAK!

Most computer terminals do not display underlined or italicized characters, which are commonly used to provide emphasis in handwriting. So, if you want to emphasize something, use all-capital letters for what you REALLY want to emphasize. Other ways to emphasize a word is to put asterisks, or other special characters at the beginning and end of the word or phrase, like *this*, or like _this_ or >even< like that!

Never forget the person to whom you are sending the mail is another human being, with feelings and beliefs that may be very different from yours! This can be easy to forget when you are sitting at a computer terminal, writing a mail message to a person you might never have met in real life.

In face to face conversation, there are many subtle cues provided by body language and intonation that let us know how what we are saying is affecting the other person. These cues are completely absent when using e-mail, so strive to be concise, clear and polite in your own writing and flexible in your interpretation of other people's mail.

Finally, before sending off your e-mail message:

  • Look over what you have written.
  • Make sure you've said everything you needed to say.
  • Make sure you haven't said things you didn't need to say.
  • Make sure you've used correct spelling and grammar: splling eerers end bad grammers madeit harder fer uther peeple to reed what you wrought :)

Using OSU Online Directory

Pine on shell.onid.oregonstate.edu is already configured to use the OSU Online Directory. Follow these steps to use the OSU Online Directory:

  1. Run pine .
  2. Compose a message by pressing C .
  3. Move your cursor to one of the email address fields (To:, Cc:, etc).
  4. Press ^T (To AddrBk).
  5. Highlight OSU Online Directory and press enter .
  6. Type in a string to search for, such as a last name or first name, and press enter . If your search is too generic (for example, you searched for "smith"), Pine will show you the first 200 matches and warn you that the size limit was exceeded.
  7. Highlight the entry you want to use and press enter .
  8. The entry will be placed in the email address field (To:, Cc:, etc).

Need help?

Contact the Service Desk at 541-737-8787

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