There’s no avoiding email in the modern world but Macs make it easy

If you haven’t used OS X’s Mail app then starting it will show a wizard where you can input your account details. Consult your ISP to find out what these are.

However, if you have an iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL or a Microsoft Exchange account then this ISN’T necessary! Cancel the window, then open System Preferences, and then click Mail, Contacts & Calendars. Select your email service, then type your name, email address and password. You’ll be asked if you want to sync other services offered by the provider. Tick only those you want, then click the Add button (if you’re using iCloud simply close System Preferences).

OS X’s Mail app syncs your email messages rather than erasing them from the server. This means you can still access all your mail by logging into it from a web browser, for example, or via the Mail app on an iPhone or iPod. 

Everyday use

The Mail app program window consists of two halves. The left-hand side shows a list of messages, with the newest at the top and unread messages in bold. The right-hand side shows the currently selected message(s).  Messages are organised by conversation, which is to say any replies made to the original message appear underneath. Your own messages in the conversation appear with a light grey background.


To reply to or forward a message click the relevant icon on the toolbar.

Pro tip: To learn what each icon does, hold down Ctrl and click a spot next to left of the search field and then select Icon and Text.

Messages you’ve replied to or forwarded will have an arrow symbol to their left in the list. Clicking this will open the reply or forwarded email.

Messages coloured brown are those Mail app thinks are spam. If you’re happy with the filtering your email service provides you can turn off Mail’s spam filtering by opening preferences (Cmd+comma), clicking the Junk Mail icon, and removing the tick from Enable Junk Mail Filtering.     

Creating messages

To create a new message, click the New Message icon near the top left.

To add text formatting, click the A icon on the toolbar.

Pro tip: For even more control, open the Fonts palette (Cmd+T) and the Colors palette (Shift+Cmd+C). But remember that the recipient might not have the same fonts that your Mac has.

To add attachments just drag and drop them onto the new mail window from a Finder window or the desktop and they’ll be inserted at the cursor position. Be careful when attaching pictures to select the correct size setting from the Image Size dropdown list.

If you send emails to Windows users containing attachments it’s wise to click Edit > Attachments and ensure that both Always Send Windows-Friendly Attachments, and Always Insert Attachments at End of Message are ticked.

Pro Tip: If Windows-using recipients just can’t see attachments you send, try this strange trick – attach the other item(s), then create an empty folder in Finder and attach it at the very end of the message, after all text and other attachments. If you still run into issues, try zipping the attachments or install the Attachment Tamer add-on.