Mac Basics: Use Mail on your Mac

Use the OS X Mail app to set up email on your Mac, including popular email services like iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Then learn about Mail features including Search, Conversations, Mail Drop, Markup, and more.

Set up Mail

When you first open Mail, you're prompted to set up your email account if you haven't already. 

You can select one of the popular email services, or add your own

Choose your email provider from the list. If you don't see your email provider, click "Add Other Mail Account." Then click Continue.

Enter an email address and password to set up a new Mail account

Mail asks for your name, email address, and email password. Fill in this information, then click Create. Mail completes your account settings based on the email address you provide, and in Yosemite, Mail automatically maintains them.

  • If Mail doesn't recognize your email provider, it might ask you for additional settings.
  • If you need to add more than one Mail account, start with your primary account. Then use Internet Accounts to add more accounts. 

Compose new messages

Use one of these methods to compose a new email message:

  • Press Command-N (N)
  • Choose File > New Message
  • Click the Compose new message button  in the Mail window

a new message window

To: Type a name in the To field. Mail automatically helps complete this field with email addresses from Contacts, and from past messages you've received or sent. If you're sending a message to a new person, type in their full email address. Type a comma on your keyboard to enter more recipients.

Subject: Type a subject for your message in the Subject field. If you leave it blank, Mail reminds you to fill it in.

Message: Type the body of your message in the large area below the Subject field. To change how your message looks, click the Show Format Bar button  and use the controls to change the typeface or text alignment. Click the Show Stationery button  to use a built-in message template. 

When you're finsihed, click the Send button . If you're offline, Mail keeps your outgoing messages in the Outbox mailbox until you connect to the Internet. If you're not ready to send your message, close its window or select another message. Mail keeps your unfinished messages in the Drafts mailbox.

View your email

the Message Viewer window in Mail

Mail automatically checks your email accounts periodically for new mail. To manually check for email, click the Get New Messages button get mail. To view an email message, select it from the list of messages on the left side of the Mail window. The message body appears on the right side of the window.  

Reply to email

Reply or Forward

To reply to a message, click the Reply  or Reply All  button. Type your reply then click the Send button . Clicki the Forward button to send the message to other people.


In OS X Yosemite, you can use the Markup feature in Mail to draw and type directly onto an attachment and send it as a reply.

use Markup to annotate your email replies

You can use Markup on an attachment when you compose or reply to a message. Use the Add attachments button to add the attachment back to your reply.

  1. Move your pointer over the image in your message.
  2. Click the icon the zoom tool icon that appears in the upper-right corner of the image.
  3. Choose Markup from the menu that appears.

You can use any of the tools from the Markup toolbar to draw, sign, or annotate the image.

the sketch tool icon


Use the Sketch tool to create freehand drawings on the image by drawing on the trackpad with your finger.

the shapes tool icon


Use shapes like rectangles, ovals, lines, and arrows. Or draw shapes using your finger on your trackpad. Use the Zoom tool  the zoom tool icon at the bottom of the Shapes palette to magnify and call attention to a part of an image.

the Text tool icon


Type directly onto images and PDFs to provide feedback in an email thread.

the signature tool icon


Sign your name by drawing on the trackpad with your finger, or snap a photo of your signature using the camera on your Mac.


Mail organizes email replies into conversations, to make it easy to follow a thread of messages between you and others. Mail collapses text you've already seen in earlier emails so you can read through a topic more easily. To see all the text of a specific message, click See More.

Conversations in the Mail window


To include an attachment, like an image or a document, drag it into your email message. Or click the Attachment button  in the message window, or choose File > Attach Files. Messages with attachments display a paper clip icon.

the paperclip icon indicates an attachment

When you receive an attachment, double-click it to open it. You can also drag attachments out of the email message window, or choose File > Save Attachments if you want to keep the attached files somewhere else on your drive.

Mail Drop

In OS X Yosemite, you can use Mail Drop to send large files (up to 5 GB per message) like videos, presentations, and folders of images without having to worry about your email provider’s limitations on file size. Mail Drop is a free service built in to Mail in Yosemite and works with any email service as long as you are signed into iCloud on your Mac.

When you send a large attachment, Mail can automatically upload it to iCloud. If your recipients use Mail, they receive the attachment as part of your message. If they use another app or webmail, they receive a link to download the files. All you do is click Send, and Mail does the rest. Attachments are avilable for 30 days and don’t count against your iCloud storage.

Organize your email


You can create Mailboxes to organize your email messages. Mailboxes work like folders in Finder.

Mail sidebar

To create a Mailbox:

  1. In Mail choose Mailbox > New Mailbox
  2. In the sheet that appears, choose the location for the Mailbox.
    - Choose On My Mac to create a Mailbox that resides on only your Mac.
    - Choose your email service (such as iCloud) to create a Mailbox that you can access from any device you check email from.
  3. Name the Mailbox and click OK.

Click the Show button on the left side of the Favorites Bar to see the Mailbox list or press Shift-Command-M. The Mailbox list is like the sidebar of a Finder window. Use one of the following methods to move messages into your Mailboxes

  • Drag and drop messages into the Mailbox you want move them into.
  • When viewing a message, Choose Messages > Move To or Copy To to file the message away.
  • Control-click or right click a message and choose Move To or Copy To from the shortcut menu that appears.
  • Create Mail Rules that move or copy messages matching them into the a Mailbox.

Search Mail

Use the Search field in the Mail window to search by sender, subject, attachments and more. If you want to narrow your search, select an option from the menu that appears as you type.

Use search tokens to narrow your search

To narrow your search, enter names or terms related to the message you're looking for. Select a search token such as People or Subject to search just that field in Mail. You can also select a mailbox from the Mail sidebar or the Favorites bar in the Mail window to search just that Mailbox.

Learn More

You can learn more about Mail from the built-in help included with your Mac. Open Mail, then click the Help menu at the top of the screen. Search for a Mail topic you want more information about, or search for a Mail menu item you're looking for.

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified:
48% of people found this helpful.

Additional Product Support Information

Start a Discussion

in Apple Support Communities
See all questions on this article See all questions I have asked
United States (English)