How to Set Up Smart Mailboxes on your Mac

When you receive many emails from a variety of people about a variety of different projects, you need a way to organize these emails. If all of your emails are going into one mailbox, then sifting through them manually to find the one you are looking for can be a huge waste of time. Mail comes with a built in search function, however, this may not always suit your needs, and it doesn’t do anything to sort your emails for you.

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In this article, I explain how you can organize your emails using Smart Mailboxes on your Mac. A Smart Mailbox will collect all emails that meet your specified criteria. For example, maybe you want all emails pertaining to Project X to be sorted into a separate mailbox. Then you will be able to easily find all emails about that project just by clicking on your Project X Smart Mailbox.

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Smart Mailboxes can be useful for both work and personal emails. At home, you may want to set up a few Smart Mailboxes for things like: your Craigslist email replies for that old stuff you’re trying to sell, emails from your kid’s sport or club, and one for utility bills.

When you click on a Smart Mailbox, it will display for you all the emails that met the criteria you specified, however the emails are still stored in their original mailbox. The Smart Mailbox just gives you a convenient way to view those emails.

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Note: Your Smart Mailbox will only appear in the Mail app on your Mac. Your Smart Mailboxes won’t automatically show up on your other devices like your iPhone or iPad.

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How to Create Smart Mailboxes

  1. Open the Mail app on your Mac. Go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and select Mailbox > New Smart Mailbox.
Mailbox > New Smart Mailbox
  1. Give your new Smart Mailbox a name and set up your criteria. I am going to set up a Smart Mailbox to catch all of my Craigslist replies.
Smart Mailbox Name textbox.
  1. The first thing is to choose whether you want the emails in your Smart Mailbox to meet all or any of the conditions you will specify. For my Smart Mailbox I will only have one condition so this won’t matter, but you can certainly create more complicated criteria using multiple conditions.
Choose any or all menu choices.
  1. Now you will set up your first condition. To setup a condition, first make a selection from the menu box on the left. For my craigslist emails, my condition is going to be that the email came from a craigslist reply address, so I will choose From.
Choose From in the menu.
  1. Next choose a menu option from the middle menu. I will choose contains from the options. This means that the Smart Mailbox, Craigslist Replies, will catch any emails from addresses that contain the text that I will enter into the textbox to the right.
Choose contains from menu options.
  1. Now, we need to fill in the textbox with the text we want to see in the address of the emails that will go into our Smart Mailbox. I have entered @reply.craigslist.org into the textbox so that all emails coming from addresses that have @reply.craigslist.org will show up in my Craigslist Replies Smart Mailbox.
Fill textbox with the condition.
  1. You may also choose the checkbox options: Include messages from Trash and Include messages from Sent, if you would like. Once you are happy with the conditions you have defined for your Smart Mailbox, click OK.
A new Smart Mailbox appears.

Now you can see, I have a new Smart Mailbox named Craigslist Replies under Smart Mailboxes in the Mailboxes list in the sidebar of the Mail app and all of my craigslist emails are there.

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How to Edit Smart Mailboxes

If you have already created a Smart Mailbox, you may want to change the criteria you set up. To edit your Smart Mailbox

  1. Open your Mail app, then select your Smart Mailbox from the sidebar.
  2. Go to the menu bar on the top of your screen and select Mailbox > Edit Smart Mailbox. Now you can change your conditions for your Smart Mailbox.

How to Delete Smart Mailboxes

When you no longer have a use for your Smart Mailbox, or if you just want to redo your mailbox organization, your may want to delete your Smart Mailbox.

  1. Open your Mail app, then select your Smart Mailbox from the sidebar.
  2. Go to the menu bar on the top of your screen and select Mailbox > Delete Smart Mailbox. Don’t worry about losing any of your emails by deleting your Smart Mailbox; they are still saved in their original mailbox.

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Dr. Stacey Butler is a tech writer at macReports covering news, how-tos, and user guides. She is a longtime Mac and iPhone user and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Here is her LinkedIn profile.

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