How to Add an Email Background Color in Mac OS X Mail

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Mac OS X Mail's rules are smart and colorful: you can set them up to spot important mail and highlight it red. The messages then stay red even if they're past their importance; or do they?

You're even smarter than your rules, of course, and you can color messages as well: you can switch emails colored by filters back to white or quickly highlight urgent mail in, say, red (or green).

Highlight Any Email With a Background Color in Mac OS X Mail

To change a message's background color in Mac OS X Mail's message list:

  1. Open a folder or smart folder containing the desired message.
  2. Make sure the message whose background color you want to change is selected.
  3. Select Format / Show Colors from the menu.
  4. If you do not see Show Colors in the Format menu, select Format / Hide Colors instead and then Format / Show Colors.
  5. You can also press Command-Shift-C, possibly twice to have the Colors window disappear and reappear.
  6. Pick the desired color.
  7. Choose white to reset the background color to, well, white and remove highlighting colors, say set by a filter.

Remove Color Highlighting From a Message in Mac OS X Mail

To return a message's background color to white after you have highlighted it manually or a Mac OS X Mail rule applied highlighting no longer needed:

  1. Open the folder or smart folder that holds the message or search for it.
  2. Make sure the message whose background color you want to reset to white is selected.
  3. Select Format / Show Colors from the menu
  4. Select Format / Hide Colors instead followed by Format / Show Colors if you do not see Format / Show Colors initially.
  5. Click white.
  6. Go to the Crayons tab.
  7. Click Snow (typically in the lower right corner).