The Best Apple Mail Tips and Tricks

Re-making Apple Mail to fit your needs

Apple Mail has been the standard Mac email client since the early days of OS X. Since then, many Mac-compatible email clients have come and gone, but Apple Mail remains.

Apple Mail is versatile with plenty of options and features involving mail and events. It has tools to help you organize and stay on top of your mail so you spend less time in your inbox. Here are some tips to get the most out of Apple's built-in mail client.

Instructions in this article apply to Apple Mail 13, 12, and 11.

Keep an Eye on Important Email Messages

Use the flag feature in Apple Mail to mark important email messages for later reference. To use it, select an email and then do any one of the following:

  • Right-click it and select Flag from the menu.
  • Click the Flag icon at the top of the inbox.
  • Open the Message menu and select Flag.
  • Press Command-Shift-L on your keyboard.

Combine this tip with smart mailboxes to have a mailbox that shows just the messages you have flagged.

Flag location in Apple Mail application

Find Messages Quickly in Apple Mail

The search function in Apple Mail can be unwieldy at times. To find certain email messages quickly, use Smart Mailboxes instead.

Smart mailboxes use a set of rules you define to sort messages into a mailbox for quick viewing. Since Mail sorts messages in the background, the smart mailbox content is up to date before you look at it.

Here's how to set up a Smart Mailbox:

  1. Click the plus sign next to Smart Mailboxes in the Mailboxes sidebar of Mail. The plus sign is invisible until you mouse over it.

    If you don't see the Mailboxes sidebar, click Mailboxes near the top left of the Mail screen under Get Mail to open it.

    Smart Mailboxes location in Mac Mail
  2. Type a name for your Smart Mailbox.

    Smart Mailbox creation menu with the name field highlighted
  3. Choose whether Mail pulls messages based on any or all of the conditions you specify.

    Apple Mail smart inbox creation with the any/all box highlighted
  4. Specify the items you want Apple Mail to search for to populate your Smart Mailbox. Some options are sender, subject, date, and whether you've flagged the message.

    You can also exclude items, but you'll likely get way more results that way.

  5. Click the plus sign to add more conditions.

    Smart Mailbox creation menu with the plus sign highlighted
  6. Click OK to save your Smart Mailbox. You can access it from the Mailboxes sidebar at the left side of the screen.

    Smart Mailbox creation menu in Apple Mail with the OK button highlighted

Click and Drag to Customize the Apple Mail Toolbar

The default Apple Mail interface is clean and easy to use, but you can get much more out of the Mail app by customizing the toolbar.

Open the View menu and click Customize Toolbar to open the menu. Drag the options you want to include to the toolbar to add them.

Use Mail's BCC Feature to Send Emails to a Group

When you send email messages to a group in Apple Mail, use the BCC (blind carbon copy) option to protect everyone's privacy.

To use it, enter your recipients' email addresses in the BCC line. Nobody who receives the message cab see who received it as long as everyone is BCC-copied.

If you don't see the BCC line when you create a new email, either select it from the View menu or press Command-option-B on your keyboard.

Add a Signature to Your Email Messages

You can save yourself some time by creating a signature to use in your email messages in Apple Mail. You can even create multiple signatures and switch between them.

Make a signature by opening Preferences (under the File menu or by pressing Command-comma and selecting the Signatures tab.

Moving Apple Mail: Transfer Your Apple Mail to a New Mac

Moving your Apple Mail to a new Mac or to a new, clean install of the Mac operating system may seem like a difficult task but it only requires saving three items and moving them to the new destination.