Alpine 2.0: Free Linux Email Program

Alpine screenshot

The Bottom Line

Alpine is a powerful text-based console email program that makes you use email productively with automation aplenty and nary a distraction.

What We Like
  • Alpine is a mature, stable and robust email program

  • Many keyboard shortcuts and smart automation help you handle email productively

  • Alpine's console interface is fast even with huge amounts of mail

What We Don't Like
  • Alpine can be a tad complicated to set up and quirky, especially with POP accounts

  • You cannot control Alpine with macros or scripts

  • Alpine does not integrate OpenPGP security directly (but offers S/MIME on Unix)


  • Alpine lets you access local Unix mailboxes as well as POP and IMAP email accounts.
  • A convenient message editor makes formatting mail easy, and Alpine supports Unicode for international languages throughout.
  • Alpine can filter mail flexibly and, using versatile scoring rules, can help you spot important mail fast.
  • You can configure and assume different "roles" with different stationery, templates, addresses, etc.
  • Alpine includes an address book whose data can be kept on an IMAP server for ubiquitous access.
  • S/MIME support allows Alpine to exchange encrypted emails.
  • Alpine supports Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/3/XP, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, and most other Unix variants.


What has grown out of the mainstay campus email program — Pine — has matured.

Indeed, Alpine is robust, quirky, flexible and speedy. The text-only interface looks plain, of course, but do not let that deceive you: Alpine comes with an easy menu and one-key shortcuts that make most actions readily available once you get the hang of it. You cannot see images and fancy formatting, but Alpine does show any message's text neatly (with support for Unicode) and lets you open rich-text messages in a browser, too.

We found nary a fault with Alpine's default configuration. You can set, toggle and switch an estimated 894,153 options, though — and they're nearly all on one screen. Adding a new IMAP or (in particular) POP account and setting up a new identity ("role" in Alpine) works in a somewhat roundabout way, too; but it works. In a similar manner, you can set up rules to set the message list format per folder, for example, or use a message template automatically for replying to certain messages.

If you invest a bit in getting acquainted with Alpine, setting up accounts, rules, and filters and reading the well-written documentation, Alpine can make you very productive: everything is literally at your fingertips and nothing distracts.