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Customization and Configuration

4.1 Where does Pine look for configuration information?

In Unix and PC Pine 3.90 and higher, the Release Notes (Press "R" when on the Main Menu) contain a section on Configuration, including default file names and environment variables. Almost all personal configuration can be accomplished through the Setup (S) command on the main menu.

Unix Pine uses three configuration files: a system-wide defaults file, a system-wide non-overridable settings file and a personal coniguration file (.pinerc in the user's home directory).
If, for some reason, you need to generate a blank personal configuration file, run
"pine -pinerc pinerc.blank".
If you need to generate a "blank" copy of the system wide configuration files (can usually only be done by systems administrator), run
"pine -conf > /usr/local/lib/pine.conf".

4.1.1 How can I get a fresh copy of my Pine configuration file?

If you run "pine -pinerc new_pinerc_file_name" you will get a fresh copy of your .pinerc configuration information placed into the file "new_pinerc_file_name" with the options you are using set. It will also have fresh comments, and then everything in the config screen and the pinerc file should match. Old variables that are no longer being used will disappear. If you ever plan on editing your .pinerc file in the future (and don't want to be confused by obsolete comments), it would be a good idea to run the command: "pine -pinerc .pinerc" -- or, in the case of PC-Pine: "pine -pinerc \pine\pinerc" (assuming your pinerc file is in the \pine directory on your PC.)

4.2 Can I customize Pine on a per folder basis?

Pine doesn't have that capability built in. You can only set configuration options which apply to the whole pine session; not to particular situations.

One way to get part part of the effect of per-folder customization is to have several custom .pinerc files and shell aliases which use them. For example if you want pine to behave a certain way when you are reading newsgroups, you might copy your .pinerc to a new one which you will customize for newsreading:

cp .pinerc .pinerc-news

Then you can start pine using the separate configuration file with the command:

pine -p .pinerc-news

After doing that, you can make all the changes you want to settings to make life easier when reading news, and save the configuration. If it is a problem to enter that pine command every time, add this line to your .cshrc file:

alias pinen 'pine -p .pinerc-news'

to create a "pinen" command. You could add to that and have the configuration file use the "initial-keystroke-list" variable to go to the newsgroups list. E.g.,


You can also do a lot with the pine command line options (see "pine -h") and a shell alias for that.

4.3 Can I eliminate the @host.domain from local addresses?

This is not a new idea. It's a very old idea, in fact, and just about everyone who has ever dealt with email has had it at one time or another. Regretably, it has come to be recognized as a bad idea. Here's why:

An email address without a host name is not syntactically valid according to RFC822. Now, it is true that RFC822 only specifies what must be done in messages which are transmitted over the network, and that strictly local messages are not under RFC822's dictates.

This means that there are two formats of email, one that conforms to RFC822 and one that does not. Careful efforts must be made to ensure that the non-conforming mail format never escapes the local system onto the network. Twenty years' of experience has shown that it is impossible to guarantee that the non-conforming format does not escape into the network, even in the face of traps to catch such messages on their way out and convert them to RFC822 conforming format. Indeed, such traps have often contributed additional problems on their own.

The non-conforming format is ambiguous as to what host is intended. Although the off-the-cuff solution (and the one that everyone implements) is ``use the local host'', numerous examples have occurred in which this leads to wrong behavior. For example, it may be the ``local mail center'' instead of the ``local machine which is a single-user workstation''. Or, if a one of the non-conforming messages escaped on to the network, it's some remote system and we have no idea at all what system that may be! There's no way for the mail reader to tell; a human may infer from context but often does so by using information that is not available to the program.

The Pine team has spent long (and at times heated) meetings reviewing this issue, before coming to the conclusion (as other email groups have independently done) that it's a no-win situation. The policy of the email development community for years (since the RFC733 discussions) has been to exterminate the non-conforming format by not implementing it in modern mail tools.

It may be feasible to implement a feature in a future version of Pine that would suppress the display of the local host name in email addresses. That is, the host name would still be in the file on disk, but would not show up on the screen.

