Customizing Your E-Mail

Mail provides many tools you can use to customize various aspects of your mail. These include customizing the Mail window, organizing your e-mail, sorting your e-mail, and automating your mail with rules.

Customizing the Viewer Window

You can customize the Viewer window by using the commands shown in Table 12.1.

Table 12.1. Ways to Customize the Viewer Window
Command What It Does
View, Columns Enables you to choose the columns that are displayed in the Viewer window. In addition to the columns shown by default, you can choose from many different columns, including Attachments, Date Sent, and so on.
View, Sort By Sorts the Message List pane by the column you choose.
View, Hide/Show Drawer Hides/shows the Drawer.
View, Use Small Mailbox Icons Changes the size of the icons displayed in the Drawer.
View, Hide/Show Toolbar Hides/shows the Mail toolbar.
View, Hide/Show Status Bar Hides/shows the Status bar.


Remember that you can also customize the Message List window by moving the columns to change the order in which they appear, resizing them, changing the column by which the pane is sorted, and so on, just as you can in Finder windows in the List view.

Organizing Your E-Mail

You can create your own mailboxes to organize your messages. The mailboxes you create will be shown under the On My Mac folder in the Drawer. You can also create nested mailboxes to create a hierarchy of mailboxes in which you store your messages.

  1. Choose Mailbox, New Mailbox. You will see the New Mailbox dialog (see Figure 12.18).

    Figure 12.18. You use the New Mailbox dialog to create a new mailbox either on your Mac or on a server.


  2. On the Location pop-up menu, choose the location of the mailbox you are creating. If you choose On My Mac, the folder will be created on your computer and will appear under the On My Mac folder in the Drawer. If you use an IMAP account, you can select it to create a folder on that server; to access the folder, you expand the icon for that account in the Drawer.

    Remember that if you store the folder on a server, the contents of that folder will count against your storage quota.

  3. In the New Mailbox dialog box, enter the name of the mailbox you want to create. To create a nested mailbox, enter the name of each mailbox separated by a slash (/). For example, to create a mailbox called "Receipts" within a mailbox called "Mail to Keep," you would enter Mail to Keep/Receipts.

  4. Click OK.

The mailbox will be created. If you have created a mailbox that contains other mailboxes, you can use its Expansion triangle to expand or collapse it. In Figure 12.19, you can see that I have created a folder called Receipts that is nested within a folder called Mail To Keep. Because these folders are stored on my computer, they are listed under the On My Mac mailbox. You can also see that I have a .Mac account and its folders are shown under the .Mac mailbox, which is next to my .mac e-mail address. Messages you place in folders stored on a server count against your storage limit on that server, so it is generally a better idea to create folders on your Mac instead.

Figure 12.19. Folders under the On My Mac icon are stored on your computer; folders under a server's icon, such as the .Mac mail account in this figure, are stored on that server.


You can move messages from one mailbox to another in the following ways:

  • Drag and drop a message from the Message List pane to a mailbox.


    If the Drawer is hidden and you drag a message "out" either side of the Mail window, the Drawer will pop open so that you can place the message in a mailbox.

  • Drag a message from the Message List pane in one Viewer to the Message List pane in another Viewer; this copies the message in the mailbox shown in the second Viewer window.

  • Select a message and choose Message, Transfer, and then the mailbox to which you want to transfer the message.

  • Select a message and choose Message, Transfer to lastmailbox, again where lastmailbox is the name of the mailbox into which you most recently transferred mail (Option+graphics/symbol.gif+T).

  • Select a message and choose Message, Apply Rules (Option+graphics/symbol.gif+L) to Selection and then choose a rule that transfers the message.

Configuring and Using Rules for E-Mail

You can automate the handling of your e-mail by configuring and using rules. For example, you might want to create a mailbox for the mail related from a certain person and have that mail be automatically transferred into that mailbox. Or, you might have the messages from a mailing list to which you are subscribed be placed in a specific mailbox for later reading.

To create and implement rules, you use the Rules pane of the Mail Preferences window.

  1. Open the Mail Preferences window and click the Rules icon to open the Rules pane. Some rules are installed by default. These include the News From Apple rule and the Junk rule (you will learn more about Mail's Junk feature later).

  2. Click Add Rule to open a Rule sheet to define the rule you are creating.

  3. Name the rule by entering a description.

  4. Use the If pop-up menu to determine whether at least one criterion (choose any) or all the criteria (choose all) in the rule must be met for the actions in the rule to be taken.

  5. Use the first condition pop-up menu to choose the criterion on which the rule will act. You can choose any of the fields in a mail message. You can also choose from various criteria, such as whether the sender is in your Address Book.

