Pine & Pico Introduction


Pine is an easy-to-learn electronic mail system. It is menu driven, which means that you will be presented with command choices at the bottom of each screen, as well as on-line Help. This document also describes Pico, Pine's default text editor, which you automatically use when you compose a message.


In this document, prompts and other on-screen information will be presented in typewriter style type. Information you must enter will be presented in bold typewriter style type. The character ^, which accompanies many commands, represents the control key.

Entering Pine

When you log on to the fog server, pine at the Unix prompt ('>' or '%'), and press <return>. You will be presented with Pine's Main Menu.

      PINE 3.96        MAIN MENU        Folder:INBOX  7 Messages

        ?       HELP            - Get help using Pine

        C       COMPOSE MESSAGE - Compose and send a message

        I       FOLDER INDEX    - View messages in current folder

        L       FOLDER LIST     - Select a folder to view

        A       ADDRESS BOOK    - Update address book

        S       SETUP           - Configure or update Pine

        Q       QUIT            - Exit the Pine program

        Copyright 1989-1997.  PINE is a trademark of the Univ. of Washington.
                   FOLDER "INBOX" opened with 7 Messages

? Help P PrevCmd R RelNotes

O OTHER CMDS L [ListFldrs] N NextCmd K KBLock

Communications Software

Reading Your Mail

To view new messages, from the Main Menu simply press I (Folder Index). You will be shown an index of the messages in your "INBOX," the folder that contains new messages and messages you have not deleted or moved to another folder. The index screen provides the following information, from left to right:

To read a message, select it using your arrow keys and then press <return>. If the message is more than one screen long, press the space bar (NextPage) or the down arrow until you reach the end of the message. To view another message, press N (NextMsg) for next message or I (Folder Index) to return to the index. You can also delete the message when you are finished reading it (see "Deleting a Message" below). Again, as with all Pine screens, your options are shown on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. The options within Folder Index are extensive and continue on a second and third menu, shown by pressing O (Other Cmds). These options can be accessed directly by pressing the letter without going to the additional menus.

Sending a Message

REMINDER: The ^ means hold down the Control key while pressing the accompanying letter.

Sending a message from Pine is a simple matter; the text editor, Pico, is easy to learn and use. To write a message, enter C (Compose). Your cursor will appear at the To: prompt in the Compose Menu. Enter the email address of the person to whom you are sending the message, then press <return>, or the down arrow. If you want to send carbon copies, enter the email addresses after the Cc: prompt and press <return>. (If you want to attach a file, see the document Pine/Pico Advanced ). Press <return> again and give a brief description of what your message is about after the Subject: prompt. The next <return> will transfer you to the Message Text portion of the screen. (The menu commands shown below will appear when you move into the message text portion of the screen.)

PINE 3.96     COMPOSE MESSAGE     Folder:"folder name" 0 Messages

To      : user@e-mail.address
Cc      :
Subject : test
----- Message Text -----
This is a test message.  To enter your message, simply type in 
what you want to say.

^G Get Help ^X Send    ^R Rich Hdr ^YPrvPg/Top^K Cut Line  ^O Postpone
^C Cancel   ^D Del Chr ^J Attach  ^V NxtPg/End^U UnDel Line^T To AddrBk

Press ^G at any time for help with any section.

Typing your Message with Pico

Now that you are in the Message Text area, you can type in the text of your message using the Pico text editor. Move the cursor by using the arrow keys. Pico automatically word-wraps the text of your message. You can insert blank lines for neater formatting by pressing <return>. If you delete words or lines, you can press ^J to re justify the text so that unusual line breaks will not occur in your letter. If you want to delete a line, press ^K. Pine has a word find command (^W) and also a spell-checker (^T). When you run the spell-checker, you can use the arrow keys to move to the part of the word that needs correction (that is, you do not need to re-spell the entire word). Unfortunately, the spell checker does not provide you with the correct spellings for the words it flags. When you have finished writing your message, press ^X to send it.

Moving Blocks of Text

The simplest method of moving a large block of text is with the Mark Set command. To set the mark, simultaneously depress the control key, the shift key and the ^. You should see the Mark Set prompt appear. Next, use the arrow key and scroll to the end of the block of text you wish to move. The entire block of text should be highlighted. Press ^K to cut this section to the clipboard. To paste the selection into your letter, relocate your cursor to the place where you wish the block of text to appear and press ^U. (Note: some terminal emulations do not allow you to use this command. Instead, use repeated ^K commands to delete the block of text. Then move your cursor and press ^U to paste the entire set of deletions into your letter).

Replying to a Message

If you would like to reply to the message you have just read, press R (Reply). Using the Reply function has the advantage that you do not need to type in the person's address. You will be asked if you want the original message included in your reply, and if you do, press <return> or type y. (Note: Including the entire text of a large message clogs up user space and may prove expensive to those who download their mail at a cost. However, you may want to include the original message to remind the person what you're talking about. You can also edit the original message in your Reply so that it only contains the relevant parts.) You will also be asked whether you want to reply to all the recipients, such as people who were CC:'d or on the mailing list. The default for both questions is no. After this, you will be presented with a screen that already has the original sender's address filled in; simply type in your message and press ^X (Send) to send the message.

