Take Control of Apple Mail (1.0) (2014)

Master Mail Concepts

As I said in the Introduction, this book isn’t about basics, as such. However, as I’ve corresponded with many Mail users over the years, I’ve discovered that there are certain concepts that Apple hasn’t made self-explanatory, and that therefore tend to trip people up. In order to understand and act on much of the rest of this book, you need to grasp a few concepts that are, perhaps, unnecessarily confusing. In this chapter I walk you through the ones I consider most important.

Most of the items in this chapter pertain only to the Mavericks version of Mail, but if you’re an iOS user, be sure to read Special Mailboxes, much of which is also applicable to iOS.

Account Setup

Setting up new accounts in Mail has gotten easier in recent versions, especially if you’re using one of the major email providers Mail already knows about (iCloud, Exchange, Google/Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL)—almost the entire procedure is automated. However, there are still a few gotchas, especially if you’re using a different provider.

Pick a Preference Pane

For starters, there are two places where you can add, edit, or remove accounts: in Mail > Preferences > Accounts and in System Preferences > Internet Accounts.

Why two places, and when should you use which?

·        The reason for the Internet Accounts pane of System Preferences is twofold. First, many account types (including iCloud, Exchange, and Gmail) include more features than just email, and affect more apps than just Mail, so Internet Accounts provides a central location where you can enable or disable individual data types like Mail, Calendars, Contacts, and Notes for each account. Second, some account types (like Twitter and Facebook) are used by OS X but not by specific, built-in apps, and so it makes sense to provide one central location to set up all these accounts.

·        The reason for the Accounts pane of Mail preferences is, of course, to make it more convenient to add an email account when you’re already working in Mail—and because in older versions of OS X, this was the only place to set up email accounts, so Apple is simply keeping the method many users are accustomed to.

You can add a new account to Mail in either place, and after you do so, both locations will reflect that account. Beyond that, the Internet Accounts preference pane gives you less control over the minute details of email account settings than Mail’s Accounts pane does, although there are a couple of things you can do only in Internet Accounts.

Here are the specifics:

·        Mail’s Accounts pane: Visit this pane to edit outgoing (SMTP) servers, add secondary From addresses, change the behavior of Special Mailboxes, and adjust details such as whether to download attachments, use an IMAP path prefix, or use IMAP IDLE (all in the Advanced view).

·        Internet Accounts pane of System Preferences: Use this to enable or disable account features such as Calendars and Contacts, delete any accounts synced via iCloud, or to set up Internet accounts that don’t involve Mail.

Force POP or IMAP

When you create a new account (in Mail > Preferences > Accounts, or in System Preferences > Internet Accounts), you start by clicking the plus  button and selecting an account type. If the type you want isn’t on that list (such as a standard IMAP or POP account), you select, in Mail, Add Other Mail Account and then click Continue; or, in Internet Accounts, click Add Other Account, select Add a Mail Account, and click Create. Then you fill in your name, email address, and password.

At this point, if you click Create, Mail looks up the server and tries to figure out what it can set up for you automatically. (If Mail can’t figure it out, it presents more fields for you to fill in.) But sometimes it guesses wrong—for example, it might set up an account as IMAP when what you really wanted was POP, because the server supports both protocols and Mail uses the one it thinks is best. But there’s no way to change the server type after the fact, and no obvious way to override which type of account (POP or IMAP) is used.

Here’s the non-obvious way: After entering your name, email address, and password, but before clicking Create, hold down Option, and the Create button turns into a Next button. Click it, and you can then click POP or IMAP, as you prefer; manually fill in the server name, username, and password; and then click Next to continue with account setup.

Use iCloud Aliases

If you have an iCloud account, you can add up to three aliases—extra email addresses that deliver messages to the same Inbox. For example, my Apple ID (and thus, my primary iCloud address) is jwk@icloud.com. But if I wanted a second address that would be more obvious and memorable, I could (well, did) set up the alias joekissell@icloud.com. Any email sent to joekissell@icloud.com is actually delivered to jwk@icloud.com. (If you came to iCloud from a MobileMe or Mac.com account, you may also have iCloud addresses in the me.com or mac.com domains.)

