By default, the text-based email client ‘alpine’ requests a password the first time, per session, that it is requested a password from any email services it checks. For the duration of that session, it remembers the password, but forgets it if you quit alpine so you have to enter it again later. From a security point of view, that is probably a good thing, but most people do like to have their email client remember the password between sessions.

The way this works in alpine seems a little obscure at first, but actually makes a lot of sense. Alpine checks for a file in which passwords should be stored, and if it is there, it behaves differently.

If the file exists, and alpine is asked for a password, then it checks that file for the password. If it is not there it asks you for the password, and then, after you’ve entered it, alpine asks you if you want to save that password in the file. If you say yes, then you are in business.

This has two important implications for you. One: If you want alpine to remember passwords, just create the file and it will happen. Two: If you have trouble at some later time with some kind of operation and you think that the part about asking for the password is screwing you up, delete the file and restart the program (you’ll have to know the password, of course, for when you are prompted for it later).

How do you create the file? Using the bash command ‘touch’ should do. But what file do you need to create? Well, that depends. The file alpine uses is determined at compile time. At present, it seems that the current version of alpine is using a file called ‘.pine-passfile’ (note the dot at the beginning of the file … this is a hidden file) and this file should be in your home directory.

So, to make this work:

1) Quit alpine

2) In a termnial, type:

touch .pine-passfile

3) Restart alpine, check for email and send email, and when asked for a password, enter it and respond “yes” to the prompt asking you if you want to save the password.

4) Give your mouse a little piece of cheese so it does not feel lonely.

For more information about alpine click here.


  1. #1 Spiv
    October 8, 2009

    Semi-off-topic, but back in the day I recall being told “Pine” stood for “Pine Is Not Elm” (which was the email client I had been using).

    Alpine have any cuteness to it like that? “Aye, Laddy! Pine!” Or is it something much less fancy like “Apache License Pine”

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 8, 2009

    Spiv, I wish I knew. I’ve been wondering the same thing.

  3. In the Slackware Package Browser, Alpine is described:
    “Alternatively Licensed Program for Internet News and Email”:

  4. #4 nigel
    October 9, 2009

    nice tip, I like alpine (use it on linux and windoze – can easily move mailbox between) so it’s good to see fellow users!

    regards Nigel

  5. #5 Dan Mahoney
    January 18, 2010

    “alternatively licensed” may be true, and the acronym matches, but there’s nothing in the supporting documentation or alpine website to verify that.

    It seems the slackware people were simply making up an acronym, although you could certainly ask on the alpine-info mailing list.

  6. #6 Andreas Schamanek
    January 18, 2010

    I thought AL stands for Apache License, see

  7. #7 luis davila
    March 24, 2010

    hi, I like alpine, is fast and “easy” with the help of some tutorials to config 3 gmail accounts. but… this tip for “save password” don’t work for me.. I use alpine ver. 2.00 in archlinux. and there’s no information about password-file in “man alpine” to verify if the filename is the same in this version or not. Some idea??? thx..

  8. #8 Julian Parkin
    April 27, 2011

    I’ve just installed Alpine 2.00 on ubuntu 10.04. Creating ‘.pine-passfile’ in home (not the ‘mail’ sub folder) worked as described.


  9. #9 Pietro
    October 3, 2013

    Alpine offers to store the password on disk only if compiled with the option –with-passfile.
    Some packages out there contain binaries which are not compiled with this option.

  10. #10 Chris
    October 29, 2013

    Your advice does not work for me on Ubuntu 13.04.
    I assume this alpine does not have this feature.

  11. #11 Unruh
    May 10, 2016

    On my recent version of alpine 2.20, on Enterprise Linux 6 , the file is called
    .alpine.passfile rather than .pine-passfile.

    strace alpine 2>/tmp/a
    and then search /tmp/a for passfile to see what the name it is looking for you your system.
    Of course if not compiled with the option none of this will work.