Create Notes or To-Do's in Apple Mail

Use the Notes App If You're Using OS X Mountain Lion or Later

Mail Notes in OS X Lion
Mail Notes as seen in OS X Lion. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If there's one thing most of us don't need, it's another to-do list. But there's no question that to-do lists come in handy; they also free us from worrying about remembering appointments, tasks, or what have you.

You can use Apple Mail to create notes or to-dos for important items (or trivial items, for that matter). The notes and to-dos you create will be viewable under the Reminders section on the left side of the Mail viewer window.

You can attach a file to a note, if appropriate. You can turn a note into a to-do item by adding a due date, an alarm, and a priority ranking; you can also add it to iCal. You can even email a note to yourself (or someone else); perhaps you want to send a reminder to your home email address from work, or vice versa.

Notes in OS X Mountain Lion and Later

With the advent of OS X Mountain Lion, Apple removed the notes and to-do list functions that were integrated into Mail and moved them to a separate Notes app. The new Notes app has additional features and capabilities that go well beyond what was offered in the notes feature of Mail.

Upgrading from a previous version of OS X to OS X Mountain Lion or later should automatically import the old Mail notes into the new Notes app. However, a few people have reported a loss of their old Mail notes.

Luckily, the notes are fairly easy to recover. The Notes in the Mail app were actually a special mailbox, just like any other mailbox you may have created in Mail.

As such, you can recover the old Notes mailbox by digging into where Mail stores the mailboxes on your Mac.

Finding Your Old Mail Notes

  1. In a Finder window, browse to the following location:
  2. <your home folder>/Library/Mail. The Library folder is hidden by OS X, but you can use one of the techniques shown in OS X Is Hiding Your Library Folder to gain access. Once in the Library folder, go ahead and open the Mail folder.
  1. Within the Mail folder, look for a folder named either V2 or V3; open the V folder with the larger number.
  2. Within the V2 or V3 folder, open the Mailboxes folder.
  3. Inside you should find a mailbox named Notes.mbox.
  4. Within the Mail.mbox folder, you'll find one or more folders with a long string of numbers and letters for its name. Select one of the folders and open it. Don’t worry about which one you pick; you'll perform the following tasks on each one if needed.
  5. Open the Data folder.
  6. Within the Data folder, you'll find one or more folders, each named with a number. Within each of these folders will be additional folders, also named with a number. Keep opening the folders until you get to one named Messages.
  7. If you have any messages that weren't automatically imported into the new Notes app, you will see them in the Messages folder with names like 123456.emix. You can double-click these notes files, and they will open in the new Notes app.

You may not actually have any notes present in the Message folders if you never used the Mail notes function, or the notes were successfully imported into the new Notes app.

Using Notes in the Mail App in OS X  Lion and Earlier

Create a Note in Mail

  1. In the Mail viewer window, click the Note icon in the Mail toolbar.
  1. In the New Note window that opens, enter the text of your choice. Click the Fonts icon or the Colors icon if you want to jazz up your note with fancy fonts or bright colors.
  2. If you want to email the note, click the Send icon.
  3. Enter an email address in the To field, and click Send. Mail will send a copy of the note to the designated recipient, and retain the original version of the note under Notes, in the Reminders section of the Mail viewer window.
  4. If you want to attach a file to the note, click the Attach icon. Locate the file on your hard drive, and click Choose File.
  5. To turn a note into a to-do item, click the To Do icon.
  1. Click the red arrow icon that appears to access To Do options.
  2. To assign a due date, place a check mark next to Due Date, and enter the appropriate date.
  3. To add an alarm, click the Alarm icon, and enter a date and time. Click the Message pop-up menu to select a message, a message with sound, an email, or open a file as the alarm.
  4. To assign a priority to the note, place a check mark next to Priority and select Low, Medium, or High from the pop-up menu.
  5. To add the note to iCal, select the appropriate calendar or the To Do entry in the iCal pop-up menu.
  6. When you're finished, click the Done icon or click the red close button to close the window.

The Note will now appear under the Reminders section on the left side of the Mail viewer window.

Create a To Do in Mail

  1. In the Mail viewer window, click the To Do icon in the Mail toolbar. A new entry will appear in the To Do window.
  2. Enter a name for the to-do item in the Title field. Press the tab key to advance to the Date Due field.
  3. Click the Date Due field to enter a date. Press the tab key to advance to the Priority field.
  4. Click the up/down arrows in the Priority field to change the priority to low, medium, or high, or accept the default priority of none. Press the tab key to advance to the Calendar field.
  5. If you have multiple calendars in iCal (such as Work and Home), click the up/down arrows in the Calendar field to select the correct calendar, or accept the default, which will be the same calendar you chose when you last set up a to-do item (unless, of course, this is the first time you've set up a to-do item).
  1. If you want to set an alarm, tab to advance to the Alarm field. Click the plus (+) sign next to the word Alarm to add an alarm.
  2. Click the double arrows next to the word Message to select a type of alarm (Message, Message With Sound, Email, Open File). If you select Open File, iCal will now be listed in this menu. If you want to open something other than iCal, click the double arrows next to the word iCal, select Other, and then locate the target application on your Mac.
  3. Click the next set of double arrows to select a day for the alarm (the same day, the day before, days before, days after).
  4. Click in the Time field to set a time for the alarm (hour, minute, AM or PM).
  5. If you want to add another alarm, click the plus (+) icon next to the word alarm and repeat the previous step.
  6. When you're finished, click outside the pop-up menu to close it. The to-do item will be added to iCal.

Edit or Delete a Note in Mail

  1. To edit a note, double-click the note to open it. Make the desired changes, and then close the note.
  2. To delete a note, click once on the note to select it, and then click the Delete icon in the Mail toolbar.

Edit or Delete a To Do in Mail

  1. To edit a to-do, right-click on the to-do item and select Edit To Do from the pop-up menu. Make the appropriate changes from the To Do Options pop-up window, and then close the window.
  2. To delete a to-do, right-click on the to-do item and select Delete from the pop-up menu, or click once on the to-do item to select it, and then click the Delete icon in the Mail toolbar.
    Was this page helpful?