Strangely, you can’t add, remove, or edit aliases from within Mail—this task has to be done on the iCloud Web site, but at least Mail offers you a shortcut to get there. In Mail > Preferences > Accounts > iCloud > Account Information, choose Edit Aliases from the Alias pop-up menu to open your iCloud Mail preferences in a Web browser. Enter your iCloud credentials if prompted to do so, make any desired changes to your aliases, and then click Done. (The Custom option on this menu does not appear to serve a useful function.)

With your alias(es) set up on the iCloud site, they appear automatically in Mail. To determine which email address Mail uses by default for your iCloud account, go back to the Alias pop-up menu just mentioned and choose which one you want. You can always override this for an individual message by choosing a different address from the From pop-up menu in the header portion of the New Message window.

Configure Alternative From Addresses

Many email providers let you have several email addresses in the same domain, all of which deliver email to the same account; these extra addresses are called aliases. In addition, some providers (including Gmail) let you send mail from addresses that are associated with other accounts, after verifying that you’re authorized to do so. (Some email providers reject outgoing messages whose From address doesn’t match your account credentials unless you’ve specially authorized it.) You can configure Mail with these aliases or extra addresses so they’re available to choose when you compose a new message (see Addressing).

Tip: To set up extra From addresses in Gmail, log in to your account on the Gmail Web site and go to Settings > Accounts > Send Mail As.

iCloud aliases appear automatically (see Use iCloud Aliases). For other accounts, go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Account Name > Account Information and enter the aliases or other authorized From addresses in the Email Address field, separated by commas, as in: jk@domain.com,joe@domain.com,kissell@domain.com

Each of these addresses then appears in the From pop-up menu in the New Message window.

Decoding the Mail Sidebar

The sidebar in the Mavericks version of Mail displays all your mailboxes, including local mailboxes (stored only on your Mac) and server mailboxes (stored on an IMAP or Exchange server but also cached to your Mac—see the sidebar Cached Messages ahead). However, what you see in that sidebar can vary tremendously based on your accounts and settings. Here are the main facts you should know:

·        Reordering: You can drag any section heading (a section heading appears in all caps, such as MAILBOXES, ICLOUD, or GMAIL) to move it higher or lower in the list. In addition, you can drag individual mailboxes within a section up or down to reorder them or to move one mailbox into another, in which case the higher-level mailbox acts like a folder. However, you can’t reorder top-level mailboxes in a Gmail account, although you can reorder sub-mailboxes within those mailboxes. (No, I don’t get it either.)

·        Hidden headings: A heading appears only if there’s something to go under it (see Hidden Interface Elements). In general, that means user-created mailboxes. So, if you have an iCloud account with only the standard Special Mailboxes (and default settings), you won’t see an ICLOUD heading in the sidebar. However, if you create a new mailbox on the iCloud server (choose Mailbox > New Mailbox and then choose iCloud from the Location pop-up menu), the iCloud heading appears with your new mailbox underneath it.

·        Collapsing and expanding: If you move your pointer over a heading, the word Show or Hide will appear to its right. Click this to expand (Show) or collapse (Hide) the list of mailboxes beneath. But the heading itself isn’t hidden as long as there’s something underneath it (per the previous point).

·        Nesting mailboxes: You can nest mailboxes inside one another just as you can do with folders in the Finder. Drag a mailbox onto another one to make it a sub-mailbox; drag it up a level (a horizontal line shows where it will land when you release the button) to promote it.

·        Local vs. server: Mail doesn’t always make it obvious whether a mailbox is stored locally or on a server. If a mailbox is listed under the heading for a server-based account, it’s located on the server. If a mailbox is listed under the ON MY MAC heading (which, again, won’t appear unless there’s something under it), it’s stored locally. (To create a new local mailbox, choose Mailbox > New Mailbox and then choose On My Mac from the Location pop-up menu.)

However, the Special Mailboxes such as Inbox and Sent follow slightly different rules. Except for Inbox, if a special mailbox has an account-specific mailbox underneath, that mailbox is stored on a server—although, as I explain ahead, the name of the mailbox on the server may not match what you see in Mail. If you have only POP accounts, all the special mailboxes are stored locally.

