Get Notifications When Your Messages Are Read in OS X Mail

Use Terminal mode to request read receipts

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When you send an email in Mac OS X Mail, the message is delivered to its recipient promptly—usually, but not always. To get some idea of your every email's fate, you can request read receipts. Typically, the recipient is asked to confirm the message has been opened. While this is no guarantee the content has been read or even understood, such read receipts can still be useful to rule out some possibilities of failure and maybe quiet a wandering mind.

Mac OS X Mail doesn't support read receipts by default. However, if you are comfortable working in Terminal mode, you can make modifications.

Request Read Receipts in Mac OS X Mail

To make Mac OS X Mail request a read receipt for every message you send:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type defaults read com.apple.mail UserHeaders.
  3. Press Enter.
  4. If that command returns "The domain/default pair of (com.apple.mail, UserHeaders) does not exist":
    • Type replacing Name with your name and email@address with your email address:
      • defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders '{"Disposition-Notification-To" = "Name <email@address>"; }'
      • The complete line could read "defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders '{"Disposition-Notification-To" = "Heinz Tschabitscher <sender@example.com>"; }'", for example.
  5. If the "defaults read" command above returns a line of values that starts with "{" and ends in "}":
    1. Highlight the entire line. It might read something like {Bcc = "bcc@example.com"; }, for example.
    2. Press Command-C.
    3. Type defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders '.
    4. Press Command-V.
    5. Type '.
    6. Insert '"Disposition-Notification-To" = "Name <email@address>"; ' in front of the closing "}" character, replacing Name with your name and email@address with your email address.
      The line might now read, for example,"defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders '{Bcc = "bcc@example.com"; "Disposition-Notification-To" = "Heinz Tschabitscher <sender@example.com>"; }'"
  1. Press Enter.

Not Only Request but Also Respect and Send Read Receipts

Mac OS X Mail does not respect read receipts. If you get an email requesting a read receipt, nothing special happens.

Using some JavaScript and Mail rules, you can mimic some of the behavior and send simple receipts upon request. These do not fully conform to the standard and will not be interpreted as read receipts by the sender's email program.

Of course, the plain language acknowledgment of receipt is still useful.

Disable Automatic Read Receipt Requests Again in Mac OS X Mail

To turn off requesting a read receipt for every message:

  • Execute defaults delete com.apple.mail UserHeaders at Terminal command prompt to delete all custom headers, or set UserHeaders back to what it was before you added Disposition-Notification-To.

Full Email Accountability and Control

For full knowledge and control over the fate of the emails you send in Mac OS X Mail, you can employ a certified email service or use third-party software such as iReceipt Mail.