25 useful tips on how to use Apple Mail like a pro

While Apple Mail, which comes with Mac OS X, is a great email client for most users, some of us may feel that emails have become more of a hustle than they are helpful. Does it sound familiar to you? Today, we will be talking about simple Apple Mail tips and tricks to make your life easier and improve productivity.


Tip #1: Filter unread messages

If you need to focus on unread emails only, please open the Mail App on your Mac. Then look for the small “Filter” button at the top of the message list in any mailbox. If you are using iOS, then tap the button in a lower left corner. The button looks like a series of lines atop one another. Once you enable the “Unread” filter, you'll only see the unread messages. Click on the button again if you want both emails unread and read to be shown in the inbox.

Tip #2: Use flags to mark messages

Our inbox is often full of emails, but as a rule, only a few of them need further attention. Not to search for these emails manually, simply mark important messages with flags to access them quickly at any time. To do so, right-click on the email. Then the pop-up menu with a list of flag colors will appear. These flags come in different colors like red, yellow, orange, green, blue, gray, and purple. Use any flag color to mark an email type. For example, you can mark the message that requires your response within 24 hours with a red flag. Green flags might indicate tasks that you've already completed.

flag apple mail

Tip #3: Set up a smart mailbox to categorize your messages

In the Apple Email application, you have two types of folders. They are regular folders in which you can select and manually drag emails. And smart folders (mailboxes) which filter and collect emails based upon rules you set up. Go to the Menu bar, click Mailbox -> New Smart Mailbox. You can base your mailbox on the subject, the recipient, date received, etc.

smart mailbox

Tip #4: Setup frequency of inbox updates

The Mac's mail application automatically synchronizes the messages and checks for the new ones every five minutes. If you need more frequent or infrequent updates, you can choose from every 1 minute, 5, 15, 30, 60 minutes, and even set the frequency manually. Go to Preferences, click on the General tab -> Check for new messages and select the frequency.

Setup frequency of inbox updates

Tip #5: Enable/disable image preview in Apple Mail

Anytime you receive an email with an attached image or PDF you will be presented with a preview of that files. Although this is an excellent feature for most of us, the Apple Mail becomes slow in working. Want to speed it up? Quit Mail App, launch Terminal and paste the following command string:

defaults write com.apple.mail DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -boolean yes


defaults write com.apple.mail DisableInlineAttachmentViewing 1

Then relaunch the Mail Application.

Tip #6: Add annotations and highlights to attached images

Sometimes we need to add text and comments to the image we are going to send as an attachment. Of course, you can edit the image using different software, but did you know that you can do the editing right from the Mac Email? Compose the message and add the attachment to it. Click on the attachment, select the drop-down menu in the upper-right corner, then choose “MarkUp.” You will be presented with a list of tools like vector draw, shapes, text, line color, etc. Draw, write, or highlight the picture as desired, then click on “Done” when finished.

Tip #7: Use Apple Mail search and search operators to find the message quickly

Email search is often tedious and messy. Most email clients offer a set of search operators that will help you define any search query precisely. For example, you want to find an email “from Natalie Polly with attachments,” so you have to use the “from:” and “has:attachment” search operators. With Mac Mail, you can search how you feel it, by using your own words. Just type “Email from Natalie Polly with attachments” to get exactly the correct results.

search messages

Tip #8: Keep track on important threads in Apple Email App

The VIP feature is extremely important for those who suffer from email overload. So if you want to highlight important messages not to lose them among less important stuff, find the email from the individual that you wish to make a VIP and click on it. Then you will see a drop-down menu. Look for the “Add to VIPs” option.

Tip #9: Block spammers

Get rid of annoying emails by blocking and removing all messages from certain senders automatically. The procedure is pretty simple: Mail -> Preferences -> Rules -> Add rules. Add the email address you would like to block. Tip: In the description field, use something like “Block natalie@abccompany.com” to help you recognize the rule from the list of other Apple Mail filters.

add rule

Tip #10: Find a folder with stored messages from Apple Email client

Have you ever wondered where Apple Mail stores your messages? It would be useful to know where this folder is located in case you will need to copy your emails to a different computer or back them up. Follow these steps:

1. Open a new Finder window

2. From the main menu select “Go” item

3. Select the “Go to Folder…” menu item (You can also use Command-Shift-G)

4. Type ~/Library/Mail/V5 or ~/Library/Mail/V2 (for older Mac OS X Mail versions)

5. Select “Go” or “OK.”

Tip #11: Create group lists

If you need to send email to a group of specific recipients, you can manually copy and paste the entire list of addresses, but it is inefficient. Instead, you can use the built-in Contacts program that comes with your Mac. Go to the “File” at the top-left and select the second option which is “New Group.” Call it whatever you want and go back to “All Contacts.” Then drag and drop the recipients into the new group you’ve just created. Now open the email program, create a new message, type the name of your group in the “To” field, hit the comma and you'll see all those people's email addresses.

Tip #12: Receive opening notifications

Verify that your email has been delivered with a read receipt. On Macs, unfortunately, there is no option in the Mail client to add a read receipt. However, you can force it to turn on through the Terminal. To find it, go to Finder -> Application -> Utilities. Then type in the following command: defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders '{"Disposition-Notification-To" = "Name <email@address>"; }' Do not forget to type in your name and email address. Press Return. From now on, Mac Mail will send a read receipt with every email that you send. If you want to disable this feature, be sure to use this command: defaults delete com.apple.mail UserHeaders. That will turn off read receipts.