4.4 How can I perform spell checking with PC-Pine for Windows?

PC-Pine 4.00 has spell-checking built in. For older versions, read on:

Brian Quinion has developed a Spell Checker for Windows that can be used with many Microsoft Windows applications that do not have their own spell checker.

Spell Checker for Windows requires Windows version 3.1 or higher. A 32-bit version of the spell checker is not available yet (as of 27 Sep. 1996) and the 16-bit version of the Spell Checker for Windows does not work with the 32-bit version of PC-Pine.

The following installation instructions have been tested on Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT and Windows95 with the 16-bit version of PC-Pine. This installation assumes that the 16-bit version of PC-Pine is already installed.

  1. Create a subdirectory called pcpspell on your local hard drive (e.g. c: - all examples in these instructions assume the installation is on c:).

  2. The Spell Check program itself, and dictionaries for it in several languages, are available from the World Wide Web at:
    Download the Spell Check program and the dictionary of your choice to your c:\pcspell directory.

  3. Use the decompression program PKUNZIP or equivalent to expand both of the .zip files you downloaded, beginning with the program itself -- for example,
    1. spel300e.zip (the program itself, version 3.00), and then
    2. useng.zip (the US English dictionary).
    During the expansion of the dictionary, you'll get a message that README.1ST already exits. Choose R to rename the second README.1ST file to README. Make certain that you read both of these information files at the end of the installation.

  4. From Windows, execute c:\pcpspell\spell.exe. The installation may take a couple of minutes to complete.

  5. After closing the Options dialog box, run PC-Pine, compose a message, and enter control-t to invoke the spell checker from within the message window.

  6. For Spell Checker for Windows to work automatically with each reboot, copy the program's DLL file and the dictionary file (for example, spellch3.dll and useng.scd) to the directory c:\windows\system\. If the spell checker still does not work automatically, try running c:\pcpspell\spell.exe after each reboot, close spell's window and try again.

  7. You can remove the spell checker by executing c:\pcpspell\spell.exe and clicking on "uninstall". After restarting Windows, you can then remove all files in the c:\pcpspell directory on your local hard drive. Also, delete the two .dll and .scd files you copied to c:\windows\system\.

4.5 How do I change spell checking in Pine (pre-3.92) and Pico?

Applies to Pine for Unix only

Beginning with version 3.92, the program Pine uses for spell checking in its message composer can be specified with the speller option in the SETUP CONFIGURATION menu. For Pine versions before 3.92, and for Pico, read on:

