Help for Alpine - Mail Collection
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  1. Introduction
  2. Organizing your Mail in Directories
  3. About the Default Folders
  4. Configuration Options Related to the Mail Collection


The Mail Collection is a directory (local or remote) that contains folders that are primarily used for permanently storing messages. Although it is a common practice to keep incoming folders in this collection, it is not the best place to hold them. For example, the TAB key does not work in this collection to move between folders, as it does in the Incoming-Folders collection.

The directory that Alpine uses for this collection is the "mail" directory. The default is set during compilation and can be changed by setting "--with-default-mail-directory=VALUE" in the configure script. Most linux distributions set this directory to "Mail/" instead, to be compatible with other e-mail programs, in case you use more than one e-mail program to read e-mail. If this directory is not found, then Alpine will create it upon startup, together with the folders "sent-mail" and "saved-messages".

Organizing your Mail in Directories

Alpine gives you the ability to organize your folders in subdirectories the mail/ directory. This is useful since it allows you to reduce the amount of folders visible at any time, and it also allows you to improve the organization of your e-mail. As an example of this, one can create a directory, say "2008", to store sent mail during the year 2008. This reduces the amount of visible folders at any time. The directory "2008" could also be a subdirectory of another directory called "old". In this way you do not see past years "2007", "2006", etc in the same screen too.

In order to add a directory you must put the cursor over any folder in the Mail Collection and press "A ^X", and then the name of the directory you want to create. One of the nice features of Alpine is that if you want to create a folder, say "2009", in the directory "old", you just need to give the path to the folder, in other words entering "old/2009" creates the folder 2009. The nicest thing of all is that if the directory "old" did not exist, Alpine would create it, and then also add the folder 2009 to it.

In order to delete a directory you must previously delete all folders (and files) contained in that directory. For this reason I always have enabled [X] Enable Hidden Folders (pinerc name: enable-dot-folders), since this feature allows me to see hidden folders in a directory.

Notice that the "; Select" command does not search in subdirectories, it just searches in folders, so if you need to make a selection of messages based on some criteria, you must open the directory first, then do the search and repeat as necessary.

About the Default Folders

If you do not have an Incoming-Folders collection, then you will see that the folder specified in the Inbox Path is part of this collection. The default name of this folder is INBOX, but this name can be changed at compile time by giving the option "--with-default-inbox-name=VALUE" to the configure script.

There are a couple of folders that are also predefined for you.

  1. The sent-mail folder is used to keep a copy of your outgoing mail. The default name of this folder can be configured during compilation by setting the option "--with-default-fcc=VALUE" in the configure script.
    Alpine is highly configurable about every behavior related to this folder. For example, you can have no outgoing mail saved automatically to this folder, by defining your Default Fcc (File carbon copy) (pinerc name: default-fcc) to "", or you can on a per message basis decide which messages which will be saved (or not) to the sent-mail folder. In fact, if while you are composing a message you press Ctrl-R in the headers of the message, you can redefine the Fcc: field to any folder you want the message to be saved, or to no folder at all.
    You can also change the default Fcc: for each of the persons in your addressbook by editing their corresponding entry in the addressbook. Finally there is a Fcc Name Rule (pinerc name: fcc-name-rule) configuration option that controls where messages are copied by default.
        During the first session of Alpine every month, Alpine will ask you if you want to rename your sent-mail folder to a different name and then it will ask you if you want to delete old copies of this folder. You can disable any of these questions by defining conveniently the Pruning Rule (pinerc name: pruning-rule) configuration option.
        Another interesting behavior worth noticing about this folder, is that when you open it for the first time, you will see that all messages are marked New, despite the fact that you already read them. The meaning of the flag is that they are New to the folder, not to you. You can change this behavior by enabling [X] Mark Fcc Seen (pinerc name: mark-for-fcc).     Another interesting behavior corresponds to what you see in the From field of the index. You should see that most messages are displayed as "To: Someone Else". If you use several different e-mail addresses in the From: field to send e-mail, you may start seeing just your name, or the name of the different accounts you use to send messages, instead of who you sent the message to. In this case you should add the addresses that you use for composing messages to the Alternate Addressess (pinerc name: alt-addresses) configuration option. If this does not fix your problem, then you should pay attention to the definition of the Index Format (pinerc name: index-format) variable, and make sure that it contains either the FROMORTO or the FROMORTONOTNEWS token.
        Finally there are some options that also affect how messages are copied into the Fcc folder when sending a message. For example, you can avoid attachments saved in the Fcc folder when you send a message by enabling Fcc Does Not Include Attachments (pinerc name: fcc-without-attachments).
  2. The saved-messages folder is used to keep a copy of your incoming mail before you actually delete it from any of your Incoming-Folders.
    The default name of this folder can be configured during compilation by setting the option "--with-default-save-folder=VALUE" in the configure script.
    As with the sent-mail folder, there are several configuration options that affect this folder. The name of this folder is also controlled by the configuration option Default Saved Message Folder (pinerc name: default-saved-msg-folder), which overrides the default name.
        If the configuration option Saved Message Name Rule (pinerc name: saved-msg-name-rule) is set to "default", then when you press "S" to save a message, Alpine will offer to use this folder to save your message.
    Some other interesting configuration options are Auto Mover Read Messages (pinerc name: auto-move-read-msgs) and Read Message Folder (pinerc name: read-message-folder). When these two options are set, Alpine will use the name of the folder entered in the latter configuration option to move read messages that have not been deleted to this folder upon quitting your session. Normally you would set the Read Message Folder to be your saved-messages folder.
    Notice that if you configure your Read Message Folder to be saved-messages (or any other folder) then this folder will be added to the Pruning Rule (pinerc name: pruning-rule) configuration option as it was explained in the sent-mail configuration option.
    One of the big differences in configurability of this folder with respect to the sent-mail folder, is the fact that one can not configure Alpine so that when saving a message, it offers a folder depending on if the message is from a mailing list or from a specific person. For example, one may want to save messages from the mailing list "recipes" in the folder "rec/saved-recipes", but messages from your boss in the folder "boss". Regardless of how you configure Alpine, there is no way to make Alpine offer you these folders when you press "S" to save a message in a way that it will offer the correct folder for each message. There are, however, some approximations to this, if you for example decide to save messages by "nick", which helps a little bit, but you can not use it to save in subdirectories of mail/.
  3. The postponed messages folders (called postponed-msgs) folder, is the folder where messages are kept when you press the ^O key while composing a message. The default name of this folder can be configured during compilation by setting the option "--with-default-postponed-folder=VALUE" in the configure script.
    This folder is automatically created if it does not exist and you are postponing a message. Alpine deletes this folder if it detects that is empty. Unfortunately, once you postpone a message, there is no way to cancel postponing the message, but to resume composition by using the C command as usual.     Notice that if you continue composing a postponed message while you are in this folder, Alpine will assume that you want to continue the message over which the cursor is on. For example, if the cursor in the index in on the last message, then pressing "C" to compose and accepting to continue the postponed message will continue composing the last message of that folder. When all messages of that folder have been continued, the folder is automatically deleted. Notice that accepting to continue a postponed message expunges that message immediately from this folder (in particular this implies that if you continue the first postponed message, then the second message of the folder will become immediately the first message and so on)
        There is one unexpected use of this folder, which is interesting by itself. One nice feature of Alpine is that you can insert the text of another message within a message that you are composing without having to do some cut and paste procedure (press ^R ^W while you are in the composer). There are two problems with this, one is that if the message you want to insert is in the same folder, then you need to remember the number of the message in that folder. This is not good because sometimes you discover too late that you wanted to do this. The other problem is that the message that you want to insert in the message that you are composing may be in another folder. In this case, what one can do is to postpone the message that one is composing, go to the folder where the message that you want to insert is in, and save this message to the postponed-msgs folder, then go to the postponed-msgs folder and continue the postponed message there. Now both, the message that you are composing, and the message that you want to insert, are in the same folder and you can insert the message that you wanted to as explained before (this is what a mathematician would love to do, to reduce the new problem to an old problem already solved). Notice that if you do this, the number of the message that you want to insert may be different than the one you see in the index, because the postponed message has been expunged from the folder, so if you sort your folders by arrival you have to insert the message that has the same number as the postponed message that you are continuing has.
  4. The Form Letter Folder (pinerc name: form-letter-folder) is a folder that you can use to save messages that you need to send several times, for example, something like "Dear XXX, we would like to invite you to a conference", is a good candidate for a message to be saved in this folder. There is no default name for this folder, nor is created by Alpine if it does not exist. In order to be able to have this folder available to you, you need to define the configuration variable Form Letter Folder, with the name of the folder that you are going to use as "form letters".
        The way that you add a message to this folder is by composing the form letter message that you want to add and pressing ^O to postpone. If the Form Letter Folder option has already been configured, then Alpine will ask you where you want to save the message. You can choose between the Postponed Folder (which is the default) or to the Form Letter Folder, which is done by pressing "F" at the prompt. If the folder does not exist, it will be created at the moment you save your first form letter.
        The way that you use a form letter in Alpine, is in the same way that you would continue a postponed message, with the obvious modifications of changing "postponed" by "form letter" at each step.

