The Magic of Apple Smart Mailboxes

It’s not too often that something labeled as “smart” actually is. Apple’s Smart Mailboxes in Mail.app live up to their name by consolidating your email into smart folders across all your mail accounts based upon specific sorting criteria you provide. This means you can view all your family related emails no matter what account they sent to, or have all your work-related emails show up in one place even if you prefer to use a few different email addresses.

Smart Mailboxes are extremely useful and below, you can learn all about how to set them up in Mail.app for the Mac.

Create The Smart Mailbox

The first step is obviously to set up the smart mailbox. To do this, go to the Mailbox menu > New Smart Mailbox.

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Next, enter a descriptive name for the mailbox so you know what it is later. Next, fill out the search criteria that you want the mailbox to have.

Blue Flag – For example, you could make this as simple as setting up mailboxes for specifically colored flags instead of the plain “Flagged” option Mail.app gives you. Now you can use different flags for different things, like Friends, Family, Work, Etc.

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Attachments – You can also use this to get much more fine-grain as well. How about emails with attachments that were received in the last 5 days?

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To add more conditions, just click the + button at the end of each condition. To remove a condition, click the – .

More Examples

Not Replied To – If you reply to most of your emails, then setting up a Smart Mailbox that shows emails received in the past 7 days that you haven’t replied to yet could be very helpful.

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Contact Groups – You can supercharge this search by adding one more field. If you use Contact Groups in Apple Contacts (if not, you really should be!) then you can have this Smart Mailbox only look for emails from a specific group.

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This means you can segregate your contacts into useful groups and run multiple similar Smart Mailboxes for each group. This leaves your emails still somewhat separated.

Note: To make sure you didn’t delete something by mistake, you can leave the Include messages from Trash box checked.

Email Search – If you just want to see any email that has the word “Vacation” in it, you can set up a simple Smart Mailbox for that, too. This can help save you from searching every time. Especially if the thing you’re searching for is a phrase like “Project xxx completion” or something like that.

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Smart Mailbox Behavior

Smart Mailboxes are basically just views of your emails, not actual mailboxes. If you delete, move, or flag an email in a smart mailbox, it is moved, deleted, etc from the original mailbox it came from.

If you need to edit a Smart Mailbox, just right-click on it and select Edit. You can also Copy Smart Mailboxes here, too. This can save you the setup of a similar Mailbox, just copy it and edit the specifics.

Wrap-Up

Smart Mailboxes can be incredibly useful when used correctly. Just pay attention to how the conditions are laid out, as they search from top-down. If you place a condition first that looks for a specific Contact Group, then look for attachments, those attachments not from the Contact Group won’t show up.

Automation is the key to email success. You need to automate the mundane tasks so you can use brain power on the important things.

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