Mail might not be perfect email client, but it's the one most of us use. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make it work better. Here are five of my favorite tricks for making Mail more efficient.
Swap the Find shortcuts
Mail lets you search two ways: through your list of messages ("Where's that note from my lawyer?") and inside the the current message ("Did he say nolo contendere'?"). While there are keyboard shortcuts for both searches, the easy (and standard) Command-F combo is assigned to the less-common search inside the currently selected message, while Command-Option-F is used for the more common search through the message list. Fortunately, you can swap them easily.
To do so, choose Apple > System Preferences, open the Keyboard pane, and click the Shortcuts tab. In the list on the left, click App Shortcuts, and then click the Add (+) button beneath the list on the right.
In the dialog sheet, select Mail from the Application pop-up menu. In the Menu Title field, type Mailbox Search, which is the name of the command in Mail's Edit > Find submenu. Click in the Keyboard Shortcut field, press Command-F, and click Add.
Repeat the procedure for the in-message search shortcut, typing Find... in the Menu Title field and Command-Option-F as the shortcut. (You can type three periods or press Option-semicolon for the ellipsis.)
Back in Mail, these shortcuts will now appear in the Edit > Find submenu.
Customize the Favorites bar
Mail is such a workhorse (or perhaps we are) that many of us just plod ahead with the default setup, never noticing some of the app's customization options. The Favorites bar — the area just beneath the toolbar in the Viewer window — is one of those customizable features. Use its Hide button to close the Mailbox sidebar altogether, and then customize the rest of it to give you access to your most-used sidebar items.
To do so, drag anything from the Mailbox sidebar — a section heading, such as Mailboxes or On My Mac; any mailbox-like category under a heading, such as Flagged or Sent; or a single item such as the red flag or an account in the Sent sub-list — up to the Favorites bar.
If the item you dragged has sub-items in the sidebar, it becomes both a button and a drop-down menu in Favorites bar. Click the button to display all the sub-items in the Message list, or click and hold it for a menu that lets you filter the list. So, for example, if you put Flagged in the bar, clicking it displays all your flagged messages, while selecting Orange from its menu shows only those flagged Orange. If you drag a non-hierarchical item (such as the Orange flag) to the Favorites bar, it behaves as a button only.
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