The Best Apple Mail Tips and Tricks

Re-making Apple Mail to fit your needs

Apple Mail has been the de-facto standard for email clients almost since the early days of OS X. Since then, many Mac email clients have come and gone, but Apple Mail remains.

Apple Mail is quite versatile, with plenty of options and features involving mail and events. Even so, most users love to customize it, and eke out one more feature. For all you tweakers, here is our list of Apple Mail tips and tricks.

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Keep an Eye on Important Email Messages

Applying Mail Flags
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can use the flag feature in Apple Mail to mark important email messages for later reference. We'll show you how to turn the flag feature on and off as well as replace the default names Apple assigned to the flags with ones that better fit your needs.

In addition, you can combine this tip with smart mailboxes (outlined in the tip Find Messages Quickly in Apple Mail) to have a mailbox that shows just the messages you have flagged.

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Find Messages Quickly in Apple Mail

Smart Mailbox creation in Apple Mail
Apple Mail's Smart Mailbox feature makes it easy to find messages related to criteria you specify. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The search function in Apple Mail is surprisingly slow and unwieldy at times. If you need to find certain email messages quickly, use Smart Mailboxes instead.

Smart mailboxes use a set of rules you define to sort messages into a mailbox for quick viewing. Since the sorting is done in the background, most of the time, the smart mailbox content is up to date before you even think about looking inside. 

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Click and Drag to Customize the Apple Mail Toolbar

Mail Toolbar
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The default Apple Mail interface is clean and easy to use, but you can get some much more out of the Mail app by customizing the toolbar.

You may be astonished by the additional commands and tools that can be added to Mail's toolbar.  We'll show you how to customize the Mail toolbar.

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Take Control of Your Email in Mail

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.

The Mac's Mail app included the ability to automate routine tasks such as filtering mail by specific criteria, organizing mail into folders, filtering out unwanted messages, and quite a bit more.

Mail rules are used to perform this automation and they are surprisingly easy to use. If you're ready to save time and let the Mail app take over a few basic tasks, these instructions will have you becoming a Mail Rules wizard in no time.

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Organize Your Apple Mail With Mailboxes

Adding a new Mailbox to the Mac's Mail app.
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The first step to taking control of your email is to organize it. We'll show you how to organize your email messages in Apple Mail by creating new mailboxes to house messages with specific topics.

Combine this tip with the one above (Take Control of Your Email in Mail) and you can have an easy time of using, finding, and answering email messages.

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Pump Up Your Email With Apple Mail Stationery

Mac Mail Stationary
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple Mail can make your life, or at least your email messages, more colorful, with a number of stationery options to choose from. The stationary templates cover a number of topics including:

  • Birthday
  • Announcements
  • Photos
  • Stationary
  • Sentiment

When you're ready to punch up a message, check out the stationary options.

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Use Mail's BCC Feature to Send Emails to a Group

Mac Mail Bcc option
To enable the BCC option in Mail, click the visible header fields and select BCC Address Field. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

When you send email messages to a group in Apple Mail, use the BCC (blind carbon copy) option to protect everyone's privacy. 

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Add a Signature to Your Email Messages in Apple Mail

Add signatures to Apple Mail
You can create signatures in Apple Mail in a matter of minutes, complete with web links and an image, if desired. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can save yourself at least a few minutes a day by creating a signature to use in your email messages in Apple Mail. You can even create multiple signatures and switch between them.

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Add a Photo to an Email Message

Mail's Photo Browser
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can add a photo to an email message in Apple Mail without launching Photos, iPhoto or any image library app. This tip shows you how to use the Mail's built-in Photo Browser.

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Filter Spam With Apple Mail

Spam in Mailbox
Creativ Studio Heinemann | Getty Images

Apple Mail has a built-in spam filter with a respectably high level of accuracy. You can use it to set suspected spam aside to check later, or to whisk junk mail out of your sight, never to be seen again.

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Access Your Gmail Using Apple's Mail

Gmail logo
Courtesy of Google

Apple's Mail is one of the most intuitive email applications currently available for Macs. It can easily handle Gmail and other web-based email accounts.

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Access Your AOL Email Using Apple's Mail

AOL image

Apple Mail can easily handle AOL and other web-based email accounts. This guide will walk you through the process of setting up Apple Mail to handle your AOL email account.

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Moving Apple Mail: Transfer Your Apple Mail to a New Mac

man using laptop
Ezra Bailey/Taxi/Getty Images

Moving your Apple Mail to a new Mac, or to a new, clean install of the Mac operating system, may seem like a difficult task but it actually only requires saving three items and moving them to the new destination.

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Fix Apple Mail Problems With These Troubleshooting Guides

MacBook image with mail
Setting up Mail again from scratch is a waste of time. Instead, migrate your Mail from a previous Mac. alexsi / Getty Images

Troubleshooting Apple Mail can seem like a difficult process at first, but Apple provides some built-in troubleshooting tools that can help you get your Mail application up and running quickly.

When you're having trouble with Mail, check out our Apple Mail Troubleshooting guides, which we've gathered in one place for quick access.

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Set Up Apple Mail Rules

Apple Mail Rule Editor
Finished Bank Statement Rule. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple Mail rules allow you to set up conditions and actions that tell Apple Mail how to process incoming messages. With Apple Mail rules, you can automate and organize your email for a better workflow.

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Create Notes or To-Do's in Apple Mail

Mail Notes in OS X Lion
Mail Notes as seen in OS X Lion. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

This tip is specifically for those still using OS X Snow Leopard or OS X Lion. In those versions of the Mac OS, Mail had an integrated To-Do and Notes function that has been sorely missed by many.

In later versions, the Mail Notes function was moved into the standalone Notes app, still included in macOS. To-Do was deligated to iCal in later versions.​

And while the iCal app and the Notes app work well enough, the older integrated versions in Mail just seemed to work better.