How to use Smart Mailboxes in Apple Mail

How to use Smart Mailboxes in Apple Mail
Quick Mac Tip, 17 April 2011

Smart Mailboxes are a quick and easy way of gathering together messages you’re interested in. They use a set of selection criteria to dynamically update their contents.

This guest Tip is written by Graham McKay.

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Smart Mailbox criteria

Graham McKay. Graham McKay is a long time corporate IT guy, originally from NZ but now in Sydney, who has recently decided to break out of the grey suited world and share his extensive Apple OS X troubleshooting skills via his own consulting company.

The criteria for Smart Mailboxes are very similar to those we saw for filtering incoming messages. See How to filter messages in Apple Mail.

Smart Mailboxes effectively allow us to build multiple layers of criteria that help with managing messages. A big thing to realise with these mailboxes is that they don’t contain the actual messages. They just provide a filtered view of the message database.

Example criteria for a Smart Mailbox.

Example criteria for a Smart Mailbox.

If you’ve automatically moved incoming messages into various different folders per the Tip in this series about Filters, you might want to have a single view of all your unread or recent messages.

To create a new smart mailbox use the menu item Mailbox > New Smart mailbox…

Then enter your criteria to build a filtered view of all your messages.

Example criteria

The screenshot shows a Smart Mailbox named Today / Flag. It contains messages that match any of the criteria:

  1. Message is Unread
  2. Date Received is in the last 2 days
  3. Message is Flagged
  4. Include messages from Sent

A trick for using both All and Any

If you find that you need to use a combination of the all and any (AND and OR) then the trick is to use nested smart mailboxes.

Set up one Smart Mailbox that has the set of any conditions and then a second all one which has an initial condition of messages being in the first smart mailbox.

Do you have a favourite Smart Mailbox tip for Tell us in the Comments. Could you write a guest MacTip? If so, contact me.

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