How to Use Apple Mail Rules to Organize Email

Use Mail Rules to Keep About: Macs Newsletters Organized

Creating an Apple Mail Rule
You can use rules in Apple Mail to quickly and easily organize your email messages. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple Mail Rules can let you take control of your email letting you filter, organize and perhaps most importantly help you to ignore spam by having mail take care of the unwanted mail messages for you.

If you don't take control of your email, your email may take control of you. Even if we ignore spam (and we certainly try to), most of us get an awful lot of email every day. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, and it's easy to overlook important messages.

It's also easier than you might think to get a handle on email. All it takes is a little organization, and a handy feature in Apple Mail called Rules. You can create rules to handle incoming mail, as well as to organize existing mail. For example, you can use rules to file incoming mail in the appropriate mailboxes, forward mail to another recipient, send an automatic reply to a message, or mark messages as read or flagged.

If you would like to learn more about organizing Mail take a look at: Organize Your Apple Mail With Mailboxes

If this sounds like a useful feature, here is how to get started making up your own mail rules.​

Creating a new Mailbox

If you need to create a Tech Today mailbox, you can follow these steps:

  1. Make sure Mail is the front most app.
  2. From the Mailbox menu, select New Mailbox.
  3. In the sheet that drops down use the Location drop down menu to select where you wish to place the new mailbox.
  4. In the same sheep fill in the name field with Tech Today, or whatever name you wish to give the new mailbox.
  5. Click the OK button.

Create a Rule in Mail

We'll create a rule to file the Tech Today newsletter Lifewire sends out in a Tech Today mailbox we created in this tip:

  1. From the Mail menu, select Preferences. In the Mail Preferences window, click the Rules icon.
  2. Click the Add Rule button.
  3. In the Description field, enter Tech Today Newsletter.
  4. Set the If dropdown menu to any.
  5. Set the Any Recipient dropdown menu to From.
  6. In the Contains field, enter
  7. Under the Perform the Following Actions section, select Move Message from the dropdown menu.
  8. Select the Tech Today mailbox (or the specific mailbox you wish to use) from the To Mailbox dropdown menu. Click OK.
  9. Close the Mail Preferences.

The next time you receive a Tech Today newsletter, it will automatically be filed in the mailbox you selected, just waiting for you to read it.

Apply Rules to Existing Messages

Once you create a rule, you can use it to organize existing messages. Select the messages in the Mail viewer window, and then select Apply Rules from the Message menu. Applying Rules will apply every rule that is currently active, not just the one you just got finished making.

You can change which rules are active by:

  1. Selecting Preferences from the Mail menu.
  2. Clicking on the Rules icon in the Preferences window's toolbar.
  3. Adding or removing a checkmark from in front of each rule in the list.

Rules are applied in descending order. If you create rules that could apply to multiple messages, the rules will be applied in the order in which they appear in the Rules list. You can click and drag rules in the list to apply them in a different order.

Edit or Delete a Rule

To edit or delete a rule, select Preferences from the Mail menu. In the Mail Preferences window, click the Rules icon. Click on the rule you want to manage, and then click the Edit or Remove button. If you select the Edit button, you can change any of the conditions you set up in the original rule. Click OK when you're finished. The changes won't affect any existing messages, but will automatically apply to any new messages that meet the criteria you specified.

In addition to using rules to organize your email, you can also create Smart Mailboxes to make it easier to find specific messages. We'll show you how in the following tip: