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5 productivity tips for users new to macOS Mail

New macOS Mail users will be happy to learn the app offers not only robust performance, but several features that make for a more efficient operation.

Image: Matt Elliott/CNET

Users new to macOS Mail will find five features assist maximizing Apple’s email program. For decades, I’ve used a variety of email clients, and I’m yet to find an alternative delivering more reliable and robust performance. I just wish these five features had been available when I first used a Mac for business beginning in the 1990s.

1. Create Smart Mailboxes

Smart Mailboxes are just that: mailboxes designed to intelligently sort messages. Smart Mailboxes can be created for customer subjects, newsletters, mailing lists, specific senders, individual mail accounts and more (Figure A). With Smart Mailboxes, accessing mail dedicated to these specific sources is quick and easy.

Figure A

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Smart Mailboxes simplifies accessing specific topics or senders in macOS Mail.

SEE: Software as a Service (SaaS): A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Creating a Smart Mailbox takes only a moment:

  1. From within macOS Mail, click Mailbox from the menu bar and select New Smart Mailbox.
  2. Enter a name for the new Smart Mailbox.
  3. Specify whether any or all of the conditions you configure apply.
  4. Using the provided drop-down menu that defaults to From, specify whether the Smart Mailbox should collect messages from specific senders, using dates, based on subject or using one of many other provided options (Figure B).
  5. From the next drop-down menu that defaults to Contains, specify whether the parameters you enter must contain, begin with or use another provided setting.
  6. Enter free text within the last box.
  7. Add additional parameters, if needed, using the provided + icon.
  8. Specify whether messages within the Trash should be included within the Smart Mailbox.
  9. Specify whether messages within the Sent folder should be included within the Smart Mailbox.
  10. Review the settings, confirm they are correct and click OK.

Figure B

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Use the Smart Mailbox configuration menu to configure new mailbox parameters.

2. Maximize junk mail

Mail’s junk mail filtering helps route unwanted mail into the Junk folder. The junk filtering option isn’t enabled by default, however. To enable junk mail filtering, from within Mail click Mail from the menu bar, select Preferences, highlight the Junk Mail tab and check Enable Junk Mail Filtering (Figure C).

Figure C

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Integrated junk mail filtering helps route spam out of Mail’s Inbox to the Junk folder.

Using the provided settings, you can choose to mark mail as junk but leave it in your Inbox, move junk mail to the Junk folder or perform custom actions. You can also specify types of messages that are exempt from junk mail filtering using the provided checkboxes.

As the number one email complaint is having to navigate unsolicited messages, taking just a moment to enable junk filtering is a wise investment.

3. Leverage Mail’s Unsubscribe feature

When Mail recognizes messages as mass mailings, the program appends an Unsubscribe link to the top-right of the email (Figure D). Whether you previously signed up for a newsletter or you never requested such messages, take advantage of Mail’s Unsubscribe link to stop receiving unwanted mail.

Figure D

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Use Mail’s Unsubscribe link to discontinue receiving unwanted messages.

4. Use Conversations

While not unique to macOS Mail, Conversations is a feature that, when enabled, groups together all emails within a specific thread. With Conversations, instead of having to root through multiple messages or locate related emails, the original message and responses are grouped together, simplifying both Inbox and information management.

If Conversations is disabled, enable the feature by clicking View from the menu bar from within Mail and select Organize By Conversation. From the View menu, you can also highlight conversations and collapse or expand all conversations–a capability that might come in handy when sorting through large numbers of messages or tidying views within the app.

5. Specify VIPs

To be frank, some messages are more important than others. An oil change reminder from your local auto service center may prove helpful, but messages from key clients or your immediate supervisor typically stand out as requiring more immediate attention. macOS Mail can spot and surface such messages. All you need to do is specify VIPs, whose subsequent messages will then be highlighted within Smart Mailboxes, mail folders and your Inbox (Figure E).

Figure E

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Setting VIPs permits highlighting specific messages from specific senders.

Setting VIPs is easy–just right-click any sender within an email and select Add To VIPs. Removing VIPs is just as simple; right-click any sender and choose Remove From VIPs.

Once VIPs are set, messages from VIPs will be marked with a gold star. Mail will also place all such messages within the VIP folder, helping ensure you don’t miss another important message.

Summary

If you’re like most professionals, you spend significant time processing email each day. Leveraging these five Mail features takes minimum effort while paying dividends into perpetuity, always a winning combination.

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