Reading E-Mail Attachments
Let me start off by saying that you shouldn't do anything which is described
on this page. That isn't to say that shouldn't read email attachments, but
the easiest way to do it is to set up a graphical email reader (Such as
Netscape or Outlook) and to simply use the features that your mail reader
provides. For information on how to set up Netscape as an email client, look
The purpose of these instructions is to help out people who use Pine as an
email client, or to help out in situations where you need to retrieve an
email attachment from someone else's computer. If this is a situation you
are in, then read on. Or if you are just bored you can read on too.
Saving your attachment
In order to download an email attachment, you have to save it first. This
will involve using the Pine email reader, for which you can consult the
reference above. When you have the message containing the attachment open,
press 'v' to view and then 's' to save the attachment. Unless you specify an
Pine will save the attachment in your home directory. If that doesn't mean
anything to you, don't worry about it. Just save the attachment. I know that
isn't exactly intuitive, but give it a shot anyway.
You may be thinking at this point that since Pine has a
command, you might just be able to use that command to see your attachment.
Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, unless the attachment is a plain
text file it doesn't work that way. You have to go through all of the hard
stuff. You can pretty much blame Microsoft for this. If Microsoft had a
published standard for MS Office documents then Pine might be able to at least
preview them. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Downloading your attachment
There are two different ways that you can do this, a hard way and an easy way.
As with most other things, there are some trade-offs here. The hard way is
hard, and it doesn't work under Windows 95, but it is secure. The easy way
is comparatively simpler and it works in most places, but it is not very
secure for reasons that we will get into in a minute. The hard way is to use
a command-line FTP client, and the easy way is to use a web browser.
The FTP client method
The secure FTP method is the best method to use if your situation meets the
following two criteria: First, you are reasonably comfortable with text
based software. If you have gotten this far and used Pine to save your
attachment, then you can probably cope with this. The second criteria is that
you are not using Windows 95. If you are stuck with 95, then skip to the
web browser method.
Open up a command prompt. Under Mac OS X there is a
graphical-mouse-clicking-touchy-feeley way to do this. Under most Windows
variants there is a "Command Prompt" or "DOS Prompt" menu option. If you
can't find it, try selecting the "Run" option and type in "command". Once
you have a command prompt, change to the directory you want the file to be in.
The instructions for doing this will vary depending on the system you are
Okay, now you can actually transfer the file. Type "ftp capricorn.org" and
press enter. If everything goes well, then you will be prompted to log
in to the system with your username and password. If everything doesn't go
well, then just give up and go to the bar. Once you are logged in you will
get an FTP prompt that looks something like "
ftp>". If you
saved the attachment somewhere other than your home directory, you will have
to change to that directory using the "
cd" command. Now you
are ready to get the file, right? Well, not quite yet. You have to use
the "binary" command to make the file transfer correctly. Just type
binary" and press enter. Now you can get the file using the
"get" command. If the filename contains spaces or apostrophies or stuff like
that, you will have to enclose the filename in quotes. If everything works
properly, the system will appear to do nothing for a little while and then
you will get a message saying that so-and-so many bytes were transferred in
such-and-such an amount of time. If so, great. Type "
and go open your file. If it doesn't work, you can either try again or you
can give up and go to the bar.
The web browser method
As mentioned before, this method is not very secure. Which is too bad,
because it is much easier. The security problem lies in the fact that most
web browsers remember the URLs that you type in. You will have to type in your password, which means that your pasword will appear in the history list. In
order to ensure security, you will have to figure out how to clear the history
list. This is beyond the scope of this tutorial. Everything else, however, is easy. Just put the URL "
into any web browser, putting in your very own username and password in the
appropriate places. You will then get a listing of all the files in your
home directory, and you can download any of them by right-clicking on the
filename and selecting "save link as", or something similar. Done.
Deleting the file
After you have retrieved the file, you probably ought to delete the one you
saved on the server. Remember when you saved the file on the server? Well,
if you don't delete the file then it will sit on the server forever taking up
disk space until the system administrator sends you a nasty email asking
you why you are using so much disk space. So delete the file when you are
done. To do this you will use the "rm" command. Log into the server the
same way you logged in so that you could use Pine, change to the directry that
you saved the file in, and type "
rm filename". Of course, you
should use the actual name of your file.
Okay, I realize that these instructions are not very detailed and that they
are pretty complicated. That's why I recommended in the beginning that you
not try to do any of this. Not that it is impossible, and you probably won't
break anything, but it is easy to get frustrated trying to figure it all
out. If you have any questions you should contact your system administrator.
If you have any ideas for a way to make these instructions any clearer, you
should contact your system administrator about that too.
This file was last updated November 18, 2002