Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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OS X Mail: Highlight specific emails with background colors

If you use Mail on your Mac, you may have noticed that news emails from Apple show up with a blue background in your email listing. It’s easy to setup different email addresses or domains to come up in different colors. This can be useful to draw your attention to urgent emails.. honey-do emails in my case. To highlight your important emails, or to disable the Apple blue emails, follow these steps.

If you want to match a single email address and you have an email from that user in your open mail folder, click on that email to select it — this will save you from having to type the email address later and maybe avoid the dreaded typo. Type CMD-, or select Preferences… from the Mail menu. Click on the Rules icon at the top of the preferences window. Click Add Rule and you’ll get a new window on top of that which looks something like this:

Give the rule a name in the Description field that will make sense later (if you get tired of psychedelic email lists), “Tech-Recipes emails” in that example. If you clicked on an email before opening the preferences, the corresponding email address will already be in the blank next to the “From” and “Contains” pull down menus. If not, type the email address there. All of the other settings in that section are fine.

In the “Perform the following actions:” section, change the “Move Message” pulldown menu to “Set Color” which will change the options to the right. For a subtler look, the foreground text color may be changed instead of the background color by changing “of background” to “of text.” Change the color of the background for the matching emails in the next pulldown to one of the seven presets or select Other… to tweak to your heart’s content.

If you are happy with the settings, click OK to commit them and, in the next popup window, optionally click Yes to have mail apply the new rule to existing mail. As a nice touch, Mail will show the background color used in the list of rules. However, there are some additional things you can do.

To color all emails from a specific domain, you can change the matching section in the middle. In the example above, the default “Contains” option has been changed to “Ends with” and only @tech-recipes.com was placed in the text field. This will cause all emails ending with that domain to be colored.

If you want several different email addresses to all have the same color, you could setup several rules, but a more elegant solution is to click the plus button next to the email address text field which will add a new line below. You can add as many new matching lines as you want and configure each with a different email address.

If you tire of one of your coloring rules or want to get rid of the blue Apple emails, click to select the rule in the rules list and click the Remove button and confirm your action with another OK click.

Quinn McHenry
Quinn McHenry
Quinn was one of the original co-founders of Tech-Recipes. He is currently crafting iOS applications as a senior developer at Small Planet Digital in Brooklyn, New York.


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