Help for Alpine - Reply Command
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Introduction

There are several variables that control what happens when you press the "R" command to reply to a message or follow-up a post in a newsgroup, in this section we will describe the process and variables that control this command.

Configuring Options Related to Replying

The following is a list of configuration options that are related to what happens when you reply to a message using Alpine. Those configurations marked with a star * need to be set/unset in order to reduce prompting of Alpine

  1. *Include Text in Reply, controls if Alpine will automatically include the text being replied to in the message that you will compose. If you have not enabled this feature then Alpine will confirm with you if you want to include the text in the reply. Remember that the position of the quoted text with respect to the signature is controlled by the variable signature-at-bottom. You need to set this variable in order to reduce prompting.
  2. Reply to all recipients?. There's almost nothing that can be done to reduce prompting in this case. This question appears when there's more than one recipient of the message (e.g, there's a non empty Cc: field in the message). The interesting behavior happens when Alpine does not recognize that the address of the recipient is your address. In that case, you'll be asked if you want to reply to all recipients. In order to avoid Alpine asking you if you want to reply to your own address, you should add your e-mail address to the alt-addresses configuration option.
  3. Include Attachments in Reply, is a configuration option that will automatically include the attachments of the original message in the message that you are replying to. Notice that if you do not enable this option Alpine will not include the attachments in the message you are replying to. Alpine will not prompt you if you want to include the attachments or not.
  4. Include Header in Reply, will make Alpine include headers of the original message as part of the message that you send. The headers that will be included will be those that are visible for you at the time you start to reply the message, which is controlled by two variables: The Viewer Headers configuration option, or if you have the display of full headers on or off, according to the H Headers command. In other words, you can not configure automatically which headers will be included in the reply message.
  5. Reply Always Uses Reply-To has the effect of setting the address that you will be replying to, being the same that the Reply-To header field in the original message. If you do not set this option, then Alpine will prompt you if you want to use the reply-to address. If you say no, then Alpine will assume that you want to reply to the address in the From: field.
  6. Signature at Bottom is already discussed in the signature section.
  7. Strip From Sigdashes on Reply is already discussed in the signature section.
  8. Reply Indent String, is a configuration option that controls what string will be prepended to every line of quoted text of the message that you are replying to. The most usual convention is to use "> " as the reply indent string, but you can change it. Note that if you want to leave a space at the end of the string, you must enclose the whole definition of the string between double quotes. Note that you can not use double quotes in your definition for this variable, as they will not be correctly interpreted by Alpine.
     
    Another interesting feature is that Alpine allows this token to be variable, by using some tokens, the most commonly used is _INIT_, which when used will be replaced by the initials of the name of the person that sent the message. Usually you would use this to define this variable as "_INIT_> ", or something similar.
     
    This option is not only used when replying, but also when quoting text. In fact, if while you are composing a message you decide to insert a message that is located in the same folder that you are composing your message, then this text will be quoted using the string defined in this variable, with no opportunity to edit it.
     
    Finally notice that some people are sensitive to the fact that you use a different reply indent string than the default "> ". This is because some newsreaders color quoted text and using a different string breaks this coloring. Alpine, for example, does not recognize other prefixes when coloring than the default "> ".
  9. *Enable Reply Indent String Editing, controls if the text to be replied to will be quoted with the defined quoting string or if, for the message that you are replying to, it must be changed. Note that you can use tokens to define the reply-indent-string (which is defined in the reply-indent-string variable), even when you are editing this string.
     
    Note that if you set this option, Alpine will prompt you to include the message in the composer, regardless of how you have set the variable Include Text in Reply, so if your purpose is to reduce prompting, you should unset this option.
  10. Reply Leadin, is a configuration variable which allows you to define one line of text that is included at the before the quoted text, to introduce it. If this variable is not initialized, then Alpine will write a default text, which contains the date in which the message was sent and the name (or address, if there's no name) of the person that sent the message. It would usually look like:
     
    On Sun, 25 Dec 2000, Santa Claus wrote:

     
    There is a way to configure the text in this line using tokens, tokens, which is special text that that is replaced by a content which depends on the message. For example, _FROM_ is a token, which when replaced in the line produces the personal name of the person that sent the message. All tokens begin and the end with the underscore "_" character. In the example above, the value of _FROM_ is "Santa Claus". The above reply leadin-string is defined in fact to be:
     
    On _DAYDATE_, _FROM_ wrote:

     
    Notice, however, that if there's no personal name in the message that you are replying to, and just an e-mail address, then the value of the _FROM_ token is that e-mail address. The _ADDRESS_ token, however, always contains the e-mail address of the person in the From: field of the message.
     
