Organize email on your Mac

How to get control of your inbox and make it easier to focus on messages that are important to you.


Organize messages by conversation

A conversation (or thread) includes the original message and all replies to that message. When you organize messages by conversation, each conversation is collapsed, meaning your mailbox shows only the most recent message in the conversation. When you select that message, the preview area shows every message in the conversation.

macOS Mail organized by conversation

The View menu in the menu bar offers several options for organizing messages by conversation:

  • Organize by Conversation: Turn conversation view on or off.
  • Highlight Conversations: Highlight conversations to make them easier to notice in your mailbox.
  • Expand All Conversations: Show each message of all conversations in your mailbox. 
  • Collapse All Conversations: Show only the most recent message of all conversations in your mailbox.

Learn more about conversations, including how to mute conversations.

Move messages into mailboxes

Moving messages into mailboxes is a great way to organize messages that you want to keep.

Create a new mailbox for messages

  1. Choose Mailbox > New Mailbox from the menu bar. 
  2. Give your mailbox a name and choose a location for it.
    • Choose an On My Mac location to make your mailbox available only on your Mac. 
    • Choose another location, such as IMAP or iCloud, to make your mailbox available on all of your other devices that use the same account. 

macOS Mail New Mailbox options 

Move messages to a mailbox

  • Drag the message to the mailbox you created in the sidebar.
  • Or select the message, then click the Move button  in the toolbar to move the message to the suggested mailbox. The suggested mailbox changes based on where you moved similar messages, so suggestions get better the more you move messages. You can also click the arrow  next to the move button to choose a specific mailbox, or use rules to automatically move messages to mailboxes.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists

When Mail sees that a message was sent as part of a mailing list, it shows a banner above the message body: "This message is from a mailing list." To remove yourself from the mailing list, click Unsubscribe in the banner. Learn more about the unsubscribe feature

macOS Mail message from a mailing list


Block senders

Blocked mail filtering is a kind of junk mail filtering. You can use both features at the same time.

When you block a sender, you still receive their messages, but Mail shows a blocked symbol  next to their name in the list of messages. It also adds "This message is from a blocked sender" to the header above each message. 

  1. Open a message from the sender that you want to block.
  2. Click the arrow  next to the sender's name in the message header, then choose Block Contact from the menu. To unblock, choose Unblock Contact.

macOS Mail sender menu with Block Contact selected

You can manage blocking in Mail preferences: Choose Mail > Preferences, click Junk Mail, then click the Blocked tab.

macOS Mail Preferences - Junk Mail

  • Make sure that ”Enable blocked mail filtering” is selected. If you deselect this checkbox, mail still remembers the senders that you blocked, but stops blocking them.
  • To have Mail automatically move new blocked messages to the Trash, select ”Move it to the Trash.”
  • To remove a blocked sender from the list, select the sender's email address, then click the remove (–) button beneath the list.
  • To block one of your contacts, click the add (+) button, then choose their name to block every email address and phone number associated with that contact in the Contacts app. You can still remove (–) email addresses and phone numbers individually.

Your blocked list is shared with the Mail, Messages, FaceTime, and Phone apps across all of your devices that are using iCloud Contacts and are signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID.


Make VIPs

When you make a sender a VIP, all messages from them in your Inbox are also shown in the VIPs mailbox in the sidebar. You can have up to 100 VIPs, which are shared with each of your devices that are using iCloud Contacts and are signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID. 

  1. Open a message from the sender.
  2. Move your pointer to the left of their name in the message header.
  3. Click the star next to their name.

macOS Mail message with cursor hovering over sender and VIP star showing


Flag messages

When you flag a message, a flag icon  appears next to that message in your inbox and in the message header.

  • To flag a message, select the message and choose a flag from the Flag menu in the toolbar. 
  • To remove a flag, choose the same flag again, or choose Clear Flag.

macOS Mail flag pop-up menu

To see only the messages you've flagged:

  • Click Flagged in the favorites bar to see all flagged messages, or click the arrow  next to it and choose a specific flag.
  • Or select the Flagged mailbox in the sidebar. If you've used more than one color of flag, the Flagged mailbox contains mailboxes for each color. To reveal them, click the disclosure triangle  next to the mailbox.

Learn more about flags, including how to rename flags. For example, you might want to rename ”Red” to ”Urgent.” 

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