Cached Messages

Mail in Mavericks keeps local copies of all retrieved messages from server-based accounts. That means the messages are available even if your Mac is offline—and you have a local backup (of sorts) in case anything should go wrong on the server.

In previous versions of Mail, you could opt not to cache all your messages locally, but that’s no longer the case. Your only option is whether to Automatically Download All Attachments—but whether this is enabled or not (in Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Account Name > Advanced), once you’ve downloaded an attachment manually, Mail caches that along with the rest of the message.

Mail keeps your local cache synchronized with the server copies of your messages automatically in the background. If things go out of whack for any reason, you can force an immediate synchronization by choosing Mailbox > Synchronize > Account Name.

Special Mailboxes

A number of mailboxes that appear in most accounts—Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Junk, Trash, and (sometimes) Archive—are shown under the MAILBOXES heading in Mail’s sidebar. They have distinctive icons and behave differently from other mailboxes; I refer to these as “special” mailboxes (Figure 1).

**Figure 1:** On the left, Mail’s special mailboxes as they appear with only one account enabled. On the right, the same mailboxes with three accounts enabled; in this example, Inbox and Archive are expanded to show the individual account mailboxes inside. (If you have any flagged messages, a Flagged item appears in this list. If you have any VIPs configured, you’ll also see a VIPs item.)

Figure 1: On the left, Mail’s special mailboxes as they appear with only one account enabled. On the right, the same mailboxes with three accounts enabled; in this example, Inbox and Archive are expanded to show the individual account mailboxes inside. (If you have any flagged messages, a Flagged item appears in this list. If you have any VIPs configured, you’ll also see a VIPs item.)

One reason these mailboxes are special is that Mail automatically stores messages in them when you take certain actions (such as sending or deleting mail).

Another thing that makes these mailboxes special is that they are all unified in OS X, which is to say that if you have multiple server-based accounts set up, each special mailbox acts as a folder of sorts for each individual account’s mailboxes of that type—click the triangle next to Sent, for example, and you’ll see each account’s Sent mailbox listed underneath. (The Inbox is always unified, even for POP accounts.) If you select the topmost (unified) icon for any of the special mailboxes, you’ll display, to the right, all the messages for that type of mailbox in all your accounts; select an individual account in any special mailbox category to see just the messages for that account.

Note: In iOS 7, a unified Inbox (called All Inboxes) appears by default; you can also edit your top-level mailbox list to display All Drafts, All Sent, or All Trash (but not All Junk or All Archive)—see Mail Changes in iOS 7.

Here are the special mailboxes and what they do:

·        Inbox: Every account has an Inbox, if nothing else; it’s the mailbox where new messages are delivered.

·        Drafts: Messages you’ve started composing, but have not yet sent, are stored here. (Mail saves drafts automatically after 30 seconds, or you can choose File > Save to save a draft immediately.)

Note: In Mavericks, Mail also shows your lists of VIPs and flagged messages (if you have any) among the special mailboxes—but although these items appear similar to other smart mailboxes, they don’t represent actual mailboxes on your Mac or on any of your mail servers; they’re more like smart mailboxes (see Work Smarter with Smart Mailboxes).

·        Sent: When you send a message, Mail keeps a copy here for your future reference.

·        Trash: When you delete a message, Mail can either remove it immediately or move it to a Trash mailbox (which is safer, and the default choice for most accounts).

·        Junk: This mailbox is designated for spam. If you’ve enabled junk mail filtering in OS X and set it to Move It to the Junk Mailbox (in Mail > Preferences > Junk Mail), Mail moves messages marked as junk to this mailbox.

iOS 7 displays a Junk mailbox for any account that has one, but since iOS Mail doesn’t have a built-in spam filter, if junk mail arrives on your iOS device, you must move it to the Junk mailbox manually. A shortcut: Swipe to the left on an offending message, tap More, and then tap Move to Junk.

·        Archive: In Mavericks, the Message > Archive command (or an optional toolbar icon) moves messages to an Archive mailbox, creating that mailbox in the current account if necessary. (However, this may or may not function the way you expect; see Archiving for further details.) The Archive mailbox is listed with your other “special” mailboxes as long as at least one of your currently enabled accounts includes a top-level Archive mailbox.

