Mac Software

How can I make sure I don’t miss a vital email in Apple Mail?

Apple Mail
Get on it! Make sure you don't miss an important message

If there are certain emails that you really can’t afford to miss – messages from the boss, an important client or your partner, for example – you’ll be keen to make sure they don’t get buried in the avalanche of emails that arrive in your inbox. If you’re using Apple Mail on a Mac, there are a couple of neat tricks you can deploy to make sure those vital messages don’t go unnoticed.

Make important senders a VIPs in Apple Mail

The first thing you can do is assign certain senders as VIPs. Apple lets you put up to 100 senders in this category, although if you’re assigning that status to more than a handful of people, you’re rather missing the point.

Messages from VIPs are more clearly flagged in your Apple Mail inbox. A little gold star appears against their name in the Mailboxes view, and if you look down the list of Favourites on the left-hand side, you’ll see VIPs listed separately. This means you can see how many unread messages you have waiting from these important folk. If you click on that VIPs label, the messages are broken down by sender, allowing you to quickly access unread and past messages from those people individually.

To assign someone as a VIP, open a message from them, right-click on their name at the top of the message window and select Add to VIPs, as shown below:

It’s worth noting that anyone you make a VIP on Mac will be afforded the same status in Mail on your iPhone/iPad.

Make them stand out even more

The VIP list is great, but it doesn’t exactly scream out loud. It’s possible you’d still miss a message from a very important person.

It’s time to bring rules into play. Open Mail, click Mail in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then Preferences and select the Rules tab. You will notice that Apple has cheekily set up a default rule that highlights messages sent from various Apple addresses by changing the background colour of the message to blue. That makes those messages stand out in the inbox.

You can apply a similar rule to important senders. Here, for example, I’m creating a rule that changes the background colour of messages from my co-editor Tim to red, and bounces the Mail icon in the Dock every time I get a new message from him, just to make doubly sure I don’t miss a Tim missive.

To create a rule, you click the Add Rule button and then fill out the fields as below, obviously replacing Tim’s (masked out) email address with that of your chosen sender.

When a message from Tim arrives in my inbox now, not only does that Mail icon jiggle around like James Brown, but the message looks like this:

Tim is, for arguably the first time in his life, unmissable.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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