Colorado State University

Basic Pine Commands

What is Pine?

(The information below is taken directly from the Pine Help page)

  PINE 4.20   MAIN PINE HELP            


               Version 4.20 (built Mon Nov 8 18:46:46 MST 1999)
                           University of Washington


 1. Introduction
 2. Pine Help
 3. Giving Commands in Pine
 4. Status Line
 5. Main Menu
 6. Address Books
 7. LDAP
 8. Index of Messages
 9. Reading Messages
10. Composing Messages
11. Collection List
12. Folder List
13. Color
14. Roles
15. Filtering
16. Patterns
17. Command Line Options
18. Pine Configuration
19. Reading News
20. Reporting Problems
21. Index to Pine's Online Help


Pine(R) is the University of Washington's "Program for Internet News and
Email". It is intended to be an easy-to-use program for sending,
receiving, and filing Internet electronic mail messages and bulletin
board (Netnews/Usenet) messages. Pine supports the following Internet
protocols and specifications: SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol),
NNTP (Network News Transport Protocol), MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions), and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol).

Although originally designed for inexperienced email users, Pine has
evolved to support many advanced features. There are an ever-growing
number of configuration and personal-preference options, though which of
them are available to you is determined by your local system managers.


Pine is a "mail user agent" (MUA), which is a program that allows you to
compose and read messages using Internet mail standards. (Whether you
can correspond with others on the Internet depends on whether or not
your computer is connected to the Internet.) Pine also allows reading
and posting messages on the Internet "net news" system, provided that
your site operates a suitable news server.


A "mail user agent" such as Pine is just one part of a messaging system.
Here are some things that are not done by Pine, but require other

 *  Actual relaying of email... which is done by "message transfer
 *  Vacation messages... automatically responding to incoming messages
 *  Anything to do with "talk"... which has nothing to do with email.
 *  Anything to do with "irc"... which has nothing to do with email.
 *  List processing... resending one message to a list of recipients.


Pine help is generally context-sensitive. In other words, each Pine
screen you use will have its own help text, explaining the choices
available for that screen. This general help section, on the other hand,
attempts to give an overall picture of what Pine is capable of doing, as
well as pointers to additional help sections about specific topics.

In addition to this general help on Pine, Release Notes on the current
Pine version are also available from the MAIN MENU: Press "R" to browse
the release notes. These include changes since the last release, notes
for PC-Pine, configuration information, the history of the Pine project,
credits, and legal notices. Pine files and documentation are available
via FTP or WWW:


For a copy of the current Pine "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) list,
send an empty message to

If you would like to print all of Pine's internal help text for a little
light bedtime reading, then press "Z" now. (This assumes that the copy
of Pine you are using has been properly configured for printing at your


The bottom two lines of the screen are always used to list the commands
you can give. You press the keys that are highlighted to give the
command. The commands for getting help and going back to the main menu
are always present (except when viewing help as you are now).

Pressing O (meaning "Other Commands") changes the keys you see at the
bottom of any screen. In some cases there are 3 different sets of keys
that can be seen by using the O key. All commands are active, even if
they are not currently showing at the bottom of your screen. In other
words, you never need to press the O key, except to remind yourself of
the proper key to press to perform an operation.

  Control Key Commands

When composing mail, and in a few other places, in Pine you have to use
Control keys. This means pressing the Control key (usually labeled
"Ctrl") and the letter indicated at the same time. Usually, this is
shown with a "^" in front of the letter. On some systems, certain
control characters are intercepted before they get to Pine. As a
work-around, you can press the ESCAPE key twice followed by the desired
key. For example, if Ctrl-O (^O) does not work on your system, try
typing "ESC ESC O".

  Paging Up and Down

The "+" and "-" keys are used for moving to the next or previous page.
The space bar is a synonym for "+". You may also use Ctrl-V to page down
and Ctrl-Y to page up as you do in the message composer. On screens with
a WhereIs (search) command, W or Ctrl-W followed by Ctrl-V will move to
the bottom of the message or list, and W or Ctrl-W followed by Ctrl-Y
will move to the top of the message or list.