 Why use Ispell with Pine (and Pico)?
  - it allows you to add words to a private dictionary so that your name
    (technical words, etc.) will not be reported as errors;
  - it offers correct spellings for misspelled words, and you can 
    select one of the offered alternatives by pressing a single key;
  - it spell checks the document from top to bottom (rather than jumping
    around in alphabetical order) so you can anticipate the next words to 
    be checked;
  - because it checks from top to bottom, you can stop the program after
    checking your reply (at the top) without checking the message you are
    replying to.
 How do I use Ispell with Pine (after it is installed) ?
 After you have installed Ispell in pine, when you are entering a message
 into the pine composer and the cursor is in the "Message Text" area of the
 screen, you can press ^_ (Control-underscore), to check the spelling of
 your message.  The message header cannot be spell-checked.  
 Inside the ispell program, you can press the following keys: 
    ?      Help for ispell
    space  Accept the word - this time only
    A      Accept the word - for the rest of the file (message)
    I      Accept the word - and Insert it in your private dictionary
    0-9    Replace the word with one of the suggested alternatives
    R      Replace the word completely (then you enter the replacement)
    Q      Quit checking this file - corrections will be saved
    X      Exit immediately - corrections will be lost
 If the spell check halts and you see "(INTERRUPT)" in the upper-left
 corner of the screen, just press the <SpaceBar> to continue.  Generally
 when this happens, the spell check is complete.  See 'man ispell' for 
 more information on the ispell program. 
 How do I install Ispell in Pine ?
 There are a couple ways to use Ispell within Pine; method #1 is usually
 all you need to do.  It's very easy; just follow the instructions below. 
 Set your alternate-editor to ispell, then you can press ^_ 
 (Control-underscore) in the composer to invoke ispell. 
 To do this, follow these steps (press the "key" in each step):
  - Check to be sure that the ispell program is installed on your system,
    and use the correct directory path; at the unix prompt, enter the 
    command: 'which ispell'.  The following instructions assume output 
    from this command was '/usr/local/bin/ispell'.
  - start the 'pine' program
  - from the "M"ain-Menu of pine
  - press "S"etup
  - then "C"onfig
  - then "W"hereIs and enter 'editor' (without the ' marks) 
    and press <ENTER>
  - press "W"hereIs and <ENTER> until you find the line:
       editor = <No Value Set>
  - press "A"dd-Value, and enter '/usr/local/bin/ispell' (without 's)
    and press <ENTER>
  - you should now see:
       editor = /usr/local/bin/ispell
  - if so, press "E"xit-Config, and you are done!
 You can still press ^T to use the standard pine spell-checking program
 (which will -not- use your personal dictionary, and will not offer 
 suggestions for correct spelling).
 Pine already checks the SPELL environment variable to locate the spell 
 checking program, so you can create the following script and name it 
         ispell -l
 To make ^T in pine use 'ispell' and your private dictionary: 
   - make the above script file 'spell' in your home directory 
   - make it executable: 'chmod u+x spell' 
   - set the environment variable SPELL: 'setenv SPELL $HOME/spell' 
     (include this command in your .profile, .cshrc or .login file) 
 Now, when you press ^T in pine, you will execute the ispell program, and
 it will recognize words stored in your private dictionary.  The screen
 display will look like pine is using the standard spell-checking program,
 except words will be checked from top to bottom in the message, rather
 than in alphabetical sequence.  This method does not allow you to Insert
 words into your private dictionary.  However, this might be useful with a
 central script file (setenv SPELL ...) and a central private dictionary
 (ispell -p ...) to provide a common private dictionary for an entire
 workgroup.  The manager could add items to the private dictionary; other
 people could use the private dictionary (^T), but they could not change
 To use ispell with pico (the stand-alone editor):
  - implement the 'ispell' program via ^T (CTRL-T) (using the script file) 
    in addition to implementing it via ^_ (CTRL-_) (using pine "S"etup, 
    "C"onfiguration as described above).
 Use ^T in pico to use the ispell program and your private dictionary 
 (but without the ability to add words to the dictionary).  You cannot 
 use ^_ in pico; it is an "Unknown Command".  You can use ^T-ispell in 
 pine also, but why bother when ^_ works better. 

4.6 How can I control association of MIME-attachments with applications and filenames?

This requires one, and possibly two, configuration changes, which may already have been performed by your system administrator:
  1. Create a mailcap file that associates the MIME-type of the attachment with the application you wish to use to open files of that MIME-type; see the section MIME: Reading a Message in the Pine Technical Notes for the name and location of mailcap file(s) on different platforms. (For further information on MIME, see What is MIME?.)

  2. (New in Pine 3.92)
    You can control which filename extension (which is shown in the message MIME-attachment) is associated with which MIME-type by creating a mimetype file; see the section MIME.Types file in the Pine Technical Notes for the name and location of mimetype file(s) on different platforms. You may need to do this to preserve the filename extension in the temporary file that PC-Pine creates to pass attachment data to the associated DOS/Windows-application, if that application requires a certain (temporary) filename extension to open that file; or to make sure that a MIME-attachment with a certain filename extension is opened in the application you desire, even if the MIME-type as identified in the incoming message is not exactly the one which you specified in your mailcap file, which may be the case if the application you have is not of the same version as the application the sender used to create the attachment file that s/he sent to you. This also controls the MIME-typing for messages you send; for example, to assure that files with the extension .PDF are sent as a MIME attachment of type application/acrobat.

