How to send safer, easier, more-efficient e-mail

Sending an e-mail has become one of the primal functions on the Internet, but the power of e-mail clients like Apple's Mail application go largely unused. Get to know Mail a little better with these tips, tricks, and hints.


Sending an e-mail has become one of the primal functions on the Internet, but the power of e-mail clients like Apple's Mail application go largely unused. Get to know Mail a little better with these tips, tricks, and hints.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone with a computer who does not send e-mail (at least occasionally). It's a cultural staple, and to some, absolutely essential for communication. But, even with the prolific use of e-mail, some basic etiquette is rarely followed. If you're like me, you already know I'm talking about group e-mails.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you have probably experienced it. The problem occurs when you receive an e-mail addressed to several people (usually part of a group or mailing list), but everyone's name and e-mail address appear in the To: field in the message's header. Most people do not consider this much of an issue, but online security is (and will continue to be) one of the most important subjects in technology as computers continue to infiltrate our societal makeup.

Consider the millions of dollars being spent (and being made) on e-mail spam operations. Your address is valuable information, especially when your name is attached to it. And besides that, it's a matter of etiquette. But don't worry, there are some easy ways to send group e-mails without distributing everyone's name and e-mail to all of your group members.

Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

Bcc: and Address Book
The easiest way to keep everyone from seeing all the recipients of a particular message is to place all recipients in the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) field of your message. In many e-mail clients, including Mail, this field is not shown by default. To show the field in Mail, click View from the Mail menu bar and click on Bcc Address Field. A check mark will appear next to the menu item and the field will appear in your New Message window.

Simply drag all recipients of the message to the Bcc: field and send your message as usual. You can also use Apple's Address Book application to create a Group (or Smart Group) for sets of contacts that you e-mail often. By creating a Group, the To: field will only show the group's name and not each individual e-mail address.

Reply To:
While working at the Apple Store, a frequent complaint I encountered was people's e-mail addresses being spammed too much. Each time you sign up for an account at a Web site, add your e-mail address to online order forms, or join mailing lists, you run the risk of generating more spam to your account. Changing e-mail addresses is becoming more prevalent, as keeping your in-box spam-free is becoming more difficult. But, that doesn't make it any less annoying.

Luckily, Mail has a way to make it a little easier. After you create an "I'm changing my e-mail address" group on Facebook, you can send out an e-mail to all your contacts that should help them replace your old e-mail address with your new one. To do so, take note of the Reply To: field in your New Message window. If you do not see it, click on View in the Mail menu bar and click on Reply-To Address Field to activate it.

Create Groups in Address Book to avoid including everyone's name and e-mail address in your message header. Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

Now you can send an e-mail to all your contacts (or at least the ones you want to have your new address) informing them of the change. Put your new address in the Reply To: field and be sure to explain in the message body that you are no longer checking the old mail account because of spam. You'll want to be sure to make an Address Book Group for all the contacts you wish to update, or drag each contact individually to the Bcc: field (see above).

Other tips
There are plenty of other nuances to Mail that make it a very powerful application for sending messages. Changing view options like fonts, text sizes, and threading colors is an easy way to help make your workflow more productive. Change Fonts & Colors in Preferences (Mail > Preferences > Fonts & Colors) or (Command + ,).

Mail provides plenty of customization options to make your workflow work. Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

Setting up Rules in Mail can greatly increase efficiency in reading, sorting, and replying to messages you receive. Mail Rules are highly customizable actions that can be applied to messages as they are received, sending them to specific folders, automatically replying with a particular message, marking them as important, or bouncing your dock icon and playing a sound. Add Rules in Preferences (Mail > Preferences > Rules) or (Command + ,).

Rules can streamline your in-box and make your e-mail life easier. Screenshot by Joe Aimonetti

These are just some of the basic functions that Mail provides to make e-mail a little easier, safer, and more efficient. Combining Mail with other Apple applications like Address Book or third-party programs expands its functionality even further.

What are your favorite Mail tips, tricks, hints, or functions? Let us know in the comments!

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