The Easy Way to Setup Apple Mail Rules

No one likes to follow the rules. If everyone did, police would be out of a job and being a manager would be the easiest task in the world. There are a set of rules, however, that you will grow to love and those are email rules.

Mail rules are instructions you give your Apple Mail email client to tell it how to automatically handle email messages so certain messages stand out and you don’t have to continually perform repetitive actions like archiving, sorting or deleting messages. Here are the basics on setting up rules in Mac OSX Mail so you can start to automate some of your email handling plus three great rules to get you started.

How To Create An Email Rule

The first step is to open Apple Mail go to Preferences.

Next, click on the Rules tab in the Preferences window. Here, you will see the rules that are already set, if any.


Rules consist of two key elements: conditions and actions. It is the combination of these that make rules possible. Click the Add Rule button to start the rule making process.

Example 1: Make Specific Sent Emails Stand Out

Say you use multiple email accounts inside of and you want the emails you send to a specific person stand out from the rest. You can create a rule that adds bright red text highlights to all emails sent to a specific account. Here’s how you do it.

Once you click the Add Rule button, you will see a blank template for making a rule. Enter a descriptive name for the rule so you know what it does when you see it listed later.

Next, set the condition as shown below. All messages sent to the email address entered will be highlighted in the color you select. In this example, Red is used.


As you can see, one condition is listed and if it is met, one action will be taken. Now, whenever you send an email to that account, it will be highlighted red, as shown below:


Example 2: Highlight All Emails That Contain PDF Invoice Attachments

Another example is to find and highlight all email containing PDF invoice attachments in your inbox. If you routinely receive invoices in PDF format, then you want to see when those come in so they can be paid.

This simple rule includes two conditions and two actions. First, tell Mail to look for any email that has a PDF attached, and a subject that includes the word “Invoice”. Depending on your specific case, this rule could be easily changed to Word documents and the word “timesheet.”

Once the conditions are set, you tell Mail what actions to perform. Here, a great tool to use is email flagging. Set a blue flag for this, and set a unique sound to play. These are two great ways to make sure these emails stand out.

Note: In the example below, you will notice under conditions, there is a box that says “all” in it. This can be set to any or all, depending on your use. If it says all, then every condition must be met. If it says any, then only one of the conditions must be met. Pay attention to this when setting a rule.


Example 3: Get Notified When Your Boss’ Email Arrives

If your boss only emails you when something big is going on, you want to make sure you see these mails immediately and that his or her emails didn’t get lost in the flow of all your other daily messages.

Here, you can set a single condition but multiple actions. Set the rule to look for messages from your boss’ email address, and then set the actions. In the example below, the text color is set to bright yellow, the icon will bounce in the Dock, and a pop-up notification will appear. You won’t miss mail from your boss ever again.



As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to setup email rules. Just make sure you account for every possibility when setting a rule and you’ll be well on your way to automating at least one part of your day.


Scrubly sign-up.