Smart Folders

Light BulbIt is very common for people to create folders in Mail or Outlook and drag various emails to those folders. These folders come in useful when you want to find email on a certain matter so perhaps you want to create a special folder for your trip to the UK or emails from the wife. Trouble with these kinds of folders is that they need to be manually administered, in other words you have to drag emails to these folders. You need to do the grunt work.

Fortunately Mail and Outlook offer Smart Folders and they do all the work for you. You can quickly create Smart Folders to hold email that, for example, contain a certain word in the subject or are from a certain person or persons.


Lets say you frequently purchase items from iTunes (music, movies,ect) and you want a special folder for all the receipts that Apple send after each purchase. After all these emails can come in very handy if you ever want a refund from Apple because the movie didn’t download properly or the quality of that recently purchased audiobook was less than satisfactory.

1. Open Mail (this works in Outlook as well but it will come as no surprise I am sure that I am concentrating on Apple’s product)

2. Click on the Mailbox menu and choose New Smart Mailbox (don’t be confused by the use of the word “Mailbox” rather than “folder” Apple have always done this and I don’t really know why but they are the same thing)

Smart Folder

3. Name the folder appropriately (in this case iTunes) and choose the pull down menus to set the criteria.

Smart folder criteria


4. Click OK

Thats it!

In the Mail sidebar you will now see a folder that contains every email you have ever received from Apple that contains the word ‘iTunes”

I am sure by now you have noticed the + and this means you can create smart folders with multiple criteria. You could, for example, create a smart folder for emails that has a subject of “Party” from your mums email address.

smart folders 2

Its a very powerful feature and, in my humble opinion, is much better than having a list of stagnant folders that require constant attention.

One thing worth mentioning is that these folders don’t actually move emails out of your inbox. Think of it as a filter and while you can move your emails to, say, an archive folder to get them out of the way, you cannot actually delete the mail item from the inbox because it will disappear from the smart folder as well. On the other hand you can delete a smart folder and all the emails will be safe.

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