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One of the most important parts of your e-mail is your signature, many people really pay attention to what it says, how it looks like, its length, etc. You may get in "holy wars" about signature etiquette. I hope I can explain the issues involved, in any case the decision of what you do, is yours.

Signatures for Starters

Pine creates a default file called ".signature", which is stored in your home default directory (the default name of this file is defined in the file pine/os.h), and which contains text that will be appended to every message that you send. You can modify your signature without any need to exit Pine, just press "M S S" to edit your current signature or create a new one. Note that two empty lines are prepended to the signature file when writing your message. Just for future reference, let's call this file your "main signature file".

Your main signature file can be anywhere, you can specify its location in the signature-file configuration option and it can locally or remotely stored. The syntax for specifying a remote location is the same that for specifying a remote incoming-folder and can be read here.

Most signatures contain basic information about the sender, usually the name, phone number, postal address, or some link to a web page. Some other people prefer to use their signature to write quotes.

You should be aware that some people are sensitive to the length of the signature. Somehow, some people believe that the best signature is one that is short (not longer that 4 lines long, and 80 characters wide). It is my intention to inform you, and not preach about something I consider an exaggeration to preach about. Feel free to decide anything that you like about your signature, what I will present here are the tools to configure it the way you want it to look.

Having Fun with the Signature File

There are many ways to have fun with the signature file, you can create your own ascii-art and share it with your friends. In this section we describe different ways in which you can have fun with it.

The Literal Signature

One of the purposes of IMAP and Pine developers is to set the IMAP server, as the center for all your mail needs. This means that if you access mail through IMAP you should not only be able to read your mail, but also you should be able to save configurations for your program, your template files, your signature, etc.

The literal-signature configuration option is a way to save your signature in your configuration, which therefore can be saved in the server.

When your first see it, you will see "<No Value Set>", if you edit it (press A, to do so), you will see the content of the signature that you created in this line, up to the maximum length that can be displayed in the screen. The character "\n" that you will see represents the Newline character.

The rule that you must remember is that "If you set a value, then that value will be used, and vice versa", in other words, the only way to not to use this configuration option is by leaving it as it is. This also means that if you set this option as your signature, then the signature-file option will be ignored.

You can not set the literal signature to be a script, like you can do with the signature-file, but you can set it to have tokens that will be expanded into their values when a message is composed.

Note that the value "<Empty Value>" for this configuration option (which is obtained by editing this configuration option and not writing anything on it), means that there is no text in your signature, regardless of how you set your signature-file, because Pine thinks that you set your signature when editing this variable, so there will be two empty lines and an empty signature at the end of the e-mail. You can delete the "Empty Value", value, by pressing "D", this will restore the value to <No Value Set>

Signature and Roles

Roles give you the ability to set a signature file and a literal-signature, in the same way that the main configuration allows you to do so.

This means that when you edit a role, you may have two literal-signature definitions and two signature-files definitions, but which one will be used?

Here are the rules: if you do not define any of the signature options in the role, then the option that will be used is the same that it would have been used if you had not composed with a role.

If you set your literal-signature in the main configuration then this will be used, unless you set your literal-signature in the role, in whose case it will use the one in the role. If you do not set neither of both literal-signatures, then it will look for the signature-file configuration options, if you have one set in the main configuration, it will use that one, but if you set one in the role, it will use the one in the role.

In other words, if you set the literal-signature in the main configuration screen, then you will have to set the literal-signature in every role that you do not want it to be used, and using the literal-signature in a role means that your setting for the signature-file in that role, will be ignored, as well as your main signature file.


There is a convention about signatures that Pine implements, which is handy for those that use it. The convention consists in indicating the beginning of the signature by a string, explicitly "--  ", that is two dashes and a space, which are put at the beginning of a line and are the only text in that line.

There are many interpretations about what comes after this string, some people say that there should come one paragraph containing the signature, and others think that all the text that follows should be the signature. Pine takes a very simple approach. It assumes that all text following the dashes are the signature.

There are a few configuration option in Pine that have to do with this convention, and they are the following:

  1. [X] enable-sigdashes, this configuration tells Pine that it should write the string "--  " in a single line before it writes your signature. It also has the effect of deleting any text of any message that follows this string when including text in a message that is either being replied or followed-up.
  2. [X] strip-from-sigdashes-on-reply, has effect only when the above configuration option is not enabled, and in this case it has the effect of deleting all text that follows the sigdashes string when replying to a message or following-up to it.

The problem with enabling "enable-sigdashes" is that when you forward a message, your signature is put at the top of the message and the forwarded message at the bottom of it, so if a person using Pine replies to your message, and that person has any of the above configuration options enabled, then this person will only be able to quote the message that you wrote, but not the forwarded text (unless, of course, you manually delete the sigdashes before sending the message). No better solution for this problem exists today.

Signature at Bottom

This configuration option is another controversial option. Where to put the signature?. This option only has effect when you reply to a message. If you decide to quote the text of that message, enabling this feature will have the effect that your signature will be put after the quoted text, if you do not enable this feature, then the signature will be placed before the quoted text.

Some people strongly believe that the signature should be at the bottom, so watch out, be ready to defend yourself if you do not enable this feature. This is not a Pine issue, in any case.

Note that this configuration is ignored when forwarding a message, this is because there is no obvious distinction made by Pine between the end of the forwarded message and the included signature (if put at the bottom), I hope the Pine team will consider changing this, by adding a new line that will serve that purpose at the end of the forwarded message. In that way, sigdashes will work correctly with forwarded messages too.
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