Mail Act-On 4: OS X Mail Productivity Add-On

Mail Act-On - OS X Mail Productivity Add-On
Mail Act-On - OS X Mail Productivity Add-On.

Mail Act-On is a wonderful OS X Mail plug-in that saves you time and makes your mail handling better by allowing you to assign keyboard shortcuts to Mail rule actions (and adds outgoing mail filters and reply templates to boot).

You can set up shortcuts for labeling, moving or redirecting messages, for example, though, creating a complex and functional Mail Act-On setup can be a bit complex itself.

What We Like
  • Mail Act-On lets you assign keyboard shortcuts to OS X Mail rules and actions

  • Using filter criteria, you can set up complex actions based on the type of message.

  • Mail Act-On lets you set up rules for outgoing mail, too.

What We Don't Like
  • Mail Act-On cannot record your actions to create new shortcuts.

  • Creating and maintaining more complex chains of Mail Act-On actions is a bit unwieldy.


  • Mail Act-On lets you assign keyboard shortcuts to OS X Mail rule actions.
  • Any rules action (moving, color-coding, redirecting, AppleScript) is available, and favorite folders get shortcut keys.
  • Mail Act-On can show you a menu of available actions, which also lets you move and copy mail or open folders fast.
  • When selecting folders in Mail Act-On, you can filter by typing the desired folder name's any part (not just the beginning).
  • Mail Act-On respects the criteria in your rules, applying actions only to matching messages.
  • Actions for Mail Act-On are created in a new addition to Mail's "Rules" dialog.
  • Mail Act-On lets you set up rules automatically applied to outgoing mail as well (to add headers or recipients automatically, for example).
  • Options for outgoing messages also include delayed delivery or delivery (no sooner than) at a certain time as well as specific "Sent" folder; these can be set using rules or manually.
  • Templates for email replies (including personalization with, e.g., the sender's name) let you answer emails fast with Mail Act-On.
  • Full integration with MailTags lets you use keywords, projects, and dates in Mail Act-On actions.
  • Settings and rules can be synchronized using iCloud or a folder synchronized using WebDAV or DropBox, for example.
  • Mail Act-On supports MacOS/OS X 10.9/10/11.

Expert Review of Mail Act-On

OS X Mail comes with a filtering engine both capable and easy to administer. Mail also comes with handy keyboard shortcuts, of course. Yet, something is missing.

Shortcuts to Rules

Mail Act-On combines keyboard shortcuts and message rules to unleash a lot of unexpected potential. For that purpose, Mail Act-On adds a new tab to Mail's "Rules" setup that works just like and just as handily as the standard rules (now appearing as "Inbox Rules"), but lets you assign keyboard shortcuts. While in the Rules setup, note the new "Outbox Rules," which has Mail Act-On apply actions automatically after you've sent a message — or even before with actions such as adding Bcc: or Cc: recipients under certain circumstances.

"Ctrl" plus your custom key immediately applies the desired action to any group of messages. Mail Act-On also offers a control panel as an alternative, which lets you pick actions on the screen and offers swift shortcuts to moving and copying messages (when picking a folder, Act-On assists with auto-completion). You can set up a Mail Act-On action that moves a message to a folder, for example, or gives it a color background to make it stand out.

Complex Actions

Of course, you can also make a Mail Act-On action do more than one thing (de-flag and archive a message, for example). You can even use the criteria to apply certain actions to particular messages. Set up two Mail Act-On actions for the key "w" for example, one that moves any message to the "Action" folder and another that colors the message red if the sender is your boss.

Unfortunately, creating and maintaining more complex criterion-based actions can develop into a challenging exercise for the mind, and Mail Act-On does not support you much in getting the setup right. If something goes wrong, take heart in Mail Act-On's handy undo function.

More Than Rules

One action common to email is replying, of course. Mail Act-On offers help in this area, too: you can set up templates (customizable with fields such as the sender's name or the original subject line) easily engaged for replies in Mail. It would be nice if Mail Act-On could add some of its filtering prowess and make certain templates just about automatic to pick for certain messages.

Mail Act-On also improves the mundane actions of reading and sending mail by adding some options — such as when mail is marked read — to reading and actions to sending. You can have emails delivered only after a delay or at a certain time, for instance, and pick an archiving folder other than "Sent Mail." Both actions are, naturally, also available in outgoing mail rules.