A few weeks ago we posted on using rules to automatically manage email in Outlook. We had some questions about whether there was similar functionality in Mail, the default email program on the Mac. There certainly is, and they can be a real time saver.
To add or edit rules, just click MAIL in the menu bar, then choose PREFERENCES. In the preferences, choose the RULES tab.
Set your rule to look for one of more criterion, such as a specific sender or a high priority. Then choose what action(s) you’d like performed when a corresponding email is received. There are many actions available, e.g., moving the message to a folder, highlighting it a specific color, or bouncing the Mail icon in the Dock, to name just a few.
Another powerful tool for managing Mail is a Smart Mailbox. Smart Mailboxes also look for emails that meet specific criteria, but, unlike rules, Smart Mailboxes do not actually affect the message directly.
Let’s suppose I set up a Smart Mailbox to look for emails with a specific project in the subject field. When I receive an email with that subject, it is immediately listed in the Smart Mailbox, but the original message is still stored in my Inbox. I could move that email to any other folder, and it would still show up in my Smart Mailbox too. The message isn’t duplicated, but is referenced. Think of Smart Mailbox Folders as a saved search result that can be accessed at any time.
One handy way to utilize this feature is to create a Smart Mailbox called “Needs Action”, or something similar. Set the criterion for this folder as messages that are flagged. Whenever an email is received that requires future action, flag the email, then file it as usual. Just go to your Smart Mailbox at any time to see all your flagged emails, regardless of where they’ve been filed. When you no longer need an email there, unflag it and it will disappear from the Smart Mailbox. This is a great way to keep your Inbox from getting out of control.
To create a Smart Mailbox, click MAILBOX in the menubar, then choose NEW SMART MAILBOX. Name the Smart Mailbox and set one or more criterion for it to look for, then click OK.
Jason Merrill, Mac & iOS Consultant