Quick fixes for 10 of the top annoyances in Mail

The Mail app built into OS X is the bedrock for many people’s Internet messaging experience but it can be less than sensible sometimes. Here’s how to fix the top 10 annoyances.

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  • 1 Fix Mail slowdowns
  • 2 Diagnose connection issues
  • 3 Set up accounts manually
  • 4 Find invisible unread messages
  • 5 Forward only an attachment
  • 6 Send Windows-friendly attachments
  • 7 Search only the current email
  • 8 Create complex email signatures
  • 9 Make VIP only show inbox mails
  • 10 Colour-code emails
  • More stories
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Fix Mail slowdowns

Mail may get slower and slower the more you use it. There are two automated actions to undertake that might fix things. One is to rebuild the mailbox database, and this is as simple as clicking Mailbox > Rebuild. You can see the progress by clicking Window > Activity. You can still use Mail as usual while it completes.

The second trick is to make the mail database smaller by stripping out all attachments from messages. Simply select one message, tap Cmd+A to highlight all messages, then click Message > Remove Attachments.

If you’re worried about losing vital files that that are attached to mails, you can save them out en masse beforehand by highlighting all messages as described above and clicking File > Save Attachments.

See also: OS X Mavericks review

[We have more Mac Mail fixes, and solutions to problems with Mavericks Mail here]

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Mail may get slower and slower the more you use it. There are two automated actions to undertake that might fix things. One is to rebuild the mailbox database, and this is as simple as clicking Mailbox > Rebuild. You can see the progress by clicking Window > Activity. You can still use Mail as usual while it completes.

The second trick is to make the mail database smaller by stripping out all attachments from messages. Simply select one message, tap Cmd+A to highlight all messages, then click Message > Remove Attachments.

If you’re worried about losing vital files that that are attached to mails, you can save them out en masse beforehand by highlighting all messages as described above and clicking File > Save Attachments.

See also: OS X Mavericks review

[We have more Mac Mail fixes, and solutions to problems with Mavericks Mail here]

 

Diagnose connection issues

If that mail won’t send, or you suddenly can’t receive messages, you can view the activity monitor to see exactly what Mail’s getting up to. To do so, click Window > Activity.

You can also use Mail’s built-in connection doctor, which will probe your mail connections to diagnose issues. Just click Window > Connection Doctor.

Hint: If you sending fails for emails containing attachments over 20MB and you’re using iCloud/me.com email, then it’s because Apple doesn’t allow attachments that big. To get around this you might use the CargoLifter extension.

 

Set up accounts manually

When you’re setting up a new account using the Other Mail Account option, Mail will attempt to guess your account details and make you wait while doing so. Often its guess is wrong. To avoid this wait-and-guess routine, hold down the Alt (Option) key. This will turn the Create button into a Next button that, when clicked, will show the old-fashioned setup fields wherein you can input IMAP or POP server details manually.

 

Find invisible unread messages

Every had your inbox claim that one or more messages are unread, but you just can’t find them anywhere in the mailbox listing?

Click Mailbox > New Smart Mailbox and in the dialog box that appears change the Any Recipient dropdown list to read Message is Unread. Then click OK.

Now and in future if you want to track down a seemingly invisible unread message, click View > Show Mailbox List, and then click Smart Mailbox. This will show all and any unread messages. Once you’ve finished, click the Inbox entry under the Mailboxes heading, and click View > Hide Mailbox List.

 

Forward only an attachment

If you want to forward a file attached to an email without the text of the message, just click the attachment once so it’s selected, then click the usual forward button on the toolbar (or tap Shift+Cmd+F).

 

Send Windows-friendly attachments

Microsoft Windows users may have problems accessing files you send by email. To avoid potential issues, click Edit > Attachments > Always Send Window-Friendly Attachments, and also the Always Insert Attachments At End of Message option.

The best solution is to place any files you send, but even this can be problematic although using Folder Washer to zip the files/folders will strip-out troublesome “dot files” that can confuse Windows users.

Alternatively, for $14.99 you can install AttachmentTamer, which is a Mail add-in that fixes several features that cause problems. However, at the time of writing (April 2014) it’s not yet fully working with Mavericks.

 

Search only the current email

The Mail app extends the Spotlight search feature to email, via a search field at the top right of the Mail window, but it has a drawback: It searches your entire inbox. What if you simply want to search for something in the currently selected email? Just tap Cmd+F, and a search field will appear above the message where you can enter the search word or phrase. If you prefer menu clicking, click Edit > Find > Find.

 

Create complex email signatures

You can create email signatures that are automatically applied to new emails (and replies) by clicking Mail > Preferences, then selecting the Signatures option. Click the plus icon, then type your signature into the field at the right. However, at first glance it might appear you can’t format text. In fact, you can. Open the font palette by tapping Cmd+T and make your choices there. Similarly, to change the colour of text, open the colours palette by tapping Shift+Cmd+C. Note that you’ll need to highlight the text then select a colour to change it.

To insert a hyperlink, select the text you want to form the link, then tap Cmd+K. A dialog box will appear asking for the link URL.

To add an image, just drag and drop it in from a Finder window, although beware that you won’t be able to resize it, so ensure it’s the correct size first.

 

Make VIP only show inbox mails

The VIP feature lets you select certain individuals to receive special treatment in their very own inbox.

Unfortunately, VIP mailboxes show every mail from that person. If you delete one of their mails, for example, it’ll still be shown in the list! To change this behaviour, select their mailbox in the VIP list, then click View > Sort By > Inbox Only.

 

Colour-code emails

Mail offers numerous ways to help identify messages, including adding flags of various colours – just right-click a message (or Ctrl+left click) and select one of the flags.  However, flag icons can be hard to spot and it turns out there’s a better yet hidden way of color-coding messages within the list. Tap Shift+Cmd+C and the colour picker will appear and whichever colour you choose will be applied to the message in the list (you’ll need to click another message to see the effect).

If the colour picker appears entirely black, just drag the right-hand vertical slider to the top.

[Had enough of Mail? Try these Apple Mail alternatives, available in the Mac App Store]

Read more tips for Apple's OS X Mavericks Mail here.

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