  Return Key

The return key is usually a synonym for a frequently used command. When
viewing a message, there is currently not a default command, so RETURN
does nothing; when in the index, it is synonymous with "view msg". In
the key menu at the bottom of the screen, whatever is enclosed in square
brackets [] is the same as the return key.

  Control Keys Not Used By Pine

Most commands in Pine are single letters, with -- we hope -- some
mnemonic value, but in places where Pine is expecting text input, e.g.
in the composer or at prompts for file/folder names, control keys must
be used for editing and navigation functions.

Pine has used nearly all the control keys available. There are, however,
certain control keys that are reserved by other programs or for
technical reasons. Pine does not use any of these keys:

      Used by Unix as "stop output"

      Used by Unix as "resume output"

      Often used by Telnet as escape key

      Often used by Unix as "Abort"

Note: Ctrl-S and Ctrl-Q can be subject to special handling.

In addition, while the ESC key alone is not used for command input, Pine
will recognize two consecutive ESC key presses followed by a letter key
as a substitute for control key input. For example, the control key
Ctrl-X can alternatively be entered using the three keystrokes:
ESC ESC x. This is useful if the communication program you are using
(e.g. Telnet) has its own, conflicting, idea of what certain control
characters mean.

  Repainting the Screen

Sometimes what is displayed on the screen will be incorrect due to noise
on the phone line or other causes and you will want to repaint the whole
screen to make it correct. You can use the Ctrl-L command to do this. It
never hurts to do it when in doubt.


The top line of the screen is Pine's status line. It will always display
the current version of Pine and will also convey information about the
status of the program. This is where you look to find out what
collection, folder and message number is active.

If the top line says "READONLY" it means that the open folder (typically
your INBOX) is "locked" by another mail session -- most likely a more
recent session of Pine has taken the INBOX lock.

If the top line says "CLOSED" it means that you are trying to access a
folder on a remote mail server, and for some reason, communication with
the mail server has either been lost, or never successfully established.
This can be a result of trying to open a non-existent folder, or one

stored on an invalid or non-operational server, or it can mean that Pine
has been suspended for more that 30 minutes while accessing a remote
mail server.


The Main Menu lists Pine's main options. The key or keys you must type
to enter your choice are to the left of each option or command name. You
can usually type either uppercase or lowercase letters, and you should
not press .

From the Main Menu you can choose to read online help, write (compose)
and send a message, look at an index of your mail messages, open or
maintain your mail folders, update your address book, configure Pine,
and quit Pine. There are additional options listed at the bottom of the
screen as well.

  Main Menu Commands

Pine main menu lists the most common Pine functions. A full list of
these commands and what they do is available.


As you use email, you can build a list of your regular email
correspondents in your Pine Address Book. At the Pine Main Menu, press A
to see the Address Book List screen. Your personal address book will be
highlighted. Press to view it. You can use the address book to store
email addresses for individuals or groups, to create easily remembered
"nicknames" for these addresses, and to quickly retrieve an email
address when you are composing a message.

There are two ways to add addresses to your address book: you can add
them manually or take them from messages (by pressing T to access the
Take command). With either method, you specify nicknames for your
correspondents. A single address book entry (or nickname) can point to
just one email address, or, it can point to more than one. When it
points to more than one, it is called a distribution list. Each
distribution list has a nickname, a full name, and a list of addresses.
These addresses may be actual addresses, other nicknames in your address
book, or other distribution lists.

Additional information is available in Pine's online help:

 *  The Pine Address Book


LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) is a standard means of
accessing an organization's shared directories. Essentially, using LDAP,
Pine is able to find email addresses in large address books, rather like
the White Pages provided by the phone company. As a Pine user, it is not
necessary to know much about how this works, only how to use it and how
to configure it.

More information on configuring LDAP is available in Pine's online help:
 *  Setup LDAP Directory Servers

Additional help on using LDAP in Pine is also available:

 *  LDAP Response View Explained


In Pine's message index, the selected message is highlighted. The first
column on the left is blank, or shows a "+" if the message was sent
directly to you (i.e., it is not a copy or from a list).

