How to Customize the Mac OS X Mail Toolbar

Tools on the wall
Is this your dream tools arrangement? You can perfect the toolbar in OS X Mail, too.

Barn Images / Getty Images

Do you never check for new mail (OS X Mail updates your folders automatically after all), move messages to different folders all the time (old habits die hard, and who says they should?) and have not flagged an email once (and never will, with different folders and all to keep track)?

You can put just the buttons you use most in just the order you prefer on the OS X Mail toolbar. OS X Mail’s default toolbar layout for its main window is not for you, then. If you use the toolbar at all—for the things that you do often enough not to want to rely on the menu bar but infrequently enough to muscle-memorize a keyboard shortcut—, try customizing it to your needs.

Get the Toolbar You Like and Use

You can remove the buttons you do not need and add others you will use. (One button lets you mark emails unread, for example, and another shows or hides related emails.) You can re-arrange the buttons, too, so you always click the right and never the wrong one.

Of course, you can also customize the toolbars for reading emails and for the window in which you compose your messages.

Customize the Mac OS X Mail Toolbar

To adapt the Mac OS X Mail toolbar to your liking:

  1. Make sure the window for which you want to customize the toolbar is active.

    • Start aa new message, for instance, to customize the composition window toolbar, or focus on the main OS X Mail window to change its toolbar.
  2. Select View | Customize Toolbar… from the menu.

    ​You can also click anywhere on the toolbar you want to customize with the right mouse button (or tap with two fingers on the trackpad), then select Customize Toolbar… from the menu that appears.

  3. Drag icons to the toolbar to add them; drag them from the toolbar (to anywhere except the toolbar) to remove them.

    • To drag icons, click on them with the mouse button, then drag the mouse cursor (plus icon) while keeping the mouse button pressed; release the mouse button to drop the icon in place.
    • You can also drag icons on the toolbar to rearrange them.
    • Use the Space and Flexible Space items to group items; Flexible Space expands to distribute items equally. You can use two (or more) Space items next to each other, of course.
    • The Colors item has no real effect in the main OS X Mail window.
    • Under Show, you can specify whether you want text labels to go with the buttons (or just the labels); select Icon Only, Icon and Text or Text Only.
  4. Click Done.

(Updated September 2015, tested with OS X Mail 8)