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This chapter is from the book

Using Mail

The first thing that many of us do when we have an Internet connection is check our email. Email is now a way to exchange rich media—such as photos, files, and movies—in addition to a way to exchange written messages. The email application, Mail (found in the Applications folder by clicking the Mail icon), is provided with your MacBook. With Mail, you can connect to a variety of different mail servers, including Microsoft Exchange, with only a few clicks of your mouse.

Things You Need Before Setting up an Email Connection

As with the networking information in the last chapter, configuring your email account isn’t a matter of guessing. Apple’s Mail application can automatically set up several popular email services (such as Google and Yahoo), but if you’re connecting to a corporate email server, you should collect as much information as possible from your email system administrator or ISP before proceeding. This includes your email address, password, email server, email server type (POP, IMAP, or Exchange), and SMTP server:

  • Incoming Mail Server—The server that you connect to when retrieving your email.
  • Incoming Mail Server Type—The type of server that you’re connecting to. Apple’s Mail application supports Exchange, IMAP, and POP servers.
  • Outgoing (SMTP) Server—The server that sends your messages.
  • Authentication—Typically, a user name and password required to retrieve or send messages.

Adding an Email Account (Simple)

If you have an email account that Mountain Lion recognizes, configuration couldn’t be easier—you just need your email address, name, and password to make a connection. Mountain Lion attempts to identify and configure your account. If for some reason it fails, you can continue with an advanced manual configuration (see the next task).

Note that if you’ve already activated iCloud email, your account is already set up. You don’t need to do anything else.

  1. Open the Mail, Contacts & Calendars System Preferences panel.
  2. Choose an email service that you want to configure by clicking its name on the right.
  3. The Add Account window displays. Type your name (as you want it to appear in outgoing messages), email address, and password for the account.
  4. Click Set Up.
  5. Mountain Lion attempts to automatically configure your account. If additional features are determined to be available from the email provider, they are listed in the window. Choose which services you want to use by checking/unchecking the checkboxes.
  6. Click Add Account to finish adding the account.
  7. If it’s successful, the newly configured email account appears in the account list. If the setup fails, cancel setup and skip ahead to the next section, “Adding an Email Account (Advanced).”
  8. Clicking the account name in the list displays the account details on the right.
  9. You can click Details to edit the basic account settings if, for example, you want to change your display name or the name of your account.
  10. You can now close System Preferences and begin using your account in Mail.

Adding an Email Account (Advanced)

Email accounts that aren’t immediately recognized by Mountain Lion require more information to be entered before they can be used. This is the case for some ISP email accounts, corporate, and educational systems. Be sure you have all the information listed previously under “Things You Need Before Setting Up an Email Connection.”

  1. Open the Mail application from the Dock or Applications folder.
  2. Choose Preferences from the Mail menu.
  3. Click the Accounts button within the Mail preferences window.
  4. Click + to add a new account.
  5. Provide the basic account information when prompted and click Continue.
  6. When Mail cannot automatically configure the account, it displays a new dialog to collect information about your incoming mail server.
  7. Enter the account information provided by your system administrator or ISP (the incoming mail server, username, and password). Use the description field to name the account with something meaningful that helps you differentiate it from other accounts.
  8. If you are setting up an Exchange account, click the Contacts and Calendars checkboxes if you would like your MacBook to have access to your Exchange-based address book and calendars directly within Contacts and Calendars (discussed in Chapter 6, “Keeping Contacts, Appointments, Reminders, and Notes”).
  9. Click Continue. Mail automatically tests the information you’ve provided. If a failure occurs, recheck your information. After it is correct, click Continue again.
  10. Mail displays the security settings for your incoming mail server. Typically, you are prompted for whether or not to use Secure Sockets Layer. If it’s available, this option is recommended.
  11. Use the Authentication drop-down menu to choose how you authenticate with the server. Typically you choose Password (some complex configurations might use more advanced authentication methods).
  12. Click Continue.
  13. Mail displays the outgoing mail server settings, known as the SMTP server settings. You should enter the information provided by your system administrator or ISP, or choose an existing outgoing server from the Outgoing Mail server drop-down menu. Again, use the description field to provide a meaningful name for the mail server.
  14. If your outgoing mail server requires authentication (many do!), click the Use Authentication checkbox and then provide a user name and password.
  15. Click Continue.
  16. Now you are prompted for whether or not to use Secure Sockets Layer for outgoing mail, as well as the authentication type. (Again, you would typically choose Password here.)
  17. Click Continue to review your final settings. If an error occurs, check your settings, or click Continue to proceed with the settings you provided.
  18. Make sure the Take Account Online checkbox is selected so that you can begin using your account.
  19. Click Create to finish setting up the account.