The second column may be blank, or it may contain:

 *  "N" if the message is new (unread),
 *  "A" if you have answered the message (using the Reply command),
 *  "D" if you have marked the message for deletion.

Note: If you answer a message as well as mark it deleted (in either
order), you will only see the "D".

The rest of the columns in the message line show you the message number,
date sent, sender, size, and subject. For details, press ? (Help). Most
of the commands you need to handle your messages are visible at the
bottom of the screen, and you can press O (OTHER CMDS) to see additional
commands that are available. You do not need to see these "other
commands" on the screen to use them. That is, you never need to press O
as a prefix for any other command.

Additional information is available in Pine's online help:

 *  Message Index Commands


The message text screen shows you the text of the message along with its
header. If a message has attachments, those will be listed (but not
displayed) also. The top bar displays information about the currently
open message, folder and collection. You see the name of the collection
(if there is one) in angle brackets, then the name of the folder, then
the message number and finally the position within the current message
(in percent). If the message is marked for deletion "DEL" will appear in
the upper right as well.

As with every Pine screen, the bottom two lines show you the commands

Additional information is available in Pine's online help:

 *  Message Text Screen
 *  Attachment Index Screen Explained
 *  Attachment View Screen Explained


To write a message, press C (Compose). You see the Compose Message
screen, which is divided into two parts: the header area and the message
text area. The header area is where information on the recipient (the
To: field) and the subject line go, while the message text area contains
the actual text of the email message. Different commands are available
to you when your cursor is in different areas on this screen. To see
additional help on commands in either the message text or header area,
type G (Get help).

To move around, use the arrow keys or Ctrl-N (Next line) and Ctrl-P
(Previous line); to correct typing errors, use or .

The following information from Pine's online help should prove useful:

 *  Message Header Commands
 *  Rich Header Command
 *  Composer Commands
 *  Composer Editing Commands
 *  Send Command
 *  Spell Check Command


Collection lists are Pine's way of organizing groups of folders. Each
"collection" can reside on a different server, for example, and contain
a different group of mail folders.

For more information on this, see:

 *  Folder Collections Explained

Additional information relating to collection lists is also available in
Pine's online help:

 *  Setup Collection List Screen
 *  Collection List Screen


Messages can quickly accumulate in your INBOX folder. If you use email
often, you soon could have hundreds. You need to delete messages you do
not want, and you can use folders to organize messages you wish to save.
A folder is a collection of one or more messages that are stored (just
like the messages in your INBOX) so you can access and manage them.

You can organize your email messages into different folders by topic,
correspondent, date, or any other category that is meaningful to you.
You can create your own folders, and Pine automatically provides three:

 *  The INBOX folder: messages sent to you are listed in this folder.
    When you first start Pine and go to the Message Index screen, you
    are looking at the list of messages in your INBOX folder. Every
    incoming message remains in your INBOX until you delete it or save
    it in another folder.
 *  The sent-mail folder: copies of messages you send are stored in this
    folder. This is convenient if you cannot remember whether you
    actually sent a message and want to check, or if you want to send a
    message again.
 *  The saved-messages folder: copies of messages you save are stored in
    this folder unless you choose to save them to other folders you
    create yourself.

More information about folders is available in Pine's online help:

 *  Explanation of Folder Selection
 *  Help for Folder List
 *  Folder List Commands
 *  Explanation of Valid Folder Names
 *  Folder Select for Fcc ("sent-mail") Explained
 *  Folder Select for Save Explained


If the terminal emulator you are using is capable of displaying color or
if you are using PC-Pine, then it is possible to set up Pine so that
various parts of the display will be shown in colors you configure. This
is done using the Setup Color screen, available from the Main Menu by
selecting the Setup command followed by "K" for Kolor.

For example, you may color things like the titlebar, the current item,
the keymenu, and the status messages. You may also color lines in the
index, and headers and quoted text in the MESSAGE VIEW screen. You use
the Color Setup screen for configuring most of this, but you must use
the IndexColor setup for coloring index lines. That is available from
the Main Menu under Setup/Rules/IndexColor.

