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Using Alpine to handle email at The WELL

You may use the UNIX email program made popular as Pine (actually the slightly newer "Alpine" variation) when you make an ssh connection to to get and send your email. As of August 1, 2011, please type "alpine" or "!alpine" at the OK prompt to read and reply to mail. It now sees the mail directly at our newest mail server at using a method called "IMAP." You will now have to provide your password whenever you re-open your Alpine window and re-connect to the mail server. If you want to use Alpine, sure to also use IMAP settings with any other mail devices and machines going forward, because using both IMAP and POP at the same time can be destructive to your mail.


What will I see when I launch Alpine for the first time?
How can I move my older saved mail to folders?
What about other UNIX mail programs I have used at The WELL?
How do I read my mail on the server with my Web browser?
What has gone wrong with the message about having new mail?
How do I bring my mail onto my own computer or device?
What is my new "quota" limit for mail left on the server?
How do I forward my mail to another address now?
What can I do about spam?
Can I whitelist or blacklist addresses?
How do I remove my mail from
If I want to set up a mobile device or a desktop email application as well as using Pine, where do I go for those settings?


What will I see when I launch Alpine for the first time?

You'll see a message that announces an upgrade. Hit return and get going. Go to Lists and select Remote folders to see (and access) your INBOX and other folders on the Zimbra server, if you have any set up there.

The INBOX folder will now look like it is local, but those contents actually remain on the mail server. This can be a huge advantage as you can look at the same items later with any IMAP mail reader or by logging in to the web version of our Zimbra mailserver at directly.

While the remote INBOX displays in the local Mail list, the other folders that are over at will display in your Remote WELL folders list.

We have moved your previous INBOX, if it was not empty, over into to the saved local files. You should see it there.

You are now getting and sending mail on the server by using Alpine from the shell.

How can I move my older saved mail to folders?

You may move all of your local saved mail files into the iris server if you choose, by logging into your Utilities page. Your prior INBOX file can be moved into Iris this way along with any others.

What about other UNIX mail programs I have used at The WELL?

In order to reduce the number of servers processing mail and spam from six to two, we finally had to drop some of our offerings in 2011. You may now use Alpine, use your web browser to read your mail, or use any desktop or device-based email application instead.

How do I read my mail on the server with my Web browser?

Wherever you are, you can also read your mail on the server by logging in to You may even use this service as a stand-alone web email service if you choose not to use the new version of Pine or an app on your device It is also where you can see how close you are to your mail quota, where you can forward your mail as you wish, or set up a vacation message and manage your mail filters. Be sure to log out if you are on a shared machine. Note that Firefox reportedly works better than Safari or Chrome for Zimbra mail management.

What has gone wrong with the message about having New Mail?

If there is no message when mail arrives now, Alpine users have suggested two approaches. One is to only check mail at the beginning and end of your sessions so that you do not have to input your password often. The other is to set up your account to log into a UNIX shell other than the one that auto-launches PicoSpan. You would then type "picospan" to go into the conferences. You would open a second session when you log in, where you type "alpine" and get mail, keeping that session alive for the duration. Helpdesk can set you up with a different shell if you want to try this.

How do I bring my mail onto my own computer or device?

You may use any up-to-date desktop email application to pull in mail using IMAP connections. "Thunderbird," "Outlook Express," Apple's "Mail" and other email applications will accept our settings for IMAP. When you connect with IMAP, establish a "Local folder" on your own machine by using your mail client, and simply drag or save mail there to get it off the server onto your own machine.

What is my quota limit for mail left on the server, and will my incoming mail bounce if I exceed it?

There is a limit for the amount of email you can leave on the iris server, and it's 5 times what was free for your use in your home directory. Most modern email services allow a set "bucket" of disk space by using a quota. In our older services we charged a surcharge that sometimes caught people unawares. With a quota in place, you will not get a mail storage charge you have not pre-authorized. The default quota is 500MB. Up to 500MB in disk space on the server is exclusively reserved for your email. This quota may be increased if you choose.

  • If you exceed your quota, your mail will begin to bounce: After 500MB, unless you either increase your quota or delete/download some mail, incoming email will be refused rather than piling up. This means you will never incur an unexpected surcharge from mail storage. Look at the quota bar just below your name in the upper left corner of the application. If you hold your cursor over the bar you'll see the percentage of your disk space quota that has been used. You will also get an alert in email if your mailbox is getting full. By paying a little attention you won't have to risk bouncing email due to a full mailbox.
  • You may purchase more quota if you want more space to leave your mail on the servers, at much better rates than on the old mail system where hefty surcharges were possible. Enhanced disk quota rates start at $30, which quadruples your disk quota for email for a full year. Additional levels are detailed on the plans and pricing page.
  • You may also keep 100MB extra storage for files in your home directory, personal web pages and any legacy system email that you have and may want to keep in your home directory. That 100MB does not count towards your quota use, and is still under the older surcharge rules if exceeded.

Can I forward my mail to another address with a .forward file?

If you want to forward your WELL mail to any other Internet mailbox, log in to Iris via your Web browser, go to Preferences in the top toolbar, select Mail from the left column, and in the center window, scroll down to Receiving Messages. Enter the email address you want to forward to in the box. (Uncheck the box instructing Zimbra to leave a copy on the server unless you plan to pick up and sort the same batch of mail a second time.) Note that if you play around with creating filters there you can even forward part of your email, from some addresses and not others, for example. (Note that files such as .forward or .procmailrc in your home directory at no longer determine how email is handled.) Use a browser to go to to control those services.

Alternatively, you can instruct another Web email service such as Gmail to pick up your mail from The WELL's mail server using POP3 by the instructions on their site. This can avoid showing the "sent on behalf of" message seen in some email clients. The other mail service will pick up mail from your inbox at Iris, and allow you to reply to it at withing their service using your email address. See the service (for example, Gmail) for help pages, privacy policies, etc. Having another service POP mail over this way is considered a better practice than forwarding.

What can I do about spam?

Spam training is more individualized with Zimbra, and will get better and better able to determine what email you don't want to see. When you mark a message in your list of mail as Junk by placing it in the Junk folder on, our mail service learns quickly to move any similar mail to your Junk folder. Complete the "training" of the mail program by occasionally looking at the Junk folder to catch any good mail it may have misfiled. If you know a piece of email is legitimate but you don't just want to read it, "Delete" it rather than marking as Junk to keep the training as accurate as possible. You can see those folders with Pine via the magic of IMAP, or by doing a web browser login directly to

Can I whitelist or blacklist addresses?

Whitelists and blacklists are available. Log into Iris with your Web browser. Choose the "Preferences" tab; then look left to the pane where mail folders are usually displayed. Choose Mail by clicking the closed envelope icon there. Now scroll through the main pane. Just below "Receiving Messages," you'll find "Junk Mail Options," where you can enter the email addresses of people from whom you either never want to receive mail or always want to receive mail. You can even white list or black list entire domains with the format:

How do I remove mail from

Alpine will show you mail on in your INBOX and in the other folders you create. You may also access this mail with your web browser. When you go to to view your mail, mail you can see in the Web inbox is actually on The WELL's mail server. You may search and delete messages easily with the check-box system in the web interface.

If I want to set up a mobile device or a desktop email application as well as using Pine, where do I go for those settings?

The main mail help pages offer extensive information on Zimbra, and the IMAP and POP settings page has specific configurations for specific popular email programs for IMAP retrieval, which is what all Alpine users must choose.

For Further Information...

For information about The WELL or for WELL Customer Support, use the Helpdesk contact information on the footer of this page.

* Email help and settings

* About the system-wide email upgrade of 2009-2011

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