MacMost Now 224: Using Mail Rules

Learn how to use Apple Mail's rules to filter your email. You can get alerts when messages arrive, automatically sort mail into folders, and even reply or forward specific messages when they arrive.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 224: Using Mail Rules.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now, brought to you by Squarespace. For a great way to create your own website is at
On today's episode let's take a look at how to use rules in mail.
If you get a lot of email you're probably always looking for ways to better handle it all. Well, one way is to able to set rules in Apple mail. You can set rules to look for emails that come in and do special things with it. Let's take a look.
So here we are in mail. To bring up rules, go to the "Mail" menu and go to "Preferences". Then you'll bring up the "Preferences" and you click on last one to the right which is "Rules". Now, to add a rule what you want to do is click the "Add Rule" button. What comes up is kind of like a "Search Dialog" box. You want to name the rule and then you want to describe how you want the rule to be able to find email. So, for instance say you want a rule to look for any email that comes from a certain email address. So you can go and say: If any of the following conditions are met, if From contains and you type in email. Say, its something that comes from this email address which is maybe a report that you get everyday. Now, it will search for everything that has that email address in the "From" field and then you can tell what you want to do with it. So, you can say, well, automatically move that message, say, to an archive folder. Well, let's say you just don't want to get rid of the email, you want to know when it comes in, though you don't necessarily need to check it. You can have it move the message and you can also have it do something else, like for instance you can have it go ahead and play a sound...[sound]. So, now its going to play that sound for you automatically and move that email away. If it's something you don't need to check then you don't look for it. If it is something you need to check when you hear that sound you know that it just went to your save folder and go get it.
Rules are also very useful for filtering out some junk mail that the junk mail filter mail doesn't get. For instance, you are always getting mail with the same subject line and it's junk mail, just put a rule in to automatically..[sound]...mark that as junk and move it to the junk folder.
Now, you can set all sorts of conditions. For instance, you can not just look in the "From" field, you can look into "Cc" and the "Subject" field, you can also go ahead and look at an entire message, you can look for dates, you can look for whether a sender is in your address book, whether its member of a group in your address book, whether you have received email from them before. In the message you can look for anything in there and you can also look to see if it is signed, if it's encrypted, you look at the prioriy of the message. For instance you can set a rule that when you get high priority emails it will play a special sound and you can also look for attachments and you can look for message types.
Say you are often missing emails from you boss and you want to make sure you see them when they come in and handle them right away. One thing we should do is you can set the 'From' field to be your bosses' email address and then you can go ahead and have it set the color of the message to something really bright, so you'll be able to see it. You can either set the background or the text color as it appears in your mail list. Then of course you can go ahead and also have it play a sound or perhaps even bounce the icon in the dock so you'll really notice when it comes in.
One tip I've got for you is when create a new rule have it only set the message color to yellow and that way you could watch over the next few days and make sure it gets all the right messages and none of the wrong ones and then if it works you can change it from changing the background color to yellow to doing the action you want to do like moving the message or automatically replying.
Now, you can also do some really clever things, for instance you can go ahead and automatically reply to any message that comes in that meets certain rules. You can set the reply text to anything that you want. You could forward a message on to somebody at the moment when you get it and add some additional text to appear there. You can go ahead and redirect the message as well to somebody else. You can automatically have the message deleted. You can have it automatically marked as red or flagged, and you can even run an Apple script if you are used to scripting.
The search rules can also get quite complex. For instance you can look for if a Subject contains a certain word, like report and you can also go ahead and say, well, if the message content contains something else like accounting to narrow it down.
That's it for now. Till next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now

Comments: 7 Responses to “MacMost Now 224: Using Mail Rules”

    10 years ago

    Hey Gary! Does MacMost have a Facebook page? I know u guys have Twitter, but what about Facebook?

      10 years ago

      I think there’s alot more people that would follow you on Facebook than on Twitter.

      10 years ago

      It is a shame that FaceBook makes it so hard to promote your page outside of FaceBook. MacMost does have a page — but to tell someone about it you have to give them this long URL or tell them to search:

      10 years ago

      Better yet, you can go here:

        10 years ago

        Thanks Gary!

    10 years ago


    very helpful!

    How can I have Mail pop up a dialog box to let me know that a rule has been activated?


      10 years ago

      You certainly can. Just have one of the result actions be “Run AppleScript” and then write an AppleScript that puts up an alert box. If you aren’t an AppleScript programmer, you can search for some tutorials. But you can also use some other actions like “Play a Sound” or “Bounce Dock Icon” that are there is Mail rules.

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