Help for Alpine - Search
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Introduction

The search command is one of those commands that have many surprises. In this section we will talk exclusively about searching for text. From the perspective of the user, searching for a string should be something simple, however there are complications that are not so obvious, like deciding in which character set the string or the message is. This presents some complications which are not so easy to overcome.

Searching Basics

In an ideal world, every character is 7bit, which means that it does not have any type of accents, for example. In the real world, most of the population of the world needs to type characters that are not 7 bit. However, 7bit is the way that computers are used to communicating among each others, so because of technological requirements, we are all forced to send 7bit (although the world is moving to 8bit).

Let us first try to understand the 7bit case, which is associated to the US-ASCII character set.

Alpine's search style is not case sensitive, if you look for the string "Fred", you'll get the same result that if you look for "fred". This is good and bad as you can imagine. One of the dreams of any user is to be able to decide when to search for a perfect match or when not to. This is not configurable in Alpine.

The IMAP server does the same. Searching in the server is case insensitive.

The command to search for a specific string of text in the server is very simple.

1 SEARCH CHARSET US-ASCII ALL 1:* TEXT string

When finished, the server will reply with a message containing the numbers of the messages that contain the string that you are looking for. If there are no matches, no error will be produced. Just an empty string for where the numbers should be will be included.

You can change the word TEXT above for some other options, here is a list of a few of them.

  1. Body, to restrict the search to only the body of the message
  2. To, From, Subject, Bcc, will look for the string in any of the headers mentioned in this list.
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