How to Use and Rename Message Flags in Apple Mail

Organize your email messages into categories

Close-Up Of Colorful Flag Shape Thumbtacks, depicting different color flags in Apple Mail

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Apple Mail is the Mac's default email client. Mail is a full-featured application that's easy to set up and use. One way to organize your messages is to use Mail's flags. When you mark messages about certain subjects with a colored flag, it's easy to keep track of them. Here's a look at how to use Mail's colored flags and how to rename your flags to stay organized and keep up with important emails.

The information in this article pertains to Apple Mail on a Mac using OS X El Capitan and later OS X and macOS versions.

How to Use Email Flags

Apple Mail has seven email flag colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and gray. How you use these flags is up to you. For example, you may want to flag urgent emails that need a quick response with a red flag. You may choose to mark family messages with a blue flag or work messages with a green flag.

Once you flag a message, Apple Mail creates a new mailbox called Flagged in your sidebar. This makes it easy to access messages you've flagged for whatever reason.

To flag a message:

  1. Open the Mail app on your Mac.

  2. Select one or more messages.

  3. Select the Flag button in the Mail toolbar and choose a flag color.

    Screenshot of flagging messages in Apple Mail

    Alternatively, right-click on a message and select a flag color.

  4. The chosen flag and color now appear in the header of the selected message.

Renaming Message Flags

You may find it more helpful to name your flags instead of using the default colors. Rename Red to Urgent, for example, or rename blue as Personal. You can even rename a color to Done to indicate that you've already taken care of an email. Here's how to assign names to a colored flag:

You must be using more than one flag to show the flags in the mailbox.

  1. Open the Mail app.

  2. Go to the Flagged mailbox in the Mail sidebar.

  3. Select the triangle next to the Flagged mailbox. You'll see sub-mailboxes labeled with the colored flags you're using.

    Screenshot of renaming flagged mailboxes in Apple Mail
  4. Select the flag name, select it again, then type a new name. For example, you could name the red flag Urgent.

    Or, right-click on the name and select Rename, then type your new name.

  5. Press Return. You've renamed your flagged sub-mailbox. Repeat this to change the name of any of the other sub-mailboxes.

    Screenshot of renaming flagged mailboxes in Apple Mail