Mobile Apps

7 hidden tips for iOS Mail

Improve your iPhone email skills with these tips.

Become a better iPhone emailer by discovering some of the many things the stock iOS Mail app can do.

Archive vs. trash

Everyone could use a little help managing the steady stream of emails flooding their inbox. With Mail, you can swipe to archive or delete emails when viewing your inbox. And you can have both options available if you dig around in settings.

First, let's set the button for the left-swipe gesture. When viewing your entire inbox, you can swipe left on an email on the list to reveal three buttons, which by default are More, Flag and Archive. To change Archive to Trash, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Next, choose an email account, tap Account on the next screen and then tap Advanced. For Move Discarded Messages Into, tap Deleted Mailbox.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Swiping right on an email from the main list of your inbox reveals one button, which by default is Mark as Unread. You can change this button to either Archive or Trash. Head back to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars but instead of selecting an account, scroll down to Swipe Options. For the Swipe Right option, select Archive.

Now, swiping right will reveal the Archive button, but if you selected to Move Discarded Messages Into your Archive Mailbox, swiping right will reveal the Trash button with this setting.

Stash your drafts

Sometimes when drafting an email, you need to refer back to another email in your inbox. When you are composing an email, you can quickly return to your inbox by swiping down on the header of the compose window. It'll hang out at the bottom of the screen while you hunt through your inbox, and you can then tap the header at the bottom to return to your email draft.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You can keep multiple drafts in this manner; they stack up like open pages in Safari.

And if you want to see all of your drafts, simply tap and hold on the compose button in the lower-right corner.

Add attachments

With iOS 9, Mail lets you attach more than just photos and videos. When composing an email, tap in the body of the email to bring up the Select/Select All/Paste menu. Tap the right arrow twice to get to the Add Attachment option.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

When you tap Add Attachment, you'll be taken to an iCloud Drive page where you can tap to attach any document you have stashed in iCloud Drive. Tap Locations in the upper-left corner and you can browse Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud storage services that you use.

Mark up attachments

If you receive an email with a PDF or image attached, you can annotate or otherwise mark up the attachment without leaving Mail. To do so, open the attachment and tap anywhere on it. Tap the toolbox button in the lower-right corner. This will open a reply email and then open the attachment with edit tools to let you draw, magnify and add text to the file. With your notes added, tap Done and then send your reply with the annotated attachment.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Use Siri to search emails

Stop using Mail's search bar and start using Siri to find emails faster. Just ask Siri to "search" or "show" or "find" emails about a topic or from one of your contacts. I had better luck with Siri finding emails containing a certain word or phrase, however, than I did with Siri looking for a specific contact.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You can also use Siri to remind you to come back to an email draft to finish it later. When composing an email, just ask Siri to "remind me to finish this later" or at a specific time and she will add it to the Reminders app.

Embrace and use auto detection

For emails that contain a date and time for a meeting or some type of appointment, Mail displays a notification banner at the top that you can use to add an event to your calendar without leaving Mail. I found this feature to be hit or miss, however, where sometimes it recognized a date and other times did not.

VIP alerts

Never miss another email from your boss or significant other. Make them a Mail VIP and you'll get alerted when they email you. And their emails can be easily browsed in Mail's VIP folder.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To create a VIP contact, go to the Mailboxes view and tap the little blue "i" on the VIP folder line. (If you don't see the VIP folder, tap Edit in the upper-right corner and add it.) Next, tap Add VIP and then select a contact.

Tap VIP Alerts and you can also choose the alert style and sound you want to receive upon the arrival of a VIP email.

In related news, get 7 hidden tips for iOS Notes.