MacMost Now 889: Tagging Mail Messages

An often-requested feature of Mac Mail is the ability to tag messages with keywords. While full tagging ability isn't included in Mail, you can add colored flags to messages to help you organize them. You can even rename the flags to make them more useful. But for true tagging ability, you would need a third-party extension like MailTags.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 889: Tagging Mail Messages.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. In today's episode let me show you how to tag messages in MacMail.

So I get asked this question a lot. How can you apply tags or keywords to incoming email messages in MacMail. The idea is that you can store an email in a folder if you want to find it later but it is more useful to actually tag it and add keywords to it. So you can label something as part of two different projects or part of home and vacation or work and certain projects. You can have multiple keywords and multiple tags applied to the email.

There is no ability to do this in MacMail but there is one way to work around it and there are some third party solutions.

So one simple solution that is built into MacMail is using Flags. Now when you have an email message here you can go and add a flag to it that is a different color. If you don't see the flags here you would want to customize the ToolBar like that and make sure that you use the default set and add flags in. You can also go to Message and then Flag and add a flag there.

You only have limited colors but once you add a flag you will see on the left here, on the left sidebar, a set called Flagged. If I click on that I will see it here. Now watch what happens if I go back to my Inbox and take this message here and I add a green flag to that. Now I can see under Flags I have red and green. So these only appear if you actually use them.

Now the interesting thing is that you can apply only one flag at a time to a message. So it is not as useful as you would think. If I look in here I can see that it is only the last one that is applied and it will update the green and purple showing it is not there.

So if very limited to how you would use it. For instance you can make a mailbox called Work and put all your work emails in there. Then you can apply these flags here and have them be for different projects. You can have a project that is the red label and have something in the work folder and also with the red flag.

It is important to know that you can rename these. You don't have to stick with the name red. In the list here on the left I can double click on it and change it. So now it all appears as Project 1. Even here you can see it changes the name to Project 1.

So it is a very limited quick way that you can start using tags as flags in your email.

Now if you want more than that you are going to have to go to a third party solution. One that I've used in the past is MailTags. MailTags you can get to by going to There you can download it and it is basically an extension for Mail. Once you add it in you can then apply actual tags to each message as you might expect it to do as a more advanced function.

I've just installed the free trial MailTags. Now I can go into my message and set message and then there is a MailTags menu under there and I can tag the message and is comes up with this huge dialogue box that gives you tons of different options.

So I can add a keyword, create new keywords on the fly, add colors, do all sorts of different things. Even add notes for that particular message.

I expect the way you would use it normally though is to customize the toolbar and add MailTags there to your toolbar and that way you can quickly click on that and bring up that same window.

So let me set this to say Project 1 here for a tag and you can see it creates that tag there. Now if I go into this email here you can see that it added the tag there and I can simply select Project 1 there and add it to that one, so I will do that. Then let's say add another one to this and now you can see it's got actually both under there.

So there are two different ways to add tagging to mail. A kind of built in but simple tagging system and then a much more complex one using a third party tool.

I hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 2 Responses to “MacMost Now 889: Tagging Mail Messages”

    Brad T
    6 years ago

    I remember in the WWDC keynote a mention of tagging as part of Sea Lion (oops, Mavericks, lol), but can’t remember if that applied to Mail, do you know?

    Keep the valuable tips coming!

      6 years ago

      It was Finder tagging that was mentioned — tagging of files and folders.

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