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Mail for Mac: Use rules to manage your inbox

Where Are Rules Hidden?
The Rules tool is hidden in Mail > Preferences under the Rules tab. By default, there’s usually a rule that highlights any news that is sent to you containing news from Apple (see screenshot below):

Mac Mail Rules

Mac Mail Email Filter (rules)

Preventing unwanted messages from showing up in your inbox can be integral to enjoying email. In this article we will walk you through the process of creating mail rules that will direct messages to other folders or the trash based on conditions you specify. We will also discuss how to update rules to include additional senders or other criteria, and provide some common-sense guidance about effectively using mail rules in general.

Mail rules allow you to direct messages out of your inbox into another folder or trash automatically, based on their sender or other conditions. Rules can be set up on iCloud.com if the email address is the one you use for iCloud (it can end in either @icloud.com, @me.com, or @mac.com).

For your other email addresses, rules can be set up in the Mail app on a Mac. If you set up rules using iCloud.com they are very effective, immediately directing messages to the specified folders on all your devices. If you set up rules using the Mail app, they are effective only after you start up your Mac and open the Mail app.

There may be a few different types of undesirable mail. I suggest that a folder (and rule) be set up for each of the types. Below are examples of different different types of messages you might set up folders for:

  • Vendors – Messages from businesses you enjoy visiting such as restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores or tech vendor websites. You might want to look at these later for special offers and coupons.
  • Spam – Messages from business you don’t prefer, including anything offensive or sketchy.
  • A Frequent Sender – A loved one, boss or customer whose messages you want to see separately from your other incoming mail.

Your needs regarding how many folders you set up and what to name them may be different. The best solution might not be a one-size-fits-all rule. It might be a set of multiple rules.

Create a mailbox for each type of undesired message On iCloud.com this step isn’t necessary because the new folder can be set up during the process of creating a rule, which is a nice feature not found on OS X.

On a Mac, create a mailbox by choosing Mailbox from the menu bar and clicking on New Mailbox. For the Location field, choose a location on an existing email account, not “On My Mac.” That way, at least for IMAP accounts (like iCloud and Gmail) and Exchange accounts (like many corporate email accounts), the folders will be visible on all your devices. For POP accounts (like Verizon, RoadRunner, and others hosted by most Internet service providers), the folders will not be visible on all your devices.

mac mail

You can create rules to help manage incoming messages and automate some tasks, such as replying to or forwarding messages. For example, you could create a rule to highlight messages from a specific person, or automatically move messages from your inbox to other mailboxes.

  1. Choose Mail > Preferences, then click Rules.To review an example of a rule, select a provided rule, then click Edit. To close the rule, click Cancel.
  2. Click Add Rule, then type a name for the rule.
  3. Indicate whether any or all of the conditions must be true for the rule to be applied to a message.
  4. Specify the conditions.To use different header fields in conditions, choose Edit Header List from the first pop-up menu. To add your own header, click the Add button  in the Message Headers window.
  5. Choose actions to perform on messages that meet the conditions. To specify multiple actions, click the Add button .You can use AppleScript scripts as rule actions.
  6. When you’re done, click OK, then decide to apply rules to messages already in mailboxes or to new messages.You can apply rules to existing messages later by choosing Message > Apply Rules.

If you have multiple rules, they’re applied in the order in which they appear in the list of rules; drag a rule up or down to change the order.

Mail stops applying rules to a message when it encounters the Stop Evaluating Rules action, or when a message is transferred to another mailbox by rules used on a mail server or on a computer or device synced to your computer.

If you use iCloud Drive, your rules are available on your other Mac computers that have iCloud Drive turned on. Files attached to rules, such as sound files or scripts, aren’t available. For more information, see Store your desktop and documents in iCloud.