How to Set Up New Email Alerts in Apple Mail

Find out as soon as you receive a message

You can set up Apple Mail to announce new emails depending on where they land. Alerts can apply to the inbox or all folders. You can also limit alerts to senders in your address book or to people you have marked as VIPs. More advanced settings let you create a smart mailbox with selection criteria to announce exactly the emails you want to know about.

Of course, turning off Apple Mail notifications temporarily, if you choose—is another option.

Instructions in this article apply to devices running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.

Businessman looking at email on plane


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How to Get Apple Mail Notifications for VIPs, Contacts, Inbox, Smart Folders, Rules or All Messages

To specify what kind of mail you want to receive desktop alerts for in Notification Center:

  1. Select Preferences under the Mail menu.

    You can also press Command+, (comma) on your keyboard.

    Preferences in Apple Mail
  2. Go to the General tab.

    General tap in Apple Mail preferences
  3. Select the desired category for which you want to receive new message alerts under New message notifications:

    • Inbox Only: receive alerts only for new messages arriving in your inbox.
    • VIPs: get alerts only about messages from people you have marked as VIPs.
    • Contacts: get notifications of messages from people in your address book (you cannot pick individual contacts for notification).
    • All Mailboxes: have notifications show up for all new messages arriving in your email accounts.
    • A smart folder: be alerted to all new mail arriving in that smart mailbox. Using the folder's selection criteria, you can create a set of email notification rules.
    New Message Notifications settings in Apple Mail

How to Add Desktop Notifications to Incoming Message Rules in Apple Mail

To make any incoming message rule in Apple Mail alert you to the messages its criteria select:

  1. Select Preferences from the Mail menu, or press Command+, (comma) on your keyboard.

    Preferences in Apple Mail
  2. Click the Rules tab.

    Rules tab in Apple Mail
  3. Highlight the rule to which you want to add notifications and click Edit.

  4. Click the plus sign next to an action under the Perform the following actions heading.

  5. Select Send Notification from the Move Message drop-down menu.

    Send Notification option in a Rue in Apple Mail
  6. Click OK.

To add a new rule that notifies you about the emails that match its criteria:

  1. Click Add Rule.

  2. Type a short title that will help you recognize the filter's criteria and proposed feats under Description.

    New rule in the Rules section of Apple Mail preferences
  3. Pick the desired criteria for triggering the rule's actions under If ___ of the following conditions are met.

  4. Select Send Notification from the Move Message drop-down menu under Perform the following actions.

  5. Repeat for other rules you want to set.

  6. Click OK.

How to Turn Off Apple Mail (or All) Desktop Alerts

To disable all Notification Center alerts for the rest of the day, click the Notification Center icon in the menu bar while holding down the Option key.

Notification Center icon in macOS Finder

Click again while holding down Option to enable alerts again at any time.