Help for Alpine - Maildrop
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  1. Introduction
  2. Setting up a Maildrop
  3. Syntax for a Maildrop
  4. Checking for New Mail
  5. Adding a Remote Maildrop
  6. Configurations Related to a Maildrop
  7. When to use a Maildrop for POP and NNTP?


Losely speaking, a maildrop is a folder with special properties: when you open this folder, messages from another remote folder are moved into this folder. More strictly speaking, a maildrop is a folder access method.

The above means that when you set up maildrops, you must think of two folders. One is the folder from where you will be pulling messages and the other is the folder to where you will save the messages that you will be moving from the first folder. What makes this feature very powerful is that there is no requirement about the location of these two folders. It's possible to have a local maildrop to move messages to a remote folder, or viceversa, or even more, to move messages from one remote folder to another remote folder. The most typical use of a maildrop is to move messages from a remote server to a local folder.

After you have set up a maildrop, the folder from which you will be reading messages is the folder to which you used to move the messages. So if you set a maildrop to move messages from folder A to folder B, then you will be reading messages in folder B. You will never see folder A directly.

That a message is moved from folder A means that the message is copied to folder B and removed (expunged) from folder A.

One way to understand a maildrop is to think that a maildrop is a replacement for programs like fetchmail or leafnode, without the need to set up any external program to move your mail/news to a local folder.

Setting up a Maildrop

You can only set up a maildrop for your INBOX folder or any of your incoming folders. The explanation of how to add a maildrop to the incoming folders collection can be found by following this link

In order to make your INBOX folder to be a maildrop, you must define the Inbox Path (pinerc name: inbox-path) variable accordingly. The easiest way to do so is by pressing M S C and editing the value of the above said variable. Here I will describe a long step by step process. There is a way to add the definition in just one step, which is described later in this document.

Syntax for a Maildrop

If you think that the above instructions are long, you can abreviate them and can write them directly into the corresponding configuration variable. In order to define a maildrop, you must start the definition with the string #move, followed by the definition of the server from where messages will be moved and followed by the definition of the folder to where messages will be moved.

A typical example is the following

#move  {}INBOX   ~/.inc-fld/maildrop

this definition will move all mail from your INBOX in the pop3 server "" to the file "maildrop" located in the subdirectory .inc-fld of your home directory. Observe that in the above definition there are three fields separated by spaces. However, an incoming folder may contain spaces, for example one could make a maildrop for a folder called Sent Items. In this case you must separate the fields above by something different than a space, for example one could use % as a separator, and so one could have the following valid definition for a maildrop

#move%{}/full/path/to/Sent Items%~/.inc-fld/maildrop

If you are thinking of editing your .pinerc file and adding a definition like this manually to the incoming-folders collection, enclose the whole definition between double quotes. For example something like

MyInbox "#move  {}INBOX   ~/.inc-fld/maildrop"
will work.

Checking for New Mail

You can force checking for new mail in a maildrop folder in the same way that you check for new mail in your Inbox. You must either press CTRL-L or press the down arrow while the cursor is in the last message in the index.

Automatic checks are also done. The minimum interval that can be set is 60 seconds. There is a catch here which may be confusing. When your are in your INBOX, there is a Mail Check Interval (pinerc name: mail-check-interval) variable, which you may set to, say, 30 seconds. If your INBOX is a maildrop, the minimum time between checks will be 60 seconds, not 30. On the other hand if your Mail Check Interval is 90 seconds, then your check will be done every 60 seconds.

You can change the default of 60 seconds between checks by changing the value of the variable Maildrop Check Minimum (pinerc name: maildrop-check-minimum) in the configuration screen.

You can disable checking for new mail in a maildrop. This is desirable when your connection to the external server is slow, so it's expensive to check for new mail. If you want to disable check for new mail simply set Maildrop Check Minimum = 0.

Observe that if new mail is found in the origin mailbox, this is downloaded to the target mailbox. This may not be desired, for example, if you add a maildrop as an incoming folder and want to add it to the list of incoming folders that are checked periodically for new mail. This is undesirable because if Alpine is closed and restarted, you will not see the new mail in it in the check for new mail, nor such new messages will be tagged Recent, but unseen.

Adding a Remote Maildrop

Most of the time you are going to setup a maildrop to move messages from a remote server to a local folder. This is a nice way to set up Alpine, but what would you do if you wanted to read this maildrop from another machine?.

Of course, there's nothing you can do if you do not have an IMAP server where that folder is located, but assume now that you do. In theory you can read the contents of the destination folder adding it as an incoming folder, but this has the problem that the folder is never updated with the new mail that may have arrived to the source folder of the maildrop.

In this case you must set this folder as a maildrop where the source folder is the same as before, but the destination folder is located in the IMAP server. How to do this has already been discussed.

There's one exception though. This is the case when the source folder for the maildrop is a newsgroup. This can not be set up as usual because the internal numbers of the messages in the server vary depending on the server, this means that you can not simply reuse your .newsrc file, and even if you could, there's no guarantee that the .newsrc files in both servers will agree all the time.

One way to avoid this problem is to use the .newsrc file located in the imap server where the folder is located, and in order to do this, you must set up the access to the news server as a proxy from the remote server that contains the destination folder of the maildrop.

Therefore the definition of the maildrop will look as follows:

Maildrop-Nick "#move  {imap-proxy}{news.server/nntp}   {remote-server}maildrop"

In this definition both imap-proxy and remote-server are the same server (use the same name!) the reason why they appear different in the above definition is because their purpose in this configuration is different. The first IMAP server serves the purpose of accessing the news server, the second IMAP server serves the purpose of saving the contents of the first folder into the second.

Configurations Related to a Maildrop

For your convenience here are listed all configurations related to maildrops.

When to use a Maildrop for POP and NNTP?

Say you want to have an incoming folder for a pop server. Is it better to set it up as a maildrop or directly as an incoming folder?
The answer depends on some factors. Since a maildrop pulls messages from another folder, part of the answer will depend on the access to that mailbox. Do you want access from anywhere to the same information?
Remember that maildrops only exist in Alpine, so if you are not going to use Alpine (or another e-mail program) from some other computer, you would be better off by not setting up a maildrop.
However, if you are always going to access your e-mail from the same place, Alpine works better when you set up a maildrop. For example, pressing TAB will always open a POP3 or newsgroup, unless they are empty. This does not happen with maildrops. They are opened only if there are new messages.
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