Forwarding a Message

If you would like to forward the message you have just read in the Folder Index to someone else, press F (Forward). You will be asked to enter the email address of the person to whom you want to forward the message. After you have entered the address, enter an introductory message above the forwarded message if you feel it needs some explanation. Press ^X (Send) to send it.


The Bounce command is similar to the Forward command, but it does not allow you to edit or add to the original message. An exact copy of the message is sent to the address you enter.

Deleting a Message

When you have finished reading a message, you can delete it or save it. All messages remain in the INBOX folder until you either eXpunge them or save them to another folder. To delete a message, simply highlight it from the index using your arrow keys, then press D (Delete). The letter D will appear next to the message, which means that when you exit Pine or press X (eXpunge), the message will be deleted. If you make a mistake, press U to undelete the message. You can also delete messages while you are reading them by simply pressing D (Delete). You will then move to the next message in the current folder.

Saving a Message and Using Folders

If you want to save some of your messages, you should think about a system of folder organization. You may, for example, want to create one folder to contain all messages from John Smith, another to contain messages concerning SAS, a third to contain messages about meetings and conferences, and a fourth to contain miscellaneous messages. To save a message to a folder, highlight the message, then choose S (Save). You will be asked to give the name of the folder in which you wish to save it. If you have never used this folder before, Pine will ask you if you want the folder created; if it already exists, the message will be saved in the existing folder. Example:

SAVE to folder in <mail/[]> [saved-messages]: sas

If the folder does not exist, you will be given a message that looks like this:

Folder "sas" in <mail/[]> doesn't exist. Create?

When the message is saved, you will be notified like this:

[Message 2 copied to folder "sas" in <mail/[]> and marked deleted]

The message is now in the designated folder and will be marked for deletion from the INBOX. To look at all of your folders, press L (Folder List).

Moving Around Folders

When you enter Pine, the INBOX folder is automatically opened. If you want to view a message you have saved in another folder, from the Main Menu choose L for Folder List. Use the arrow keys to highlight the folder you wish to visit and press return. If you are already in the Folder Index, you can press G (GotoFldr) and enter the name of the folder you wish to move to. (Note: if you can't remember the folder name, press ^T for a list of all your folders.)

The Address Book

If you send messages frequently to a particular person or group, you can create a shortcut so you do not need to enter complete email addresses each time.


A nickname is a shortcut for a particular person. To create an nickname, select A (Address Book) from Pine's main menu. Then press A (Add). You will be asked to enter the person's full name. After this, you will be asked to enter a one-word nickname, such as Harry; this is the name you will actually enter when sending messages to the person. You will then enter the full email address of the person. The next time you are composing a message to that person, you need only enter the nickname (e.g. Harry) at the To: prompt; Pine will supply the person's full name and his or her email address.

Take Address Command

A simpler method of adding nicknames is by using the "Take Address" command. From either the message screen or with a message highlighted in the Folder Index, enter T (Take Address). This function will search the message for any email addresses, list those available, and allow you to create a nickname for them. When prompted, enter a nickname, the person's full name, and any other information you require. In newer versions of Pine, you have to enter Control-X in order to save this information to the addressbook. Next time you wish to write to this person, enter the nickname on the To: field and Pine will expand it to the appropriate address.

Address Lists

You may also have a certain group of people to whom you regularly send the same message. To avoid having to enter the email address for every person on that list, you can create an address list. Once you do this, you simply send the message to the group name you designate, and Pine will mail the message to each member's email address. To create an address list, select A (Addresses) from Pine's main menu. Press A (AddNew). Enter a nickname for the list, and if you want to give it a more descriptive title, enter one in the Fullname field. You can skip the FCC and Comment fields. In the Addresses field, enter the email addresses that you want in the list separated by a comma. You can also enter nicknames that are currently in your Address Book. When you are done, press Ctrl-X and choose Y to save the changes. When you are composing a message, you need only enter the list nickname at the To: prompt. Pine will supply the email address for each member of the group. You can edit and add to the list as needed.

Sending Files

Inserting Files into Messages

Pine users may have files in their Unix directories that they want to send by email. To place a file from your directory into the body of your email message, simply enter ^R (Read File) at the point in your text where you want the file to be. You will be asked to supply the file name. After you have done so, Pine will insert the file wherever your cursor is located.

Copy / Paste Options for Microcomputers

Another useful tool that is present on many microcomputer systems is the copy and paste option. If you have a document written in a word processing program on your microcomputer (i.e., it has not been uploaded to the mainframe), you can often use the copy command to copy the text and then the paste command to place the text into the body of your email message. (Note: this does not work with all word processing programs or microcomputer operating systems.)

Saving and Reading Attached Files Sent to You

When you receive a message with an attached file, a message will appear under the Subject line that says Parts/Attachments. Use the View Attachments command (V) to save the attachment as a file in your Unix directory. After typing V, enter the attachment number that you would like to save (usually 2 since in most cases 1 will be an attachment comment). Choose Save (S) or press <return>. You can change the name of the attachment at this point. A message will appear saying the file has been written to your home directory with the name you selected. Enter E to exit the View Attachments menu. If you wish to look at this file and it is in text format, quit Pine. (Q) At the Unix prompt ('%' or '>'), type the command more and the filename.