Finding Your Way Around Mail

After your email account is configured, Mail connects and retrieves your messages. The Mail application workspace is split into three columns, from left to right: mailboxes, a message list, and message content.

On the left, the mailbox list shows different mailboxes (or folders) for categorizing your messages. In Mountain Lion, Apple has decided to conserve as much space as possible by hiding the mailboxes by default. They’ve also given us a quick hide/show mailboxes button to show the mailbox column and links to the important mailboxes (Inbox, Sent, and so on) directly below the toolbar.

When a mailbox is clicked, the message list refreshes to show all of the email within the mailbox, including a several-line preview of the contents. Any message that you click in the Message list is displayed in the message content area on the right.

Now that you know the basics of finding your way around Mail, let’s take a look at the common tasks you should familiarize yourself with.

Reading Email

Reading messages is typically a matter of finding a message in the message list, clicking it, and reading. Even so, you can improve the experience by taking advantage of several tools built into Mail.

Sorting Mail

You’re certainly used to sorting information by clicking column headings, right? In Mountain Lion’s Mail application, however, the message list doesn’t have columns, so you’ll need to follow this approach:

  1. Use the Sort By drop-down menu above the message list to choose a message attribute to use as your sorting criteria.
  2. Use the same menu to choose Ascending or Descending to set the order of your sorting preferences.

Previewing Attachments

In Chapter 1, “Managing Your MacBook Desktop,” you learned about the Quick Look system for previewing files in the Finder. In Mail, if your message contains an attachment, you can also use the Quick Look system.

  1. Choose a message with an attachment—represented by a paperclip in the message list.
  2. Click the Details link at the top of the message content to show buttons for saving and viewing Attachments.
  3. Click the Quick Look button at the top of the message content area.
  4. A Quick Look window appears, displaying the selected content.

Saving Attachments

You can easily save one or more attachments to your MacBook’s hard drive, and even add images to iPhoto, directly from Mail.

  1. Choose a message with an attachment—represented by a paper-clip in the message list, then click the Details link at the top of the message content as described in the previous task.
  2. Click the Save button at the top of the message content area.
  3. A menu appears, enabling you to Save All, choose an individual file to save, or, if applicable, add the file to iPhoto.

Viewing Web Pages within an Email

Have you ever gotten a link to a web-page in email and wanted to view it without having to launch Safari? In Mountain Lion, you can. To preview a web link directly in Mail, follow these steps:

  1. Position your cursor over the link within the message content, but do not click!
  2. A small downward-pointing arrow appears to the right of the link. Click it.
  3. A popover window appears displaying the web page.
  4. Click Open with Safari to open the full page in your web browser, or Add to Reading List to save the page to your Safari reading list.

Organizing with Email Conversations

Email conversations can grow quite lengthy with back-and-forth replies. To help keep long conversations under control, Mountain Lion’s Mail, by default, collapses your conversations into a single entry in your message list. You can expand the entry to show the individual messages whenever you need to see one.

  1. Conversations are denoted by a number within an entry in the message list.
  2. Click the message list entry to show all the messages in the conversation within the content area.
  3. Messages are numbered at the top to show the order in which they were received.
  4. To focus on a single message, click the arrow beside the number in the message list to show a list of individual senders and dates.
  5. Click the individual name/date to show only that message.

Managing Spam Filtering

Mail can learn (with some help) which messages in your inbox are spam and then filter similar messages so you don’t have to see them. To manage your spam filtering, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Mail, Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Click the Junk Mail toolbar icon.
  3. Click Enable Junk Mail Filtering to turn on spam filtering. You can disable it by unchecking this box at any time.
  4. Choose where Mail should file spam messages. Moving messages to the Junk mailbox is a good choice.
  5. To help prevent getting false positives, use the spam exemptions to identify types of messages that you don’t consider to be spam.
  6. If your ISP offers spam filtering (and you trust it), make sure the Trust Junk Mail Headers in Messages option is set.
  7. Close the Mail Preferences.