  6. Use the Contains pop-up menu to choose how the criteria will relate to the value you are going to enter (such as Contains, Is equal to, and so on).

  7. Enter the value for which the rule will be implemented, if applicable, or use a pop-up menu to select a value. (Some conditions, such as Sender is in my Address Book, don't require any values.)

  8. To add more criteria, click the Add button (+) and repeat steps 5 and 6 to create additional conditions for the rule.

  9. Use the Action area to choose the actions that will be performed by the rule by making a choice from the first pop-up menu and making other choices from the other pop-up menus or fields that are related to that choice.

    The actions you can choose are Set Color of Message, Play Sound, Reply to Message, Forward Message, Redirect Message, Mark as Read, Mark as Flagged, or Stop Evaluating Rules. You can apply multiple actions to the same message.

  10. Click the Add button next to the action and repeat step 9 to create and configure an additional action. When you are done, review the rule you have created. For example, the rule shown in Figure 12.20 checks to see whether a message is from someone in my Address Book or is a member of the group Family; if either of these conditions is true, the messages are moved to the folder called Mail From People I Know, the background is set to blue, and the Glass sound plays.

    Figure 12.20. This mail rule handles e-mail from people I know.



    You can remove conditions or actions by clicking the Remove button (?).

  11. Click OK. You will see the rule you created in the Rules pane.

  12. Create more rules or close the Preferences window.


If you apply a color in a rule, that rule appears in that color in the Rules pane. Messages that are already in a mailbox that meet the rule's criteria are also shown in the color applied by the rule.

You can use the Edit and Duplicate buttons to edit or duplicate rules and the Remove button to delete rules.

Any future messages you receive that meet the criteria for that rule will be acted upon by the rule. You can also manually apply rules to messages by selecting messages and choosing Message, Apply Rules To Selection (Option+graphics/symbol.gif+L).


Manually applying rules is a good way to test your rules to make sure that they do what you intended.

Handling Junk Mail


Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are with your e-mail address, it will eventually get on a junk mailing. And after it gets on one such list, it will get on many, and your inbox will overflow with junk mail. Fortunately, Mail includes some built-in tools for dealing with junk mail.

Mail's Junk tool is actually based on the Junk mail rule you saw in the Rules pane of the Preferences window. You can use this in its default state or modify it as needed.

You can control Mail's Junk feature via the Mail, Junk Mail menu. The Junk feature has three modes.

In the Training mode (which is the default mode), Mail applies its Junk rules to your messages. This causes Mail to color the message brown, indicating that Mail thinks that the message is junk (see Figure 12.21). You use this mode to fine-tune the Junk feature so that it correctly filters your messages to identify the junk. When you view a message that has been correctly identified as junk, don't do anything. When a message has been identified as junk, but it isn't, click the Not Junk button. If you find a message that is junk, but Mail has not identified it as such, click the Junk button on the toolbar.

Figure 12.21. Mail has correctly identified this mail as the junk that it is.


After some time has passed and you are confident that Mail's Junk filter is working properly, choose Mail, Junk Mail, Automatic. When you do so, Mail will create a Junk folder in the Drawer and will prompt you to ask whether it should move all the identified junk mail to this folder. Click Yes.

When the Junk feature is in the Automatic mode, it will move all the messages it identifies as junk into the Junk folder. You should review the contents of this folder periodically to make sure that no messages that you want are in this folder by mistake. If there are messages you want to keep, move them to a different folder. Then delete all the messages in the Junk folder.

If you don't want Mail to manage junk mail, turn the feature off by choosing Mail, Junk Mail, Off.

If you choose Mail, Junk Mail, Custom, you will move to the Rules window and the default Junk rule will be ready to edit. You can change this mail rule just like any rule you create to change how Mail handles junk mail. If you open the Junk rule, you will see that this is simply a rule that acts on any messages that are from people who are not in your Address Book or that are marked as Junk. If the Training mode, this rule only changes the color of the messages. In the Automatic mode, it moves the messages to the Junk folder.


If you use the Junk feature, make sure you regularly add people from whom you want to receive e-mail to your Address Book so that their mail isn't classified as junk. To do so, select the Message and choose Message, Add Sender To Address Book, or press graphics/symbol.gif+Y.

If you choose Mail, Junk Mail, Reset, the Junk rule is returned to its default state.


Consider finding an e-mail account (preferably a free one) to use whenever you order something, use a newsgroup, or participate in any other activity in which you correspond with people you don't know. Keep another address "secure" by using it only with people you know won't provide it to a junk mailing list. Then, if the first address starts receiving all kinds of garbage, you can easily kill the address and create a new one to take its place while your "real" address remains controlled.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle