Customizing Color Coding in Mac Mail: A Comprehensive Guide

Customizing Color Coding in Mac Mail: A Comprehensive Guide

How to customize color coding in Mac Mail for better email management. This guide covers manual and rule-based color coding options.

Alex Simmons

Alex Simmons | Dec 31, 2023 | 3 mins read

Email management is an essential part of our daily lives, especially for professionals who deal with a high volume of emails every day. Mac Mail offers a variety of customization options to make this task easier and more efficient. One such feature is color coding, which can help you quickly identify and sort your emails based on various criteria like priority, sender, or subject. This article will guide you through the process of customizing color coding in Mac Mail, explaining why it’s beneficial, how to set it up manually, and how to automate it using rules.

Why Customize Color Coding?

Quick Identification

Color coding helps in quickly identifying emails based on different factors. For example, you can set all emails from your boss to appear in red, making them easy to spot in a crowded inbox.

Better Organization

Color coding aids in sorting and organizing your inbox more efficiently. By assigning colors to different types of emails, you can quickly sort through your inbox and decide which emails need immediate attention and which can wait.

Enhanced Productivity

When you don’t have to spend time searching for important emails, you can focus more on the task at hand, thereby increasing your productivity. Color coding can be a lifesaver, especially for those who receive hundreds of emails daily.

Manual Color Coding

Manually setting up color coding is straightforward. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Mac Mail app: Launch the application from your dock or applications folder.
  2. Select Messages: Choose one or more messages in the message list that you want to color-code.
  3. Choose Color: Go to Format > Show Colors in the menu bar, then select a color of your choice to apply to the selected messages.

Using Rules for Color Coding

If you want to automate the color-coding process, you can set up rules in Mac Mail. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings: Launch the Mac Mail app and go to Mail > Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Navigate to Rules: Click on the “Rules” tab and then click on “Add Rule.”
  3. Set Conditions: You can set various conditions for color coding, such as “If the sender is [email address]” or “If the subject contains [keyword].”
  4. Choose Action: In the actions dropdown, choose “Set Color of Message” and select either the background or text color you want to apply.

Common Causes for Color Coding Not Working

Sometimes, you may find that your color coding is not working as expected. Here are some common reasons:

  • Sync Issues: If you are using Mac Mail on multiple devices, remember that the color coding is only visible on the Mac where you set it up.
  • Incorrect Rule Configuration: Double-check to ensure that the rules are set up correctly. A small mistake in setting conditions can prevent color coding from working.
  • Software Updates: Sometimes, after a software update, settings may revert to default, so you may need to reconfigure your color coding.

Tips and Tricks

  • Custom Colors: You can use the “Other” option in the color menu to choose a custom color that’s not in the default set.
  • Combining Rules: For more advanced email management, you can combine color coding with other rules like moving emails to specific folders.
  • Testing: After setting up your rules, send yourself a few test emails to make sure everything is working as expected.
  • Backup: Before making any significant changes, it’s a good idea to backup your email rules, so you can easily restore them if needed.


Color coding is a powerful feature in Mac Mail that can significantly improve your email management and overall productivity. Whether you choose to set it up manually or use rules for automation, the benefits are undeniable. With this guide, you should be well-equipped to start customizing your Mac Mail experience.


  1. Apple Support
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  3. Reddit
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Alex Simmons
Alex Simmons

I have always been fascinated by the world of SaaS and technology. From a young age, I found myself drawn to the endless possibilities that email technology offers. The ability to connect with people across the globe and streamline communication processes is something that truly excites me. As a passionate individual, I am constantly seeking new ways to leverage SaaS and email technology to enhance productivity and drive innovation.

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