Setting Mailbox Behaviors

For each account you have set up in Mail Mail, you have the ability to set mailbox behaviors. These determine where messages are stored. You can set the destination for sent email, drafts, junk, deleted and archived messages. Your options will depend on your email service. When possible set these to use the cloud-based options so that the messages are seen across all of your devices.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Setting Mailbox Behaviors.

So let's look in the Mac Mail app at a set of preferences called Mailbox Behaviors. Now these are settings that are specific to the accounts you're using. You're going to get different options, different features, depending upon what service you use. I've talked many times before how we should all abandon ISP email. It's old, antiquated, and has lots of problems, and use modern services like gmail and iCloud. So I'm going to show gmail and iCloud today. If you're using some older system from your ISP or something like that you're going to get different behaviors and things are going to work a little differently. Let's take a look at where these are.

These are part of the accounts you have setup. So you're going to go to Mail but you're not going to go to Accounts. That's going to take you into System Preferences looking at your internet accounts. Instead you want to go to Mail Preferences. In Mail Preferences you also have a tab here for Accounts. Then you have each account listed. So I have two accounts here. An iCloud account and a gmail account. Now when you have one selected you should see Account Information, Mailbox Behaviors, and Server Settings.

What you see for each one of these is going to be different if you're not using iCloud or gmail. It could be vastly different actually. So we're going to look at Mailbox Behaviors here for iCloud. Notice that it's broken up into five different sections here having to do with Drafts, Sent Mail, Junk Mail, Trash, and Archive. These loosely correspond to different places that your mail can go. So let's take a look at these.

We've got, up here in the Menu Bar, we have an Archive button right here, we have a Trash button, we have a Junk Mail button as well. What you're missing there are the Drafts button which is the ability to kind of save a draft as you're composing an email and it will save a temporary copy of it every once in a while or you can opt to close the email you're composing and get back to it later. Also, of course, you've got the Sent folder which is what happens after you send an email, what happens to your copy of that message.

So going back into Mail Preferences, Accounts, Mailbox Behaviors we see, for instance, for the Junk mailbox we can select which one to use now. Here, for iCloud, notice that I have two options. One is to save it in the Junk mail for iCloud. The other is to do it on my Mac. If I switch to On My Mac what will happen is a piece of the junk email will be taken off of the iCloud server, will be put into a local folder here on this Mac. Anytime you do that you're creating problems if you're using multiple devices. Which most of us are. If you're using an iPhone and a Mac, for instance, or maybe an iPhone, an iPad, desktop Mac, and a laptop Mac you want everything to be in sync. So you want to keep all your email on the server as much as possible. So it's probably not a good option for anything to use On My Mac. Stick to the regular Junk email folder.

Now for lots of services like gmail, when you select that and go to gmail spam, you're actually doing the same thing you would do if you would go into gmail, the website, and you would hit the Junk mail button there. Not only does it move it to that folder so it gets it out of your way but it also sends a signal to Goggle that this is junk mail. When enough people do that it helps them refine their spam filters. So if somebody spams like a million people one morning the first one hundred are marked as spam by the first one hundred people that read it, you may never actually even see that email because it says well all one million of these must be junk. So you definitely want to stick to the server side version of that. I suspect that Apple may do the same kind of thing. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure they do. So sticking to iCloud Junk helps send a signal to Apple that the server that it's sending from is bad and that the email itself is bad, all of that.

Now you've got a similar thing here with Trash. You can go and have the trash go to Deleted Messages in iCloud or on your Mac. Here on Goggle you can have it go to a specific folder you've created. These are actually called Labels in gmail for those that are familiar with gmail or you can use the gmail trash as opposed to a local trash. This is very important because if you say throw something in the trash here on this Mac and then later on you want to actually retrieve when you're on another Mac you won't find it there if you put it in On My Mac. So just using the server for that.

