Really Quick Pine Tutorial

General: Main page  The First Email  A Brief History
GUI Software: Outlook Express  Netscape Mail  Web Email
Textual Software: pine   elm


Why is this tutorial so brief?

PINE was developed at the University of Washington as an easy-to-learn email program. They already supply excellent documentation on the web, as well as endowing pine with a decent help system. There is no point in trying to redo their efforts.

Here is the briefest of introductions, just to whet your appetite. Please check out the Pine Information Center and make use of all the information the folks at UW have so kindly made available.

How to use this tutorial

Start up netscape or mosaic in one window, and telnet to your unix account in another window. This way, you can read these instructions and try them out, essentially at the same time.

Before we begin

Electronic mail is generally a Good Thing. But it also comes with responsibilities. Some responsibilites should be obvious, and malicious use will get you into trouble. (Of course, you've seen our Acceptable Use Policy, so that won't be a problem.) Other responsibilites stem from the subtle differences between email and telephone or face-to-face conversation, and can cause trouble inadvertantly. The pine manual has some very good advice in this regard, and I strongly advise you to read it.

Email Addresses

Standard internet addresses look like this: The stuff to the left of the @ sign identifies a logon id on some machine, and the stuff to the right of the @ sign identifies which machine on the internet.

Note that some machines may have more than one name. For example, and both refer to the same machine.

Also note that the machine apparantly referred to in an address might not exist at all! For example, Ada Byron might prefer the address In this case, "" exists as an address, not a machine. But we do intercept mail to this address, and reroute it to the proper address. The nice thing about this system is that you can decide where to reroute your mail, using the phupdate command (on icarus or tigger). That way, if you switch machines, your address can remain the same.

Starting pine and sending mail

Logon to your unix account, and type the command pine. Your first screen will be similar to this:
  PINE 3.91   MAIN MENU                             Folder: INBOX  0 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 1989-1994.  PINE is a trademark of the University of Washington.
                    [Folder "INBOX" opened with 0 messages] 
? Help                     P PrevCmd                  R RelNotes
O OTHER CMDS L [ListFldrs] N NextCmd                  K KBLock

Since you want to send mail, type the command c (or use your arrow keys to move the highlighted line to Compose and hit return). Your screen will look like this:

  PINE 3.91   COMPOSE MESSAGE                       Folder: INBOX  0 Messages  

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

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

Now fill out the header above the dashed line, using the down-arrow key or tab key or return key to move to the next field. You must fill in the To: field with at least one email address, and it is good ettiquette to fill out the Subject: field with a short but descriptive phrase. You may fill out Cc: to send copies, but for now, leave the Attachment: field (used for sending whole files, or images, or general attachement) blank.

Then move to the message body, and type in your message. By default, pine uses the pico editor to create the message. Pretty much keep typing, and use the keys listed at the bottom of the screen for cut-and-paste, and so forth. Pico comes with on-line help (hit ^G). (By the way, pico can be used by itself, without pine, if you really like it.)

When I fill out my sample note, it looks like this:

  PINE 3.91   COMPOSE MESSAGE                       Folder: INBOX  0 Messages  

To      :,
Cc      :
Subject : friendly greeting
----- Message Text -----

Ada, my friend!  You are one heck of a person!


^G Get Help  ^X Send      ^R Read File ^Y Prev Pg   ^K Cut Text  ^O Postpone  
^C Cancel    ^J Justify   ^W Where is  ^V Next Pg   ^U UnCut Text^T To Spell  

Note I'll send the note 3 times: twice in the To: field using different addresses, and once in the Cc:field. Then I hit ^X and answer Y to send the note.

Reading mail

To read your email, simply start pine with the pine command. From the main menu, hit the I command to check the contents of your INBOX. (Pine also lets you arrange your main in various folders, but that is another topic not covered here.) Each line represents a new piece of mail; the date, sender, subject line, and size are shown, and the N indicates the note is new. Simply move the cursor to a line and hit return to read that note. Here are the entries for this example:
  PINE 3.91   FOLDER INDEX                   Folder: INBOX  Message 1 of 2 NEW  

+ N 1   Sep  5 Ada Byron       (652) friendly greeting                   
+ N 2   Sep  5 Ada Byron       (603) friendly greeting                    

? Help       M Main Menu  P PrevMsg     - PrevPage    D Delete      R Reply
O OTHER CMDS V [ViewMsg]  N NextMsg   Spc NextPage    U Undelete    F Forward

Replying to mail

Replying to mail that you are currently reading is quite easy. Just hit the command R , add your reply, and send it. It is quite common to quote from the note you are repling to, so the recipient knows what your are referring to.

Where to get more information

This only barely covers the real essentials of email. There is lots more, but you can already be useful with what you know. When you are ready, you'll want to look into address books, sending files, using listserv lists, customizing pine, and so forth.


Email has become an essential tool. Use it to interact with your friends, professors, various people on listserv lists or netnews groups, and information sources on the internet.

A little practice will go a long way, both in terms of the efficiency with which you can handle the various tools, and in terms of the effectiveness of your notes.

Note: This page is modified from Email on Unix.

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