Mac Basics: Use Mail on your Mac

Use OS X Mail to compose, reply to, and store email on your Mac. 

Set up Mail

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

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

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

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 finished, 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

Mail automatically checks your email accounts periodically for new mail. To manually check for email, click the Get New Messages button   . 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  . Click 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.

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   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.


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


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


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


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.


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.

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 available 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.

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.

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.

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