In iOS 7, there’s no Archive shortcut or unified Archive mailbox, but you can add the Archive mailbox for any individual account to your top-level Mailboxes view (see Mail Changes in iOS 7).

About Out

There’s another special mailbox—an Outbox, which holds messages between the time you click Send and the time they finish sending—but you may never notice it.

Unlike some clients, Mail always sends messages immediately—it doesn’t queue them to send later unless your device is offline (for example, if you’re using Mail on a laptop somewhere without Internet access). If Mail can’t connect to the outgoing server when you click Send, it keeps the message in your Outbox and sends it as soon as the connection is restored. Then, and only then, Mail displays the Outbox. (Like other special mailboxes, it’s a unified mailbox with sub-mailboxes for each account, if you have more than one.)

When it’s visible, you can select the Outbox to view, edit, or delete messages before they’re sent. As soon as the Outbox is empty, it goes back into hiding.

If you use only POP, Mail stores all these special mailboxes locally on your Mac. For server-based accounts, Mail can store any of these special mailboxes either locally or on the server, depending on how you’ve configured the controls in Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Your Account > Mailbox Behaviors—if you have Store Draft/Sent/Junk/Deleted Messages on the Server checked, that special mailbox will be stored on the server for that account. (You are, of course, free to store any of these special mailboxes locally instead, but in general, I recommend leaving them all on the server—especially Drafts and Sent—so that you can see the same messages on all your devices.)

You might infer from the fact that a given account appears under, say, the unified Sent mailbox in Mail’s sidebar that there must be a mailbox named Sent on the corresponding server. There could be, but the mailbox might instead be named Sent Messages or Sent Mail or Sent Items or whatever—the “real” name (which sometimes shows up when you use an email client other than Mail, or a webmail interface) doesn’t necessarily match Mail’s special mailbox name. Similarly, “Junk” could in fact be Spam or Junk Mail, “Trash” could be Deleted Messages or Deleted Items, and so on.

When you add a new account, Mail usually figures out automatically which mailbox the server means to use for Sent, Trash, and so on, and everything just works, even if the names don’t match precisely. But in some situations—especially with IMAP accounts that don’t come from one of Mail’s preset providers—Mail consistently guesses wrong. For example, if you set up an IMAP account that already has a mailbox named Sent, Mail ignores that mailbox. When you send a message, Mail creates a new mailbox named—wait for it—Sent Messages and moves your sent message there. Something similar may happen with Trash (which Mail calls Deleted Messages). It defies logic, I know, but there it is.

The consequence of this weird behavior is that if you use a webmail interface or another email client, it will put messages in whichever special mailbox it thinks is the correct one, but Mail will use a different one. You may find messages you’ve sent within Mail in Mail’s Sent special mailbox (which is really Sent Messages behind the scenes), but messages you sent in a Web browser can appear in a mailbox called Sent (its real name), which is listed with your other user-created mailboxes under that account’s heading in your sidebar.

So, it’s up to you to tell Mail—ideally, immediately after you set up any new account and before you send, delete, or file anything—which mailbox should serve which function. To do this, select a mailbox in the sidebar and choose Mailbox > Use This Mailbox For > Drafts, Sent, Trash, or Junk, as appropriate.

Note: Unfortunately, the special mailboxes for Gmail accounts are hard-wired in Mail and can’t be modified.

What if Mail has already created duplicate special mailboxes for you and you’re having trouble untangling them? Skip ahead to Untangle Special Mailboxes for OS X, and if you’re using iOS 7, also see Special Mailbox Problems.

Hidden Interface Elements

Almost everything in Mail can be accomplished in at least two or three ways—for example, by clicking a toolbar button, choosing a menu command, or pressing a keyboard shortcut. That’s been the standard way to design Mac apps since day one. All these interface elements are easily discoverable—you can simply look at a toolbar or menu and there they are, and if you have trouble finding them, there’s always the Help menu.

But a few years ago, Apple began releasing apps (including Mail) with a new design element: hidden controls that appear only when your pointer hovers over (or near) them. Presumably this was done to give the interface a cleaner, less cluttered look. Unfortunately, this design kills discoverability—you can’t know that it’s possible to click on a control if you can’t even see that control. And, even once you’ve discovered those magic spots where controls sometimes appear, aiming for them when your pointer is in the far corner of the screen is imprecise at best. The result is that the process of “target acquisition” is clumsier and takes longer.