Note: many files attached to email messages (though not email messages themselves) can contain viruses -- unless from a trustworthy source, don't open them without checking them for viruses first, as far as possible! If in doubt about the nature of an attachment, ask the sender what application was used to create it; and/or ask the sender to resend the message with the attachment, this time disabling any special encoding techniques that his/her email software may be employing.

Here are a sample MAILCAP file for PC-Pine:

# All lines beginning with the # symbol are comments.

# As some long directory and/or filenames suggest,
# the examples here are for a PC running the Windows95 operating system.

# These examples using certain third-party software programs do not 
# constitute any recommendation thereof by the University of Washington.

# Open image files with Paintshop Pro for viewing/editing:
image/*;"C:\Program Files\Paint Shop Pro\Psp.exe" %s

# Play audio and video files via Internet Explorer WWW browser:
audio/*;"C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\Iexplore.exe" %s
video/*;"C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\Iexplore.exe" %s

# View HTML files with Netscape WWW browser:
text/html;"C:\Program Files\netscape\Navigator\program\netscape.exe" %s

# Unpack ZIPed archives with WinZip:
application/zip;"C:\Program Files\WinZip\WinZip32.exe" %s

# View PDF files with Acrobat Reader:
application/pdf;"C:\Acrobat3\Reader\AcroRd32.exe" %s

#You can add other entries below for other MIME types...

and a sample MIMETYPE file for PC-Pine:

# All lines beginning with the # symbol are comments.
# Line format: MIME Type/Subtype, associated filename extensions.

text/plain                     txt dat 
text/html                      html htm

audio/basic                    au snd
audio/x-realaudio              ra ram
audio/x-wav                    wav

image/gif                      gif
image/jpeg                     jpeg jpg jpe
image/tiff                     tiff tif

video/mpeg                     mpeg mpg mpe
video/quicktime                qt mov

application/postscript         ai eps ps
application/rtf                rtf
application/pdf                pdf
application/zip                zip

which you can copy and edit as needed to conform to the location of applications on your system (in the MAILCAP file), and to the filename extensions of files (in the MIMETYPE file). (Note: Unix Pine uses different pathnames and applications than PC-Pine.)

4.7 How can PC-Pine use different character sets?

From: Andreas Prilop <nhjkmper@rrzn-user.uni-hannover.de>

Applies to PC-Pine only

PC-Pine allows you to use other character sets in your email and news messages than specified in the operating systems. (Reference: http://www.washington.edu/pine/tech-notes/low-level.html#char-set)
For example, you might use Code Page 852 or Code Page 1250 on your PC, but send and receive messages in ISO-Latin-2 (ISO-8859-2). To do this, you need certain mapping tables. These tables support not only Latin-2, but also Latin-3, Latin-5 (Turkish), Latin-8 (Baltic), Greek, and Cyrillic.

Reference informtion can be found at:


Mapping tables can be downloaded from:

(where N is a number), and other software FTP repositories.

4.8 How can I read a ROT13 encoded message?

Applies to Pine for Unix only

When viewing the message, use the '|' (Pipe) command and give it the following:

        tr '[A-Za-z]' '[N-ZA-Mn-za-m]'
You could also write a script, maybe called unrot, that does this and then pipe the message to the script.

In order for the pipe command to work you need to be using Pine 3.90 or higher and have the enable-unix-pipe-cmd feature set.

4.9 Why does my message index show From: instead of To:?

Applies to Pine for Unix only

See also "How do I control what is displayed in the FOLDER INDEX screen?" in Frequently Asked Questions about Pine.

A number of Pine 3.95 users have reported seeing their own name, rather than the name of the recipient, in folder index listings of messages they have sent. This occurs when Pine detects the specific hostname of the computer on which it is running in the From: header. To avoid this from happening, set use-only-domain-name in Pine's SETUP CONFIGURATION menu to Yes; this strips the name of the specific host from your From: address. Alternatively, specify your domain name in user-domain (be sure you enter it correctly, otherwise all your outgoing messages will have an invalid return address! Ask your local computing support people if in doubt). When setting either of these options, also read the help screen for quell-user-lookup-in-passwd-file to see whether you should enable that feature too.

