General discussion

Highlighting incoming messages in Mac Mail

Is there anyway to highlight an already read and saved message in Mac Mail?

To clarify, when I open Mail I have a window that shows all my incoming messages, both unread and read. Sometimes after I read a message I want to be able to go back and quickly find it. This could be several days later and in the meantime I have 50 more saved messages and trying to find it is difficult.

Is there some way to highlight it in color or flag it so I can easily go back and find it?

I am running 10.5.8 although I doubt that has any bearing on anything.

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Don't think so

Don't think so. I don't use, but you are probably overthinking this a bit. Pretty sure Spotlight will index email messages in and so you could search for it that way.

Otherwise, I know that Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 has a sort of "Googlefied" system where you can search for messages quite quickly. Thunderbird also has a method for "starring" messages to let you find them even faster. Might want to consider making the switch if Spotlight doesn't index's mailboxes.

Alternately, you could make a new email folder, and place copies of important messages in there. It doesn't really solve the underlying problem, because too many important messages and you're right back where you started. But so long as you keep the number of important messages to a minimum, it could work.

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Is this what you want?

Highlight the message that you want to find again.
Right Click it and select Mark, & As Flagged from the drop down menu.
This will Flag the message.
Unflagging, which always looks good on a resum

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Thanks....that's it exactly!!!!


That is exactly what I wanted. Thanks......this has been bugging me for several years.

In response to the other person who responded, I can search in Mac Mail but was looking for something quicker.

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re: Mark Mail messages with flag

If that is a suitable solution then I have two more suggestions:

1. Add the flag icon to your Mail toolbar. Much easier than all that right click stuff. While you are doing that, add other icons you use frequently. Customise to suit your workflow needs.

2. Create a new Smart Mailbox and name it 'Flagged Items' or 'For Action'. Set the conditions to mail items that are flagged. Then when you want to tackle flagged items you just need to go to that mailbox and tackle them in chronological order. This is especially useful if you sort your incoming mail into mailboxes because all your mail items requiring action will be in one spot but still filed in their correct mailboxes.


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Response to Centurion

Both good ideas. Thanks.

I should have set up separate mail boxes for storing saved emails a long time ago.

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Gee, that certainly sounds like what I already suggested, and then warned wouldn't really solve the problem, it would just move it to a new location. If you have a bunch of saved messages, and they're all highlighted, then the highlighting becomes completely useless because every message will be highlighted.

The better system is as Google put it with the introduction of Gmail: Search, don't sort. You really might want to take a look at Mozilla Thunderbird. It does more than just let you do a simple search, it lets you really drill down into the results. If you know that the message was sent by someone named "Bob" but you don't remember their full name, you can search for all messages with "Bob" in it. And then maybe you remember that they have a yahoo email address, so you can narrow the search to messages containing "Bob" and coming from a yahoo address. And you can eliminate messages you may have sent to Bob, and show only those Bob has sent you.

The search abilities added to Thunderbird 3.0 have got to be the first real innovation in email clients in over a decade. It might be worth taking a look. It's free, and you can always go back to

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For me flagging beats searching

The main reason I want to flag a very, very few incoming saved messages is because they would be more trouble to find using a search tool than just looking quickly through a few flagged messages. The whole reason I wanted to flag them is because I wouldn't be able to remember enough data to search.

Here's an example of one I just flagged. I signed up for traffic school with some outfit I found online. They sent me an email outlining all the specifics of using their site. I don't plan to start the course for a couple of weeks or so. I don't know the name of the person who sent it, I won't recall the subject line of the email, and as of right now I can't even tell you the name of the traffic school. So if I wait two weeks to go back to find that email, I could easily have over a hundred emails to search through. I flagged it and it will probably be the only flagged email in the past couple of hundred incomings so it will be extremely easy to find.

I am familiar with various ways to search but they all require that you have some starting point to look for.

And another reason I want to be able to flag certain emails is as a reminder. I get an email that requires some action on my part but I don't want to do it right then. I want to be able to quickly come back to that email and take whatever action is needed. A couple of days later I have completely forgotten about it but if I do a quick scan of incomings and spot a flagged one, then it acts as a reminder that I need to do whatever it was that the email required.

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re: Organising mail for later action


What I suggested is NOT what you suggested. A new email folder is not the same as a Smart Mailbox. The Smart Mailbox does not hold copies or originals of email, only aliases (or pointers) to the email where it is filed. I am a huge fan of sorting inwards email into email folders (mailboxes) for the main subject categories to the extent that each Inbox contains only unusual items. But some of my inwards mail needs to be actioned later. I flag it to remind me. Instead of going through every mailbox trying to see which emails need action I have one Smart Mailbox that lists all flagged items. Once I have actioned it I simply Unflag the email and it is no longer listed in the Smart Mailbox but the original email remains where it was originally filed. My Smart Mailbox is simply a list of emails awaiting action. I can tell at an instant how many emails I have that require action. If an email must be actioned by a certain date/time then I create an iCal event using a script and set an alarm. is also fully searchable if that is how you operate. I get too many emails to be able to search by snatches of relevant fields but if that works then go down that route.
I apologise if that is a laborious explanation but many users will never use many of the tools in their mail client because they do not understand how to use them. I use Apple's Mail and GMail and am sure that Thunderbird and Eudora have their fans. To each his own but make the application work for you whichever one you use.

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You're arguing semantics

You're arguing semantics. Making a link to a message instead of copying the message itself. It's the same idea, just a slightly different implementation. And then what happens if someone never gets around to removing the highlight from a message? I'm one of countless people who are lazy like that. I have probably a couple dozen people on my IM contact list whom I don't even remember anymore, never seem to get around to removing them.

Both of our implementations of the idea have the same basic flaw. They rely on the user to clean up after themselves. Maybe you're one of those people who's meticulous about that sort of thing, but for every one like you, there's at least one like me.

I'm sure in time, Apple will implement something similar to Thunderbird's search system. Apple pioneered the idea of desktop searching more than anyone else when they launched 10.4. I need to get myself into the habit of using it more, because Spotlight is really one of those oft overlooked gems of OS X, like Expose. But Spotlight is kind of a pale imitation of Thunderbird 3.0's search.

All I'm suggesting is that the person give Thunderbird a try. It may prove to be an even better solution than what they wanted, and it may not. What harm is there in giving it an honest try for a few days? will still be there. I'm a bit of a lazy sod like the OP, and I know it's helped me considerably with similar situations. But I'm not selling shares of Amway here or preaching the One True Gospel(tm). Just suggesting a feature available in another app that helped me with a very similar sort of situation. I've managed to find messages where I only remember scattered and vague details, and it's always significantly faster than I can do the same with my work email using GroupWise.

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