Archive, this is where it's critically important. Notice here for gmail it doesn't even give an option here. It wants to go into the All Mail folder which basically means it removes the inbox label from that message. For iCloud it also just goes into the iCloud Archive folder.

You know for years and years now email services like Goggle and Apple have just encouraged us to just simply archive all of our email. Never delete it. I know a lot of people are still in the habit of wanting to delete emails that they're finished with. But I haven't deleted an email for more than a decade. Well except for maybe a piece of spam or something like that. I archive all my email. You have tons of server space. Emails take up very little space on the server. For the most part you can just keep archiving emails for the rest of your life and never run out of space. As I say, I've been doing it for ten, maybe more, years with gmail. I have tons of archived emails. It's great. Sometimes I go back and I search for an email that was ten years ago and I thought I'd never need it again. But there was something in it I needed. I only had it because I decided to archive all my emails instead of just some of it that I selected.

So for Drafts you have the same kind of thing where drafts will be saved. Very useful to save to iCloud or to have it be on the gmail server because then you can pick up on that draft later on. Also, the same thing for Sent. If you do it local On My Mac then you may not have access to it where you want it later on on another device.

So look through these settings. My recommendation is to use all the server site stuff if you're using iCloud and gmail. You also have some other settings in here like When to Erase Junk Mail Messages. So messages that go into junk mail. You can say Automatically get rid of them after a month, or When quitting email, or Never. On my regular accounts I think I have it set for a month. These are just test accounts. The same thing for deleted messages. When do they leave the trash and actually get deleted forever. You can set it up here as well. Space is usually not an issue with services so set it after one month or even never sometimes is fine and then doing it manually when you want to.

So go and check your Mailbox Behaviors for your email accounts and make sure things are setup like you want.

Comments: 6 Responses to “Setting Mailbox Behaviors”

    11 months ago

    Where did the “Not junk mail” option go?

    11 months ago

    Pattyx: The “Not Junk” button will appear above a piece of email that has been marked as junk by Mac Mail’s junk mail filtering option. But if you are not using junk mail filtering in Mac Mail, then it won’t appear. I don’t recommend anyone use Mac Mail’s junk mail filtering, which is as problematic as any client-side junk filter. Instead, rely on your email server to do the junk mail filtering.
    Moving a message to the junk mail mailbox indicates it is junk mail. To reverse that, or to tell your email server that a message in junk is not junk, simply go into your junk mail mailbox and remove it from there — such as move it to the inbox or archive folder.

    Joseph Hagedorn
    11 months ago

    I have iCloud. I use Apple Mail and msn mail which use the same password. Sometimes, my msn mail appears automatically on my iPhone. But when I try to access it myself, the iPhone will not accept my password. If I have iCloud, isn’t iPhone supposed automatically to accept the same password used for Apple mail and msn mail?

    Also if I click on “mail” on the iPhone, current mail is not shown, only mail sometimes from 2017 or 2015.

    My 2015 MacBook also skips keys and fails to space words.

    11 months ago

    Joseph: First, you should never use the same password for anything, let alone something as important as your email. That’s a security thing, but it also may be confusing the problem here. So I would change your MSN password to some other strong random password. iCloud may make it easier to “sync” your email accounts by remembering your password. But it sounds like you are having trouble with MSN. In fact, it sounds like you are having a lot of trouble with Mail and other things. I recommend a firsthand look at these problems by an expert — go to the Genius Bar.

    11 months ago

    As far as I can tell, using gmail, the “read” mail and the archived mail take up the same amount of space on gmail’s server. After watching the video, I started archiving a few years’ worth of read mail, and it did not seem to make a dent in what Google shows in my storage availability.

    11 months ago

    Carol: In Gmail, “read” would just be a flag that you have looked at it. When you “archive” something you are removing the “inbox” label. Explaining how Gmail works is getting a little off-topic here, but if you Google “understanding gmail labels” you can find out more.

Comments Closed.