Tip #13: View the source of a message

This feature can become handy in case you want to identify forged senders or avoid a suspicious phishing effort. To see the entire source code, go to View option -> Message -> Raw Source.

Tip #14: Import Outlook contacts to Mac Mail

Transfer contacts from Outlook to the Contacts Application in your Mac. First, you need to export Outlook contacts to a .csv file. Go to the “People” page (see the lower left corner). On the toolbar, choose Manage -> Export contacts. Save the file in .csv format. Now that your contacts have been copied to a .csv file, you can import them to the Contacts App. Open Contacts, select File -> Import from the menu. Then locate and highlight the csv file. Click “Open.”

Tip #15: Add Google contacts to Mac Mail

Sync your Gmail or Google Apps contacts with the Contacts Application for your Mac computer. This is a great way to always have offline access to your Gmail or Google Apps contacts. So after you open up the Contacts App, just go into Contacts -> Preferences. From there, make sure you click on the Accounts tab and select the plus sign at the bottom. Make sure you choose the CardDAV option in the drop-down menu, and in the user name section enter in your Gmail or Google Apps account. For example, natalie.abccompany@gmail.com. Then in the password section enter in your Gmail or Google Apps password. And for the server address section, enter in google.com, and click “Create.” After you are done, your contacts will begin syncing from your Google account to your Mac computer. Any new contacts that you make on your Mac will sync with your Google account and vice versa.


Tip #16: Add Mac Mail HTML signature

Have you ever got an email from somebody and you saw one of those really beautiful signatures down in the bottom of their email? Maybe it's got their photo or logo. Have you ever felt a little bit jealous? So if you still have the blank email footer whenever you create a new email message, let’s add a beautiful email signature that people can be jealous of, which is what everybody wants and likes. Perhaps you think that getting a professional HTML signature with images, logos, clickable links, etc. requires good coding skills. Of course, there is some truth in it, but modern email signature creators like Newoldstamp can do the job for you. So once you have the ready-to-use signature file saved to your device, go ahead and open up Apple Mail, then from the top toolbar select Mail -> Preferences. In you Preferences window, you’ll see a number of tabs across the top. Select “Signatures” and then on the left window side select the email account that you want to install your Mac Mail signature for and click the plus icon. Then give your footer a name like “My New Beautiful Signature,” uncheck “Always match my default font.” Open up Finder and navigate to where your signature is saved. Then go ahead and open it with either Google or Chrome or Firefox (do not use Safari because it can ruin the formatting). Press Command + A to select all and then Command + C to copy the signature. Switch back to Apple Mail and paste your signature by pressing Command + V.

email signature in apple mail


Click here to create your personal or company email signature a few minutes


Tip #17: Create Calendar events from Apple Mail

Quickly and easily add appointments and events found in email messages to your calendar. When you mouseover an item (date and time), a dotted grey outline will appear. Click the down arrow on the right to make the prospective item pop up in your calendar. You will be able to modify the event's name, location, etc. Click “Add to Calendar” once you are finished.

Tip #18: Use Apple Mail Shortcuts

Want to send emails quicker? See the image below for the list of Apple Mail shortcuts. To create your own keyboard shortcuts click the Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Application Shortcuts. Then click the plus button to add a new combination.

apple mail shortcuts

Tip #19: Create email templates in Mail Application

If you need to write the same email message over and over again, save it as a template for later use. With Mail open, go to create a new message. And what you type in this message is going to become your template. Once you have everything filled out, go to File -> Save as Stationery. Then give it a name like “My Apple Mail Template” or something like this. Next time just start a new message and look for the Stationery icon in the upper right corner, click on that to see the list of folders. Look for the folder called “Custom.” There you’ll find the template you saved.

Tip #20: Save emails in one file

If you need to have multiple emails in a single file, highlight the emails you want to save by holding down the Shift key. Hold down Command to select disparate messages. Then choose File -> Save As… from the menu. Save.

Tip #21: Read PDF docs straight from the Apple Mail

Did you know that only one-page PDFs are shown inline in the message text, and the files with two or more pages are displayed as icons? However, you can right-click on the preview and select “View as Icon” or “View in Place” to switch between icon and inline viewing modes.

Tip #22: Change messages sorting order

If we look right above the middle column in the Mail App, we’ll notice a menu called “Sort By Date.” In this menu, we’ll see different sorting options like “Newest on top,” “Sorting by size,” “Unread first,” and many other options to choose from.

sorting order

Tip #23: Customize Mac Mail toolbar

Customize the Mail toolbar as per your preferences, remove the buttons you don't need and add the ones you often use. So how do you do that? Double click on any message to open the Mail window. Then right-click on any blank mail window and then choose “Customize Toolbar” from the drop-down menu. To add, drag an item to the toolbar. A green icon indicates you are adding it. To remove the button, drag it from the toolbar. Visual and sound effects indicate it has been removed. To rearrange items, simply drag an item to a new location in the toolbar. To change how items appear, click the “Show” pop-up menu and choose the option you want.

Tip #24: Preview links from messages in Apple Mail

Not sure if the link you get in a mail is safe to open? Apple Mail allows previewing URLs directly in the app. Just hover over the link within the message until you see the grey box with a triangle in it. Then click this box to preview the link in a side window.

Tip #25: Add Apple Mail attachments via Dock

And the last fantastic trick for today is the option to send a new email with an attachment really fast by dragging the file you want to attach over the Mail’s Dock icon. You don't even need to open Mail! Cool, right?