Administrators of systems where Pine exhibits this behavior should also check the /etc/hosts file for invalid entries; as an example, it should read:

  123.456.78.90   hostname.domain    hostname
not just
  123.456.78.90   hostname
-- otherwise, users' setting of use-only-domain-name to Yes will not have the intended effect.

4.10 How do I change my 'From:' line?

Q&A submitted by: Timothy J. Luoma <luomat+pine@luomat.peak.org>

From Pine's MAIN MENU, choose Setup, then Config. Move down to the  
customized-hdrs option.  Press `A' for `Add Value'.  Use the format:
        From: My Real Name <myusername@mydomain.ext>

[ Note: You may wish to add `From:' to the list of `default-composer-hdrs'
        so you can change the From line more easily when composing
        new messages.  The process is the same as for adding the
        `From:' line to the `customized-hdrs' entry. ]
Press <RETURN> to accept the change, and `E' to Exit Configuration.

IMPORTANT: By default you are not allowed to change your ``From:'' line.
        When you go to ``compose'' and get the error:

              [Not allowed to change header "From"]
        then you, if you are installing Pine yourself, or your systems 
        administrator (if users changing their From lines does not violate 
        your site's policy) will have to recompile PINE.

NOTE: Changing the ``From:'' line may not give you the anonymity you desire, 
        since the ``Sender'' or ``X-Sender'' line may still include your 
        entire email address.
In Pine 4.00, users can add allow-changing-from to the feature-list in their pinerc file (by editing the file, not via SETUP CONFIGURATION); recompiling is not necessary.

See also 7.12 What do I need to do when compiling PINE to let users change their ``From:'' line? in Info for systems administrators, developers, etc.

4.11 Can I reduce the frequent prompting to confirm an operation?

If you find Pine's tendency to ask you for confirmation on certain operations annoying, you may suppress several of the prompts. In the SETUP CONFIGURATION screen, reached from the MAIN MENU, look for the features ending in -without-confirm, beginning with auto-, and for include-text-in-reply. Read their help screens to be sure to understand what enabling these features will do.

4.12 How can I filter messages into different incoming folders?

Pine does not perform delivery filtering; that is the function of other programs, such as (on Unix hosts) "procmail" or "mailagent." For details on selection and configuration of such programs, see the Filtering Mail FAQ (by Nancy McGough) at one of the following locations:


Once you have successfully set up your delivery filtering, you will have new mail arriving in several different folders, in addition to your INBOX. You can then access these folders just like any other mail folder. You can also define a collection of incoming message folders in Pine, through which you can then TAB to read new messages. For more information, see Pine's internal help on the enable-incoming-folders feature in Pine's SETUP CONFIGURATION menu.

4.13 How do I define my own headers like Reply-To and Organization?

From Pine's MAIN MENU, choose Setup, then Config. Move down to the customized-hdrs option and read the context-sensitive help screen.

4.14 How do I control what is displayed in the FOLDER INDEX screen?

The display of fields in the FOLDER INDEX screen can be customized. For example, you can choose to have both the From and the To field (by default, the FOLDER INDEX will list the From address unless it is you, then it will list the To address) of each message shown; to suppress the message number display in each line; or to have the Subject field take up 60% of the line width. From Pine's MAIN MENU, choose Setup, then Config. Then go to the index-format option and read the context-sensitive help screen.

4.15 How can I have a signature automatically appended to my mail messages?

From Pine's MAIN MENU, choose Setup, then Signature. The text you enter in the SIGNATURE EDITOR (new in Pine 3.92) will be appended to all messages you compose. With the signature-at-bottom feature in SETUP CONFIGURATION, you can alter the placement of the text in replies (but not forwards).

You can create multiple signature files outside of Pine (using, for example, the Pico editor) and then include whichever one you wish, wherever you wish, in a message you are composing in Pine via the Read File command in the composer. If the file names you choose are very short (e.g. s1, s2) this is relatively painless.

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