The following entries in Pine's online help provide additional
information about how to use color:
 *  Color Setup screen
 *  Index Line Color
 *  quoted text in message view
 *  text associated with user-defined headers in message view


You may play different roles depending on who you are replying to. For
example, if you are replying to a message addressed to help-desk you may
be acting as a Help Desk Worker. That role may require that you use a
different return address and/or a different signature.

The following entries in Pine's online help provide additional
information about how to use roles:

 *  Setup Roles Screen
 *  Roles Screen


The software which actually delivers mail (the stuff that happens before
Pine is involved) for you is in a better position to do mail filtering
than Pine itself. If possible, you may want to look into using that sort
of mail filtering to deliver mail to different folders, delete it, or
forward it. However, if you'd like Pine to help with this, Pine's
filtering is for you.

Filtering is a way to automatically move certain messages from one
folder to another or to automatically delete messages. Pine doesn't have
the ability to forward mail to another address.

The following entries in Pine's online help provide additional
information about how to use filtering:
 *  Filtering Setup screen


Patterns are used with Roles, Filtering, Index Coloring, and Scoring so
it may help you to understand exactly how Patterns work. The following
entries in Pine's online help provide information about using Patterns:
 *  Patterns


Pine accepts a number of command line arguments, allowing you, for
example, to start Pine and immediately access a particular folder. A
full list is available.


Unless it has been administratively disabled, the Setup command on the
MAIN MENU has a "Config" subcommand which will allow you to modify
Pine's behavior by setting or unsetting various features, defining
folder collections, etc. These settings are stored in your personal
"pinerc" configuration file, but on shared systems these settings may be
over-ridden by a system-wide control file (due to local site security or
support policies). A global pine configuration file can also be used to
set default values for all Pine users on a particular system.



Pine can read and post to Internet (or USENET) newsgroups, using the
same commands as for mail. Similar to mailing lists but existing on a
larger scale, Usenet newsgroups allow groups of people with common
interests to discuss particular topics. You might find newsgroups
related to your career, or you might wish to check out the online
discussion among the fans of your favorite television show.

  Configuring Pine for Reading News

Pine often arrives pre-configured by your system administrator to
automatically access the newsgroups offered by your organization,
Internet Service Provider, or school. PC-Pine users, and those
attempting to customize Unix Pine, will need additional details on how
to configure Pine to read news.

  Accessing Newsgroups

The first step in reading news is to access the newsgroups collections
screen from Pine. If everything is configured properly, you should be
able to do this by first typing L (folder List), then selecting the
folder collection listed as "News." The actual name of this collection
may differ from system to system.

  Subscribing to Newsgroups

Once you have accessed the news collection, you need to subscribe to a
newsgroup that interests you. Subscribing to a newsgroup means that Pine
will keep a record of the newsgroups in which you are interested and
which articles in those newsgroups have been read.

  Using Newsgroups

Pine uses the similar commands to read news as to read mail. For
example, the D command marks messages as Deleted (or "Dismissed," if you
prefer), and the R command Replies to a news posting. Basically, Pine
allows you to read news as if it were mail, so you don't need to change
the way you interact with Pine.

There is also additional Pine help available on how to use Pine to read


There are now literally millions of Pine users in over 50 countries. The
Pine development team has no funding to provide support to anyone
outside of the University of Washington. However, we certainly want Pine
to be the best tool it can be, so we do want to know about problems. We
ask that you first read the relevant help screens and then seek
assistance from your own local support staff. Once you are sure that
your difficulty is not a local configuration problem, you might look at
the help section explaining where to look for more information and where
to get assistance.

Please note: Pine has been adapted to several other operating systems
besides those directly supported by the University of Washington; see:


Inquiries about these other ports (e.g., VMS and AmigaDOS) should be
directed to the individual or group that did the adaptation.

  Pine Development Team 
  Computing & Communications
  University of Washington
  Seattle, WA 98195

Copyright 1989-1999.  PINE is a trademark of the University of Washington.

For further information on the Pine mailer, see these links:

Using Pine at Colorado State (by ACNS)

Pine at the University of Washington

Pine at the University of Illinois, Chicago