    One way to make the above leadin-string more sophisticated, is by changing its definition to be
     
    On _DAYDATE_, _FROM_ (_ADDRESS_) wrote:

     
    In the case of the above example, the reply-leading text for a message from Santa would look like:
     
    On Sun, 25 Dec 2000, Santa Claus (santa@northpole.com) wrote:

     
    This definition works most of the time, except that if Santa had not written his personal name, in whose case it would look like:
     
    On Sun, 25 Dec 2000, santa@northpole.com (santa@northpole.com) wrote:

     
    with the repetition of the quoting of the address of Santa. The good news is that Alpine provides a mechanism so that the address be inserted only once!. In fact, here's how to.
     
    Alpine has a mechanism to make an "if, then", statement, which is very handy, the format is very simple:
     
    _TOKEN_("condition", "text1", "text2")

     
    Here _TOKEN_ is one of the possible tokens, like _ADDRESS_, condition is just text, and the value of _TOKEN_ and "condition" are going to be compared. If they are the same, then "text1" is used, but if they are different then "text2" is used.
     
    Here's an example:
     
    *** _FROM_ _ADDRESS_("_FROM_", "","(_ADDRESS_) ")wrote _SMARTDATE_("Today", "today", "on _LONGDATE_"):

     
    In this case, when the reply leadin is constructed, the text always starts with the "*** _FROM_" part, then _ADDRESS_ is compared with the value of _FROM_ (not with the text "_FROM_"), and if they are the same (which means that there is no personal name in the From: field), then it does not write anything, but if they are different (which means that _FROM_ contains the personal name of the person sending the message, and _ADDRESS_ his/her address), then write "(_ADDRESS_) ". Note that in order to account for the space after the fist _FROM_, we must put together wrote and the last parenthesis. Finally, the value of _SMARTDATE_ is compared with the text "Today", if they are the same, then it will insert the text "today", which is more appropriate since it is not the beginning of a sentence, but if they are different it will insert a "on _LONGDATE_" text. Below you can read all different possibilities that this leads to:
     
    *** _FROM_ (_ADDRESS_) wrote today:
    *** _FROM_ (_ADDRESS_) wrote on _LONGDATE_:
    *** _FROM_ wrote today:
    *** _FROM_ wrote on _LONGDATE_:

     
    As you can see there's a lot of complexity that can be added to this structure. Also notice that the text to be replaced with, must not contain another conditional inclusion, Alpine only notices the first level of conditional inclusion of text.
     
    Finally notice that regardless of what your definition for this string is, Alpine will cut it, if necessary, so that it will not be bigger than 80 characters.

Replying to a Message

In order to reply to a message, you must press the R key, either when reading the message you are about to reply to or when you are in the index screen. What will happen next will depend on how you have configured Alpine.

For starters, Alpine checks to see if there is a "Newsgroups:" header in the message that you are replying to. If there is one, and is not empty, then Alpine will offer you a menu with three possibilities:

  1. F Followup-to, is used if you want your answer to be posted in the newsgroup(s) that appear in the Newsgroups: header. The replied message won't go to the e-mail address of the sender.
  2. [R Reply], is the default option and should be pressed if you want your reply to go to the e-mail address of the sender, but not to the newsgroup.
  3. B Both, is the equivalent of a "mailed and posted" action. The replied message will go to both, the e-mail address of the sender and the newsgroup(s) specified in the Newsgroups: header.

If the message that you are replying to does not have a non-empty Newsgroups: header, or if it has one and you answered with either one of the above answers, then Alpine will immediately check if the configuration options Include Text in Reply and Enable Reply Indent String Editing are enabled, if the second one is enabled, then Alpine will ask you if you want to include the text of the original message in the replied message, and will give you a choice to edit it if you want to. If the second configuration option is not enabled, then Alpine will include the text or not according to if the Include Text in Reply option is enabled or not. If you enable the Enable Reply Indent String Editing, you need to press ^R to be able to edit the reply-indent-string.

Once you have passed this stage, Alpine will check to see if there is a Reply-To: in the original message, and act according to the rules explained before in the Reply Always Uses Reply-To configuration option.

Finally Alpine will check to see if there were more recipients of the original message, and ask you if you want to include their addresses in the message to be replied to. If you decide to do so, their addresses will be included in the Cc: field. Notice that if you decided to use the Reply-To field to answer and you decide to reply to all recipients, then Alpine will not include the address in the From: field in the list of recipients.