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Using Mail's rules, smart mailboxes, and VIPs

Christopher Breen | April 5, 2013
In this Mac 101 lesson, Professor Breen discusses the many ways Mail helps you filter and file your email automatically.

That's largely it: Create conditions that keep an eye peeled for specific existing and incoming messages, and then do something with the email that arrives.

Some helpful Mail rules

I don't want to leave you entirely on your own at this point, so let's make a few helpful rules.

Filtering mail to another folder: You'll use a rule like this fairly frequently to file your email automatically so that it doesn't junk up your inbox.

Start by choosing Mailbox > New Mailbox or by clicking the Plus (+) button at the bottom-left corner of the Mail window and choosing New Mailbox from the menu that appears. In the New Mailbox sheet that comes up, select On My Mac from the Location menu, type in a name such as iTunes, and click OK.

Go to Mail's Preferences, click the Rules tab, and click the Add Rule button. In the resulting sheet, name the rule Shift iTunes Mail and configure the If section to read If From Contains iTunes. In the 'Perform the following actions' area, create this action: Move Message to mailbox iTunes. Click OK and choose to apply the rule.

If you're signed up for email alerts from the iTunes Store, you'll find that your inbox no longer contains those alerts. Instead, they've all moved to the iTunes folder you created.

You can use a rule like this to do more than ferret out promotional email. For example, in the From field you might add your company's domain--If From Contains, in my case. I'd then create a new folder for these Macworld messages and have the rule move any messages that meet this condition to that folder. This setup provides me a way to quickly scan through messages from my colleagues.

Filtering groups of senders: There's a measure of power in Mail's relationship with the Contacts app. For example, you can ask Mail to filter messages by who is and isn't in a particular group you've created in Contacts.

For instance, suppose you've created a group that includes the members of your Keggling Club team. You may wish for mail from any of these members to be marked or moved so that you can find it more easily. Simply create a rule like this:

If Sender is member of Group Keggling Club, Move Message to mailbox Kegglers.

The two-condition rule: I cited this rule when discussing how to end the annoyance from everyone in your company hitting the Reply All button when they should instead click Reply. It requires two conditions.

Here's the scenario: Some division in your company is clueless about when you should and shouldn't use Reply All. This leads to your receiving one "Welcome Aboard" message followed by umpteen "Me Too!" replies that you care nothing about. But you'd like to filter these things out without missing any important messages directed to you.


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