Now, this isn’t a huge problem for tasks that can be accomplished in some other way—you’re not obligated to use a pointing device. But in cases where there’s no other way to do something, hiding the controls to do it is Just Wrong. Although this isn’t the only sense in which Mail contains hidden interface elements, it’s the most egregious.

I can’t convince Apple to stop hiding controls, but I can at least point out what’s hidden and where:

·        Hide/Show: In Decoding the Mail Sidebar, I mentioned that the controls to collapse and expand the list of mailboxes for each account are hidden—hover over the account name in the sidebar to display Hide or Show.

·        Incoming message controls: If you hover your pointer over (or near) the header portion of a message, a block of controls appears (Figure 2). The four leftmost controls (Delete, Reply, Reply All, and Forward) are for actions you can accomplish in several other ways. But the pop-up menu on the right, which appears only if the message has attachments, contains an Export to iPhoto command that doesn’t appear anywhere else in Mail. Well, that’s not exactly true. It does appear on the contextual menu that pops up if you right-click (or Control-click) a graphical attachment—but that menu is hidden too!

**Figure 2:** This group of controls appears only when your pointer approaches it, and the rightmost control (only for messages with attachments) contains an Export to iPhoto command that’s found nowhere else.

Figure 2: This group of controls appears only when your pointer approaches it, and the rightmost control (only for messages with attachments) contains an Export to iPhoto command that’s found nowhere else.

Tip: For considerably more control over how attachments appear in both incoming and outgoing messages (inline or as icons, depending on format and size), try the Attachment Tamer plug-in from Lokiware.

·        VIP stars: The star icon shown above next to the sender’s name is what you click to designate that sender as a VIP (see VIPs). But it doesn’t appear until the pointer moves over the message header area.

·        Outgoing message controls: When you’re composing a new message, the top portion of the window contains an area beneath the Subject field with extra controls, such as a From pop-up menu to choose the From account or email address. Did you know you can customize this area—adding or removing controls for SMTP server, signature, message priority, and encryption? Most people don’t. See Message Header for all the details.

·        Bcc and Reply-To fields: You may need to specify one or more Bcc (Blind carbon copy) addresses for outgoing messages, so that none of the recipients (regardless of which field contained their address) will see the Bcc addresses. You may also want to specify a different Reply-To address, if you want replies to a message to go to a different address than the one you sent it from. Mail offers both Bcc and Reply-To fields, but they’re hidden by default. To turn them on when composing a new message, choose View > Bcc Address Field or View > Reply-To Address Field. These fields will remain visible in all new messages you compose, unless you return to that menu and choose the commands again to hide them.

·        Toolbar buttons: I probably don’t need to mention this here because customizable toolbars appear in lots of apps, but if you’re looking for an Archive button, say, or any of numerous other controls that don’t appear there by default, check out Toolbars.

Addressing

When you address an outgoing message, Mail usually does the right and expected thing, such as autocompleting names or addresses based on what you’ve typed so far. Alternatively, you can choose Window > Address Panel to display a floating panel with the contents of your Contacts. Either way, Mail uses data from the Contacts app to help it fill in addresses, so be sure you’ve entered your most important addresses there.

However, in a few cases Mail’s addressing behavior may not be what you expect, so allow me to clarify the following:

·        Previous recipients: Addresses you’ve previously sent email to are added to Mail’s Previous Recipients list, and those addresses are also used for autocomplete. Over time, this list can accumulate cruft (including outdated and erroneous addresses), so you might want to clean it out occasionally to make addressing more accurate. To do this, choose Window > Previous Recipients, and then select and delete any addresses you don’t need. (Try sorting the addresses by Last Used to easily find ones you haven’t used in a long time.)

Tip: If a contact has more than one email address, you may find it helpful to create a separate Contacts entry, with a different name, for each alternative email address. To learn more about why and how you might do this, read Jeff Carlson’s TidBITS article Prevent Apple Mail from Auto-Completing the Wrong Address.

