Learn to Use Tables and Lists in Apple Mail

Email formatting isn't confined to the Mail application

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To insert an image in a new message in Apple Mail, you can drag and drop it in the desired location when you're composing. But what about other text formatting essentials, such as bulleted lists and tables? In macOS and Mac OS X Mail, you can only change the text formatting, but with the help of TextEdit, which also ships with every Mac, additional tools for a more advanced email formatting arsenal are only a click or two away.

Instructions in this article apply to Mac OS X 10.4 and later.

Build Tables in Text Edit for Mac Mail

To use tables and lists in messages created with Mac OS X Mail:

Be aware that Mac OS X Mail creates a text-only alternative for each message to be viewed by recipients who cannot or prefer not to see HTML formatting in emails. For lists and tables, this plain text alternative may be difficult to read.

  1. Create a new message in Apple Mail by clicking the New Message button, selecting New Message under the File menu, or pressing Command+N on your keyboard.

    New Message in Apple Mail
  2. Launch TextEdit from the Applications folder.

    TextEdit in the Finder
  3. In TextEdit, make sure the current document mode is set to rich text. Select ​Format > Make Rich Text from the menu if you don't see a formatting toolbar at the top of the TextEdit window.

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift+T.

    Make Rich Text command in TextEdit
  4. To create a list, click the Lists Bullets and Numbering drop-down menu in the formatting toolbar and select the desired list type.

    List in TextEdit
  5. To create a table, select Format > Table… from the menu bar.

    Table option under the Format menu in TextEdit
  6. Enter the number of rows and columns you want in the table. Select an alignment and specify the cell border and background color, if any. Type the text into the cells of the table. 

    Table in TextEdit
  7. Highlight the TextEdit list or table you want to use in your email.

  8. Press ​Command + C to copy the table.

  9. Switch to Mail.

  10. In the email, position the cursor where you want to insert the list or table.

  11. Press Command + V to paste the table into the email.

    A table in Apple Mail
  12. Continue editing your message in Mail.

Formatting Lists in Mac Mail

You don't have to use TextEdit to format a list in Mail. To insert a list directly in email using Mac Mail, select Format > Lists from the Mail menu while composing an email, and select either ​Insert Bulleted List or Insert Numbered List on the menu that appears.

Creating a list in Apple Mail