Changing How Often Mail Is Retrieved

You can force Mail to retrieve messages using the Get Mail toolbar button, but to change the frequency with which it forces a check you need to access the preferences.

  1. Choose Mail, Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Click the General icon in the Preferences Toolbar.
  3. Use the Check for New Messages pop-up menu to set how frequently Mail looks for new messages.

Composing Email

Email today is a bit more than just typing a message—it can include sending photos, files, or even professionally designed invitations and announcements. Mountain Lion’s Mail on your MacBook enables you to do all of these things.

Let’s take a look at what you can do beyond simple text.

Sending Messages with Attachments

Mail can attach virtually any type of file to your messages with ease. Follow these steps to add Windows-compatible attachments to a mail message.

  1. Start a new message by clicking the new message icon (pencil and paper) in the Mail toolbar.
  2. Click the Attach icon (paperclip) in the New Message window.
  3. Choose the files or folders to send from the file chooser dialog. Select multiples by holding down the Command key and clicking.
  4. Check the Send Windows-Friendly Attachments checkbox to ensure that anyone (regardless of their platform choice) can open the attachments.
  5. Click Choose File to add the attachments.
  6. Compose the message as normal and then click the send icon (paper airplane).

Using Stationery Templates

If you’d like to send an invitation or a fancy greeting, you can make use of prebuilt templates, called “Stationery,” that come with Mountain Lion’s Mail application. Stationery is available whenever you’re composing a message:

  1. Start a new message by clicking the new message icon (pencil and paper) in the Mail toolbar.
  2. Click the Show Stationery icon (paper with dots) in the New Message toolbar.
  3. Choose a category of templates on the left side of the Stationery bar.
  4. Click the thumbnail of the template you want to apply.
  5. Click to edit the text within the template.
  6. If the template contains images, replace them by dragging photo files from the Finder onto the template image or use the Photo Browser button to locate an image and drag it in.
  7. Click the send icon (paper airplane) when you are finished with the message.

Creating Signatures

When you send a lot of email, you probably get a bit tired of typing the same thing at the end of each message—your name, email, and other contact information. To add this information automatically to the end of each message you write, create a signature.

  1. Choose Mail, Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Click the Signatures icon in the preferences toolbar.
  3. Choose an account that the signature should be used with, or choose All Signatures to not associate the signature with a specific account.
  4. Click + to add a new signature.
  5. Type a name for the signature.
  6. Enter the text for the signature in the space to the right.
  7. Click Always Match My Default Message Font so that the signature always matches the font you’re using.
  8. If you’re adding the signature to an account, use the Choose Signature pop-up menu to choose which signature is automatically added when you write a message. You can also manually choose a signature using the Choose Signature pop-up menu in the message composition window.
  9. Click Place Signature Above Quoted Text to have Mail position your signature above earlier (quoted) text when replying to messages.
  10. Close the Mail Preferences window.

Managing Your Email

Email can be overwhelming, especially if you have several different accounts and dozens of incoming messages each day. To help you cope with the incoming mail, you can create mailboxes in which to file or copy messages. You can also set up smart mailboxes that automatically display messages that match certain criteria.

Creating Mailboxes

To create a new mailbox, follow these steps:

  1. Click the + button at the bottom of the Mailbox list.
  2. Choose New Mailbox.
  3. Using the Location pop-up menu, choose where the mailbox should be stored. You see all of your existing Mailboxes in the menu, as well as On My Mac. Choosing an existing location creates the new mailbox inside of that location.
  4. Enter a name for the new mailbox.
  5. Click OK.
  6. The new mailbox is created and displayed in the Mailbox list.

Deleting and Renaming Mailboxes

If you find yourself with extra mailboxes or mailboxes that are no longer serving their original purposes, you can delete or rename them.