·        Multiple addresses: If you type or paste an email address into an address field (as opposed to using autocomplete for an address Mail already knows) and want to type another, press Return or type a comma. Mail then encapsulates the address you’ve just typed in a tidy blue bubble, and is ready for the next one.

·        Groups and smart groups: The Contacts app lets you create groups of addresses—for example, a Family group that contains the contact records of your family members. You can type a portion of a group’s name and Mail autocompletes it just as it would for an individual name. Autocomplete does not work for smart groups you created in Contacts, but if you type the entire, exact name of the smart group, then even though Mail doesn’t autocomplete it, it does appear in a nice blue bubble after you type a comma or press Tab or Return, and the smart group does work—Mail sends the message to the correct addresses. The failure to autocomplete smart addresses is most likely a bug, and I expect the problem to be fixed at some point.

Group Address Options

When you address a message to a group, Mail can either expand the group name into the individual addresses (the default setting) or simply leave the group name as the only addressee. To toggle this setting, go to Mail > Preferences > Composing and select or deselect When Sending to a Group, Show All Member Addresses.

Prior to Mavericks, if this checkbox was deselected, recipients of the message wouldn’t be able to see each other’s addresses, even if the group address was in the To or Cc field rather than in Bcc. However, in Mavericks (including 10.9.2), even though Mail doesn’t show you the individual addresses, the recipients do see them. I don’t know if this is an intentional design change or a bug, but in any case, if you want to be sure group recipients don’t see everyone else’s address, you must put the group name in the Bcc field.

·        Bcc and Reply-To: As I said just previously in Hidden Interface Elements, you can enable either of these normally hidden fields if you need them when addressing a message.

·        Smart addresses: If Mail knows an addressee’s full name (for example, if it’s listed in Contacts), then by default, it shows only the name—not the email address —in address fields. This is called a smart address, but I think it’s dumb because I have lots of contacts with multiple email addresses, and it’s often important for me to know which address I’m sending mail to. But smart addresses force me to click the little arrow next to each person’s name to discover which address it’s using. To turn off smart addresses so Mail displays each person’s full name and email address, go to the Mail > Preferences > Viewing and deselect Use Smart Addresses.

·        From address: If you have more than one account set up in Mail, you can choose which one is used by default for outgoing messages, and you can override that choice for any given message. To change the default, go to Mail > Preferences > Composing and choose the default from the Send New Messages From pop-up menu. (You can also choose Account of Selected Mailbox, which sound simple but in reality is often unpredictable—so I recommend against it.) To change the From address for a given message, choose the account you want from the From pop-up menu just above the message area.

Tip: You can also configure Mail to use more than one From address for a single account, as I explained in Configure Alternative From Addresses.

Archiving

Since 10.7 Lion, Mail has had an Archive command (Message > Archive) and an optional Archive toolbar button. However, the behavior of this command has changed in Mavericks—it works differently depending on whether the message you’re archiving is in a Gmail account:

·        Non-Gmail accounts: Mail moves the selected messages to a mailbox at the top level of that account called Archive—and if that mailbox isn’t already present, Mail creates it. (For POP accounts, the mailbox is local; otherwise, it’s on the server.)

·        Gmail accounts: Mail removes the Inbox label from the message, which means it disappears from your Inbox and appears in the Archive (All Mail) mailbox under Archive in your sidebar. On the Gmail Web site, the message appears only in All Mail unless it also has another label.

Because the Archive mailbox is a unified “special” mailbox (refer back to Special Mailboxes), you can view the archived messages from all your accounts in one place if you like, but only non-Gmail accounts actually use a server-based mailbox called Archive.

I mentioned it in Mail Changes in Mavericks, but it bears repeating: pressing the Delete key in Mail does not archive messages (in either Mail’s sense or Gmail’s sense). You can change this behavior with the free Delete2Archive plug-in, but I recommend letting Delete mean “delete,” because after all, even people who archive almost everything sometimes need to delete messages.

Archive Messages Outside Mail

An older sense of “archive” is “put into long-term storage outside Mail.” I prefer to keep old and new messages alike in Mail because that gives me just one place to search for messages, but if you’d like to move older messages out of Mail for any reason, I recommend MailSteward, which comes in three editions to cover just about any email archiving need.

