How to Filter Emails in Apple Mail

To prevent important emails from disappearing under a pile of junk, it’s useful to learn how to use the built-in Apple Mail filter. Alternatively, you can equip yourself with a third-party inbox cleaner like Clean Email, and we describe both approaches in this article.

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Apple Mail Spam Filter Can Save Your Inbox

Spam is a huge issue, affecting virtually all email users—not just those that use Apple Mail. It may sound almost unbelievable, but around 320 billion spam emails are sent every day, many of them delivering malware or phishing (a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data) for sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details.

Email filtering is one of the best ways to protect your inbox against spam, but what is email filtering really? Well, it’s the practice of automatically sorting out messages based on their content and sender information.

Sounds great! But how to filter emails in Apple Mail? It is pretty straightforward because the email client comes with built-in email filtering capabilities. What’s more, you can always take advantage of third-party email filtering solutions to make your life just a bit easier.

Filter Emails in Mail on Mac

The simplest use of email filters is to display only certain messages in Apple Mail, such as those that include attachments or those that came from VIP senders.

First, you need to turn on filters:

  1. Launch the Apple Mail app.
  2. Click the Filter button at the top of the message list.
  3. Choose Enable Message Filter from the menu that appears.

Then, set your filter:

  1. Click the Filter button again.
  2. Choose a filter from the menu that appears.

To turn off email filters, simply click the Filter button and choose the Disable Message Filter option.

Turn on Junk Email Filter in Apple Mail

The email client features a fairly capable junk email filter whose purpose is to prevent spam from ending up in your inbox, where you are more likely to open it. The Apple Mail junk filter should be turned on by default, but if it is not working for some reason, then you need to do the following:

  1. Open the Mail menu and select Preferences.
  2. Navigate to the Junk Mail tab.
  3. Make sure the Enable junk mail filtering has a check mark next to it.

Now that the Apple Mail junk filter is turned on, you have several settings that you can play with to modify its behavior according to your preferences.

When a junk message arrives, you can mark it as junk and leave it in your inbox, move it to the Junk mailbox, or perform a custom action. If you decide to pick the last option, then click the Advanced button to configure the action (or a series of actions) you want to perform when a junk message arrives in your inbox.

Apple Mail also lets you exempt certain types of messages from junk mail filtering, including messages whose senders are in your contacts, messages whose senders are previous recipients of your messages, and messages that address you using your full name.

How to Use Rules to Manage Emails You Receive in Apple Mail on Mac

But what if you don’t want to filter just junk email messages? What if you also want to automatically filter legitimate emails from people you trust? In that situation, the Apple Mail spam filter won’t help you, but inbox rules can.

What are inbox rules? Basically, inbox rules are predefined actions that are automatically executed upon the arrival of a message that matches certain conditions. You can use inbox rules to move messages to specific folders, mark messages as read, or even run AppleScript to do all kinds of wild things.

Best of all, creating a new inbox rule is so simple that anyone can do it:

  1. Open the Mail menu and select Preferences.
  2. Navigate to the Rules tab.
  3. Click Add Rule.
  4. Give the new rule a descriptive name and specify the conditions that have to be met for the rule to trigger and the actions that will be executed.
  5. Click OK to confirm.

All inbox rules are displayed in the Rules tab, where you can delete, duplicate, and edit them.

How to Filter Emails in Apple Mail on iPhone

The iOS version of this email client includes a basic iPhone email filter that you can use to temporarily show only certain messages, such as messages with attachments or messages that you haven’t read yet. Here’s how to use the iPhone email filter:

  1. Launch the Mail app.
  2. Tap the filter button in the bottom-left corner.
  3. Select the Filtered by option.
  4. Pick your criteria.
  5. Tap the filter button again to hide emails that don’t match the current filters.

Third-Party Apps to Filter Emails in Apple Mail

As you can see, filtering emails in Apple Mail on macOS and iOS isn’t all that difficult, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be even easier. Using a third-party email filtering service, you can quickly automate your inbox management to keep Apple Mail—or any other email client for that matter—clean and organized.

When selecting a third-party email filter service, pay attention to the following:

Filter Emails Using Clean Email

Clean Email is a privacy-focused third-party email filter service that can effortlessly bring order into your messy inbox.

When you use Clean Email for the first time, it will securely analyze your messages to sort them based on shared characteristics into Smart Views such as “Travel,” “Finance, “Social notifications,” “Subscriptions and Newsletters,” and others.

Smart Views feature in Clean EmailSmart Views feature in Clean Email

You can further filter emails belonging to a specific Smart View by only displaying only emails that have a certain size or that were sent at a specific date.

Once you have narrowed down your inbox to messages that meet your criteria, you can apply any standard email management action to them, like Delete, Archive, or Label. Whenever you apply an action, Clean Email lets you apply the same action automatically in the feature by ticking a single box corresponding to the Auto Clean feature.

Automatically move emails to Trash with Clean EmailAutomatically move emails to Trash with Clean Email

Besides email filtering, the app can stop annoying newsletters and other subscription emails from polluting your inbox thanks to its Unsubscriber feature, move messages out of your inbox so that you can read them later, or automatically mark as ready noisy email threats, just to give a few examples.

Unsubscribe from emails with Clean EmailUnsubscribe from emails with Clean Email

The app works with all major email services, including iCloud.com, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and others.

Follow our guides on how the Yahoo mail filter and the Outlook spam filter work.


How to Filter Emails in Apple Mail - FAQs

How do I filter emails in Apple Mail?

You can filter emails in Apple Mail using its built-in email filter or with the help of a third-party email filtering service like Clean Email.

How do I make emails go to a specific folder in Apple Mail?

You can make emails go to a specific folder in Apple Mail by creating a suitable rule:

1. Open the Mail menu and select Preferences.
2. Navigate to the Rules tab.
3. Click Add Rule.
4. Configure the new rule.
5. Click OK to confirm.

Can you set up email rules on iPhone?

You can, but not using the Mail app. To set up email rules on iPhone, you need a third-party inbox management app like Clean Email, which makes it easy to automate repetitive email tasks.

How do I stop mail from going to junk in Apple Mail?

If you want to stop mail from going to junk, then you can turn off the built-in junk filter:

1. Open the Mail menu and select Preferences.
2. Navigate to the Junk Mail tab.
3. Make sure the Enable junk mail filtering doesn’t have a checkmark next to it.

David Morelo Updated on Nov 30, 2021
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