For example: %more textfile

Use the space bar to scroll downward, one screen at a time.

Downloading Files to Your Microcomputer

If the attachment is not in text format (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or an MS Word document) you will need to download it to a microcomputer that has the necessary software to read it. If you want to move the file onto your desktop computer, please consult Transferring Files .

Printing Email Messages

Printing email messages and files from Pine differs according to what kind of microcomputer, printer, and communications software you are using. When reading an email message within Folder Index, you can select Y (Print) to print it on your local printer. If this does not work, make sure Pine is set to printer option "attached-to-ansi" (the default option) by selecting S from the main menu, then P (Printer). It should be stressed, however, that the print option in Pine is very buggy; there's simply no way for the program running on Unix to know what kind of terminal emulation and/or printer you are using. In many cases, you will have to export the particular letter, download it to your local computer, and print it via a local word processing program. To export a letter, highlight it in the INBOX, then enter E to store a copy of the letter in your home directory. From there, you can follow the downloading instructions detailed in Transferring Files.

Miscellaneous Troubleshooting

^C throws you out of Pine and back in to Unix or prints out [Interrupt Process]:

This is a problem common with NCSA Telnet for the Mac. Once you have connected from a Mac to Pine via Telnet, you should select Setup Keys from the Session menu. Delete ^C from the "Interrupt Process" box. ^C is both a Pine and a Telnet command, but since Telnet is supporting the Pine session, it interprets the command first. You can save this change by selecting Save under the File menu. (Note: Unix also uses the ^C command, to escape from hung or runaway processes.)

The "backspace" doesn't work correctly:

For NCSA Telnet on the Mac, you have the option of using either the Backspace key or the Delete key, but not both. To pick one or the other, select Backspace from the Session menu.

READ ONLY shows up when you start Pine:

This means that you actually have two sessions of Pine running at the same time. To correct this problem so that you can delete mail and manage your files again, do the following:

  1. Quit Pine.
  2. At the Unix prompt (%), type ps.
  3. Note the PID# associated with pine.
  4. Type kill -9 and the PID# of that Pine session. An example is shown below.
        % ps
        PID     TT      STAT            TIME COMMAND
        898     q3      S               0:00 -csh[schneide]
        913     q3      T               0:00 pine 
        930     q3      R               0:00 ps
        %  kill -9 913
[1]    Terminated             pine

Exceeding your disk quota:

Free email users have approximately 5 megabytes of disk space. If you receive any message/error that seems to indicate that you have reached or exceeded this limit, we suggest you use the following commands to identify the names of your files and their size and to remove any unwanted files.

%du | sort -rn | more

This command lists your files from largest to smallest, one page at a time. (Note: use the space bar to scroll to the next page, type q to quit the listing).

%ls -l

This command will list your files and the file sizes. In addition to the files listed, the Unix system makes use of a number of "invisible" files, some of which can become quite large. To see these files, add the a argument to the ls command: ls -la. WARNING: Several of these files are extremely important, and removing or tinkering with them can destroy your ability to login and/or read your mail. Never remove your .login, .cshrc, .addressbook, or .pinerc files. However, the .pine-debug# files are only necessary when you are having problems.

%rm filename

Where filename is the file to be deleted. Note: You may want to consider downloading files prior to deleting/editing them.

Summary of Pico Commands

The ^ indicates that the <Ctrl> key should be held down when typing the following letter.

COMMAND         FUNCTION                                        
^G (F1)         Display help text.                              
^ F             Move forward a character.                       
^ B             Move backward a character.                      
^ P             Move to the previous line.                      
^ N             Move to the next line.                          
^A              Move to the beginning of the current line.      
^ E             Move to the end of the current line.            
^V (F8)         Move forward a page of text.                    
^Y (F7)         Move backward a page of text.                   
^W (F6)         Search for text, neglecting case.               
^ L             Refresh the display.                            
^ D             Delete the character at the cursor position.    
^ ^             Mark cursor position as beginning of selected   
                text. Note: Setting mark when already set       
                unselects text.                                 
^K (F9)         Cut selected text (displayed in inverse         
                characters) or a whole line.   Note: The        
                selected text's boundary on the cursor side     
                ends at the left edge of the cursor.  So,       
                with selected text to the left of the cursor,   
                the character under the cursor is not           
^U (F10)        Uncut (paste) last cut text, inserting it at    
                the current cursor position.                    
^ I             Insert a tab at the current cursor position.    
^J (F4)         Format (justify) the current paragraph.         
                Note:  Paragraphs are delimited by blank        
                lines or indentation.                           
^T (F12)        Invoke the spell checker.                       
^C (F11)        Report current cursor position.                 
^R (F5)         Insert an external file at the current cursor   
^O (F3)         Output the current buffer to a file, saving     
                it.  (Postpones mail message.)                  
^X (F2)         Exit pico, saving buffer.  (Sends mail          


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