Notifications

With the system-wide Notifications feature in Mavericks, previews of incoming messages can—at your option—appear as alerts (which stay on screen until you dismiss them) or banners (which disappear automatically after 5 seconds, but can be consulted later by clicking the Notification Center  icon in the upper-right corner of your screen), with or without accompanying sounds and Dock icon badges.

Note: To learn about Mail notifications in iOS 7, flip ahead to Manage Notifications.

Notifications are enabled by default, but you may want to adjust their behavior, both in Mail and in System Preferences.

To determine which incoming messages will trigger Mail to send notifications, go to Mail > Preferences > General and choose one of the following from the New Message Notifications pop-up menu:

·        Inbox Only: Only new, unread messages that appear in your Inbox (and not, for example, messages that are automatically filtered into other mailboxes—see Use Rules) trigger notifications.

·        VIPs: Only incoming messages from people you’ve marked as VIPs (see VIPs) trigger notifications.

·        Contacts: Messages from any address in your Contacts list trigger notifications.

·        All Mailboxes: Any and all new messages trigger notifications.

·        Smart Mailbox: Any smart mailboxes you’ve set up (see Work Smarter with Smart Mailboxes) appear here. New messages appearing in the selected smart mailbox trigger notifications.

To determine what the system does when Mail sends a notification:

1.     Go to System Preferences > Notifications (Figure 3).

**Figure 3:** Set system-wide notifications from Mail in the Notifications pane of System Preferences.

Figure 3: Set system-wide notifications from Mail in the Notifications pane of System Preferences.

2.    In the list on the left, select Mail.

3.    Click None, Banners, or Alerts to set what type of notification (if any) should appear when Mail receives a new message that meets the criterion you set in the previous set of steps.

4.    Select Show Notifications on Lock Screen if you want to display notifications for Mail when your Mac’s screen is locked and requires a password (configure the screen lock in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General).

5.    Select Show Message Preview if you want Mail notifications to include a portion of the message text; choose either When Unlocked or Always from the pop-up menu to determine when the preview is shown.

6.    To set the maximum number of notifications that can accumulate in Notification Center, choose 1, 5, 10, or 20 Notifications from the Show in Notification Center pop-up menu. Or, to prevent notifications from appearing in Notification Center at all, uncheck the box here.

7.    If you want to prevent Notification Center from listing the number of outstanding notifications on Mail’s Dock icon, uncheck Badge App Icon. (If this is unchecked, Mail’s Dock icon won’t display the number of unread messages, even if you’ve set it to do so in the General pane of Mail’s preferences window.)

8.    If you want to prevent Notification Center from playing a sound when a notification occurs from Mail, uncheck Play Sound for Notifications. (Unlike the previous setting, even if this unchecked, Mail still plays sounds when new messages arrive if you’ve set it to do so in Mail > Preferences > General.)

Changes take place immediately.

Note: In addition to alerting you when new messages arrive, Mail can trigger notifications in response to a rule. See Use Rules, later in this book.

Use Data Detectors

Mail includes a feature called Data Detectors, which intelligently identifies strings of text that match patterns like street addresses, dates (even vaguely stated dates, like “next Tuesday” or “breakfast tomorrow”), phone numbers, and flight numbers—and then lets you do appropriate things with them. With Data Detectors, you can quickly add an entry to Contacts, schedule an event in Calendar, look up a location in the Maps app, track a flight, and so on.

Data Detectors are so inconspicuous that you might not notice them unless you know where to look. They work only on messages you’ve already received or sent, not on new messages you’re composing (even if they’re stored in Drafts).

In any such message on a Mac, if you see a chunk of text that looks like one of the kinds of data I just mentioned, move your pointer over it. If Data Detectors considers it to be an appropriate kind of data, a dotted box will appear around it, with a downward pointing triangle  on the right. Click the triangle  to display either a contextual menu with one or more options, or a popover with additional controls, depending on the type of data.

In iOS 7 Mail, all text that Data Detectors identifies as possibly useful is blue and underlined, just like a URL. Tap one of these link-like strings to pop up relevant controls.