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Attachments to Email Messages


5.1 How do I attach a file in Alpine?

When composing a message, type the Attach (^J) command or move your cursor to the "Attchmnt:" line. Using Alpine's "To Files" key (^T), go to the files on your computer; select the one you would like to attach. The file must be on the computer running Alpine. You also have the option of typing in the full path name at the "Attchmnt:" line. The file browser that you get when you type ^T also has a ListMode option which allows you to attach several files at once in a easy way.

5.2 Why does Alpine encode text attachments?

Alpine uses MIME's Base64 encoding for all attachments, including text, in order to assure that they are not modified in transit. The goal is make sure that sending file attachments in Alpine is as dependable as using FTP.

Although it may seem like encoding is unnecessary for files that are plain text, certain email gateway, transport, and delivery agents pose a threat to the integrity of even text files (much less binary files). For example, long lines may be wrapped, trailing spaces deleted, tabs turned into spaces, lines beginning with "From" modified, etc.

5.2.1 How can I send a text file without it being encoded?

This is easily done by using Alpine's "file inclusion" key (^R). Instead of entering the file name on the Attchmnt: header line, move the cursor to the bottom of your message, and press "^R Read File", then enter the name of the text file. It will be included at the end of your message without any encoding (unless the file contains 8 bit or binary characters, in which case the entire message becomes subject to MIME encoding rules.)

5.2.2 Why does Alpine use Base64 instead of UUencode?

Alpine uses the Internet MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) standard for all attachments. MIME uses "Base64" encoding rather than uuencode, because uuencode uses characters that are transformed by some email gateways, and there are also several incompatible versions of uuencode. However, if needed, you can certainly uuencode a file outside of Alpine, then use the Composer's "file inclusion" (^R) command to insert the uuencoded file into the message.


5.3 How do I convert a Sun Mailtool attachment to MIME format?

Keith Moore <> has written a Perl conversion script to convert Mailtool to MIME. The Perl script and C conversion are available in

Aladdin Systems
For Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and DOS
handles BinHex or UUencoded files

  • WinZip (shareware), available for Microsoft Windows, at:
    handles BinHex or UUencoded files
  • the uudecode command on Unix hosts (for UUencoded files)
  • Please note: Successfully decoding an attachment alone does not assure that you can use the resulting file(s) on your computer. For example, you may be able to decode a BinHex-encoded file on your MS Windows/DOS PC, but end up with a Macintosh application that you cannot run; or you may not have the application program needed to open a data file. Ask the sender of the message with the attachment what it is/how do handle it, if in doubt.

    5.5 How can someone without Alpine decipher an attachment to a message I send?

    Alpine uses the MIME Internet standard for attaching files to email messages. Any MIME-capable mailer should be able to "understand" Alpine's attachments. If the recipient of your message with attachment does not have MIME-capable email software, they should be able to save the attachment to a file and then decode that. One freely-available program which can decipher a MIME attachment is munpack from Carnegie Mellon. It is available at:

    5.6 How can I delete attachments?

    In Alpine, message attachments can be deleted without removing the entire message. This is accomplished by marking the undesired attachment for deletion and saving the message to a folder. Attachments marked for deletion are excluded from the message when it is saved. In addition, the delete mark only applies for the current Alpine Session, and is of course gone when the message is saved, and the attachment excluded.

    The associated attachments of a message are viewed by pressing ">" or V, opening the ATTACHMENT INDEX. The undesired attachments can be marked for deletion by pressing D. To exit out of the ATTACHMENT INDEX press "<". To actually remove the attachment the message must be saved. Pressing S in the MESSAGE INDEX will display the following warning message:

    Saved copy will NOT include entire message!  Continue?
    Y [Yes]
    N No

    If you are sure you want to save the message and exclude the marked attachments, press Y for yes.