Configuration Options Related to the Mail Collection

The following is a list of configurations that have to do with the Mail Collection.
  1. Default Fcc (File carbon copy), is used to specify the name and location of the folders used to saved copies of outgoing messages. The default name is "sent-mail" but this can be overriden in this variable.
  2. Default Saved Message Folder, is used to specify the name and location of the folder used to save copies of incoming messages. The default name is "saved-messages" but this can be overriden in this variable.
  3. Postponed Folder, is used to specify the name of the folder used to save postponed messages. The default name is "postponed-msgs" but this can be overriden in this variable.
  4. Read Message Folder, is the folder where read messages in your INBOX folder are automatically moved to when this is is closed. You can specify any path for this folder, but not specifying one means that the folder is located in the Mail Collection folder.
  5. Form Letter Folder, is the name of the folder whose purpose is to have messages that can be used as a included text of a letter that you send often to different people. It differs with the postponed-msgs folder in that after having selected a message from this folder as a basis of your composition, the message is not deleted (or expunged) from this folder, as it happens when a postponed message is continued.
  6. Enable Hidden Folders, determines if you can see folders whose name starts with a "period" in front of them. (Recommended).
  7. Expanded View of Folders, (pinerc name: expanded-view-of-folders). This feature controls what happens when you press "L" to see your folder list. If this feature and the "Combined Subdirectory Display" (pinerc name: combined-subdirectory-display) configuration option is also enabled, then setting this option will show the name of all the visible folders in this collection. If you have a News Collection defined, defining this may cause some delay, as Alpine validates each newsgroup in the list of newsgroups, before the list of folders is displayed (actually this is done for every collection, as every collection is updated when you press "L"). If you loose too much performance by enabling this feature, feel free to disable it.
  8. Hide Empty Directories (pinerc name: quell-empty-directories), is an option that when enabled causes Alpine not to show empty directories.
  9. Separate Folder and Directory Entries (pinerc name: separate-folder-and-directory-entries), has the following effect. When folders are displayed in the folder list, first are displayed the default folders (sent-mail, saved-messages, etc), then the rest of them. All the rest of the folders are shown in alphabetical order. If this option is enabled, folders will be shown in alphabetical order among real folders, and directories will also be sorted among them, but not all of them will be sorted together.
  10. Single Column Folder List (pinerc name: single-column-folder-list) is self explanatory. When folders are listed, only one folder is listed per line.
  11. Use Vertical Folder List (pinerc name: vertical-folder-list) controls the display of the folders. If enabled when folders are sorted automatically the display may be horizontally sorted (the default) or vertically sorted (what this options controls!).
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