Organize Your Mac's Mail With Mailboxes

Nest subfolders inside any top-level mailbox

Adding a new Mailbox to the Mac's Mail app.

It seems obvious, but one of the easiest ways to keep your email under control is to organize it in folders or, as the Mail app in macOS calls them, mailboxes. Instead of keeping everything in your Inbox, organize your email the same way you organize documents in a file cabinet.

Information in this article applies to the Mail app on Macs running macOS 10.12 Sierra through macOS 10.14 Mojave.

Locate the Mail Sidebar

Mailboxes are listed in the Mail app sidebar, which makes them easily accessible with just a click. If you don't see the sidebar, go to View on the Mail menu bar and select Show Mailbox List or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Command+M.

You can also toggle the sidebar on or off using the Mailboxes button in the Favorites bar. The Favorites bar is the small button bar just below the Mail toolbar. If you' don't see the toolbar or the Favorites bar, go the View menu to turn them on.

How to Create a New Mailbox

You can create as many mailboxes as you need, including mailboxes for individuals, groups, companies, or categories — anything that makes sense to you. To make a new mailbox:

  1. Open the Mail app on your Mac.

  2. Select New Mailbox from the Mailbox menu. You can also right-click on any mailbox in the sidebar and select New Mailbox in the pop-up menu.

    Mail app on Mac showing New Mailbox option
  3. In the Location field of the New Mailbox window, select the mail provider or account for which you are making the folder. The default is iCloud, but your other mail providers are also on the list, along with On My Mac, which is a local-only mailbox on your computer. You cannot access the On My Mac mailbox from other devices.

    New Mailbox set up screen in Mac Mail
  4. Type a name for the mailbox in the Name field and click OK.

    New Mailbox pop-up window in Mac Mail

New mailboxes appear in the Mail sidebar.

How to Create Mailboxes Within Mailboxes

You may want to create mailboxes within mailboxes to further organize your email.

For example, if you receive a lot of email newsletters, you might create a mailbox called Newsletters and within it create individual mailboxes for each newsletter or newsletter category. Similarly, you could set up a mailbox for Family and create individual mailboxes inside for each family member.

  1. Select an existing top-level mailbox or create a new top-level mailbox as you do any single mailbox, adding a name and location.

  2. Locate the top-level (parent) mailbox in the Mailboxes sidebar. Right-click on the parent mailbox and select New Mailbox from the menu.

    Creating a subfolder in a top-level mailbox in Mac Mail
  3. Confirm the Location in the New Mailbox pop-up screen is the name of the parent subfolder. If not, select the parent from the drop-down menu.

  4. Add a descriptive name in the Name field and click OK.

    Adding a name to a subfolder in Mac Mail
  5. Repeat the process as needed for additional categories or people. An arrow next to the parent mailbox signifies the mailbox includes subfolders. Click the arrow to open the parent mailbox to access the subfolders.

    Expanded top-level Mailbox to show subfolders in Mac Mail

Move Existing Messages to a New Mailbox

To move existing messages to a new mailbox, click and drag the messages to the target mailbox. You can also move messages by right-clicking on a message or group of messages and selecting Move To from the pop-up menu. Select the appropriate mailbox and release the mouse button.

After you create mailboxes, you can use rules to file the incoming email automatically in the appropriate mailboxes to save time and stay organized.

You can also create Smart Mailboxes to make it easier to find messages.

To put a copy of a message in a new mailbox while leaving the original in place, hold down the Option key as you drag the message or group of messages to the target mailbox.