  1. Select the mailbox you want to change in your mailbox list.
  2. Click the Action icon (the gear) at the bottom of the mailbox list.
  3. Choose Delete Mailbox or Rename Mailbox as needed. Any messages stored in a mailbox being deleted are also deleted.

Filing Messages in Mailboxes

Mailboxes are only useful if you file your messages in them. You can either copy or move messages one at a time or en masse to a mailbox. This can be done either manually, as described here, or automatically using Smart Mailboxes or Email Rules, discussed in the tasks following this one.

  1. Select a message by clicking it in the message list. You can select a contiguous range of messages by holding down Shift and clicking another message, or select several scattered messages by holding down the Command key and clicking multiple messages.
  2. Move the messages to a mailbox by dragging them onto the desired mailbox. To copy—rather than move—the messages, hold down the Option key while you’re dragging the messages. The messages are moved (or copied) to the other mailbox.

Automatic Email Organization with Smart Mailboxes

Much as Smart Folders in the Finder can help you keep track of files that share certain attributes, Smart Mailboxes can do the same for your email. Using information such as the sender, recipient, and even attachment names, you can group messages together in a Smart Mailbox, regardless of what mailbox, or even what email account, they’re associated with. Apple includes one Smart Mailbox by default—“Today”—showing all the messages you’ve received today.

  1. To create a new Smart Mailbox, click the + button at the bottom of the Mailbox list and choose New Smart Mailbox.
  2. Type a name for the mailbox.
  3. Choose whether the mailbox should match any or all conditions.
  4. Configure your search criteria. Use the first pop-up menu to choose a message attribute (such as Subject), the second to choose a comparison, and the field (where applicable) to provide the value that you are comparing against.
  5. Use the + and – buttons to add or remove additional criteria.
  6. To include messages from the Trash mailbox or Sent mailbox, click the appropriate Include Messages checkboxes.
  7. Click OK when you’re finished configuring the Smart Mailbox.
  8. The new mailbox is created and displayed in the SMART MAILBOXES section within the Mailbox list.

Keeping Track of Your Very Important People with VIP Mailboxes

New to Mountain Lion is a feature that makes it very simple to track and view all messages from a specific person—the VIP Mailbox. VIP Mailboxes are like smart folders, but with a very targeted purpose—showing you all messages from an individual person. To create a VIP mailbox, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a message from a sender you want to designate as a VIP.
  2. Position your mouse beside the sender’s name in the content window and click the star that appears.
  3. The sender is added to a new VIP mailbox.
  4. Clicking the VIP mailbox shows all messages from the sender.
  5. Click the star in the content view again, or select the new VIP mailbox and choose Remove from VIPs from the Action pop-up menu (gear) to remove VIP status (and the corresponding VIP mailbox).

Searching for Messages

Mail makes it easy to quickly search all of your email for particular content, and to turn that search into a Smart Mailbox for future reference. To search your mail, follow these steps:

  1. Type the text you are looking for into the search field in the upper-right corner.
  2. Using the links below the toolbar, click the mailbox where the search should be performed.
  3. Potential search options appear in a drop-down list for matched people, mailboxes, subjects, and message content. Choose what best matches what you want to find.
  4. The results appear in the message list.
  5. Click Save to save the search as a Smart Mailbox. (See steps 2-8 of the “Automatic Email Organization with Smart Mailboxes” task.)
  6. Alternatively, click the X button in the search field to clear the search results.

Writing Email Rules

If you’d prefer to have messages filed to actual mailboxes rather than Smart Mailboxes, you can write email rules. Email rules can file messages, highlight messages in the message list, and even forward them to another account. To write a rule, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Mail, Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Click the Rules icon in the Preferences toolbar.
  3. Click Add Rule.
  4. Enter a description for the rule so that you can identify it later.
  5. Use the Any from the pop-up menu to choose where any or all rules must evaluate as “true” in order for the rule’s actions to be carried out.
  6. Configure the conditions under which the rule executes. The first pop-up menu chooses what is evaluated, the second the comparison to be made, and the third field is the value that should be used in the comparison.
  7. Use + or – to add or remove additional conditions.
  8. Configure the actions that are performed when the conditions are met.
  9. Use + or – to add or remove actions.
  10. Click OK to save the rule.
  11. Close the Mail Preferences.
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