A Guide to Customizing Apple Mail Keyboard Shortcuts

A Guide to Customizing Apple Mail Keyboard Shortcuts

Discover how to customize keyboard shortcuts in Mac Mail: default shortcuts, customization steps, and more.

Alex Simmons

Alex Simmons | Dec 31, 2023 | 8 mins read

We all get tens, if not hundreds, of emails every day. Sometimes, navigating your email app can be time-consuming, especially if you’re clicking around trying to find the right buttons. If you’re using Apple Mail as your main email client, you can use its default keyboard shortcuts to speed through your inbox. 

However, some users may find the default shortcuts uncomfortable or inconvenient to use and may want to customize them to better suit their workflow. 

In this article, we’ll show you how you can customize Apple Mail keyboard shortcuts to help you streamline your email management tasks.

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Does Apple Mail Have Keyboard Shortcuts?

apple mail keyboard shortcuts 

The answer is it does. Apple Mail comes with a set of default keyboard shortcuts you can use to navigate the mail app faster. Keyboard shortcuts within Apple Mail are simply key combinations that allow you to perform various actions or commands without using the mouse or trackpad. 

They streamline your workflow by enabling quick access to frequently used features, such as composing a new email, replying to messages, archiving, deleting, or moving emails, among others.

Why Customize Apple Mail Keyboard Shortcuts?  

If you’re happy with Apple Mail’s default keyboard shortcuts, you can leave them as is. Many users consider it easier to use the default shortcuts without changing them. If you’re already used to Apple’s ecosystem, you may prefer to stay with the default settings. 

Plus, sticking with the default shortcuts can simplify troubleshooting and seeking help from support resources, as the default configurations are widely recognized and documented. If you change them and don’t remember what you changed them to, it can create chaos and confusion. 

However, sometimes, it may be more beneficial for you to customize Apple Mail’s keyboard shortcuts to your preferences. 

Here’s why changing Mac Mail shortcuts may be convenient for you: 

  • The default shortcuts feel uncomfortable to use: Using awkward or uncomfortable shortcuts can lead to strain over time. For example, if you’re left-handed, the default shortcuts may not be as convenient for you. By customizing your shortcuts, you can create a more ergonomic setup that minimizes physical discomfort. 
  • You can navigate the app faster: Customizing shortcuts allows you to align them with your workflow and habits. By assigning keyboard shortcuts to frequently used actions or commands, you can streamline your email management process and complete tasks more efficiently. This can save time and reduce the “thinking time” needed to navigate the app.
  • You can assign shortcuts to actions that don’t have it: Although the list of Apple Mail shortcuts is quite long, not every single action you can take within the mail app has a shortcut assigned to it. If you perform a specific task a lot, assigning a keyboard shortcut for it may come in handy. 

A List of Default Keyboard Shortcuts in Mac Mail

Here are some of the default keyboard shortcuts in Apple Mail:

  • New Mail Viewer Window: Command-N
  • New Tab in Mail Viewer Window: Option-Command-N
  • Attach Files to Email: Shift-Command-A
  • Paste Text as Quotation: Shift-Command-V
  • Append Selected Emails to Email: Option-Command-I
  • Show Bcc Address Field: Option-Command-B
  • Show Reply-To Address Field: Option-Command-R
  • Get New Emails: Shift-Command-N
  • Erase Junk Mail: Option-Command-J
  • Send Emails: Shift-Command-D
  • Unsend Email: Command-Z
  • Reply to Selected Email: Command-R
  • Reply All to Selected Email: Shift-Command-R
  • Forward Selected Email: Shift-Command-F
  • Redirect Selected Email: Shift-Command-E
  • Toggle Mail Sidebar: Control-Command-S
  • Toggle Message Filter: Command-L
  • Mark Emails as Read/Unread: Shift-Command-U
  • Move Selected Emails to Junk: Shift-Command-J
  • Archive Selected Emails: Control-Command-A
  • Apply Mail Rules: Control-Command-L
  • Format Email (Plain Text/Rich): Shift-Command-T
  • Show Mail Viewer Window: Command-0
  • Show Mail Activity Window: Control-Command-0
  • Close All Mail Windows: Option-Command-W

How to Customize Apple Mail Keyboard Shortcuts

Wondering how you can change Apple Mail’s keyboard shortcuts? It’s actually pretty simple and can be done in just a few simple steps. 

  • Step 1: Open System Preferences on your Mac.
  • Step 2: Select Keyboard.
  • Step 3: Click on Keyboard Shortcuts.
  • Step 4: Navigate to App Shortcuts.
  • Step 5: After clicking on App Shortcuts, click the “+” button.
  • Step 6: Choose Mail from the application drop-down menu.
  • Step 7: Enter the exact name of the menu command you want to change.
  • Step 8: Enter your new shortcut and click Add.

That’s it! In just 8 simple steps, you can add a new keyboard shortcut. If you want to override an existing keyboard shortcut rather than add a new one, you still need to go through the same exact process, as there is no direct way of changing a default shortcut. 

Common Issues With Changing Mac Mail Shortcuts 

Customizing keyboard shortcuts in Mac Mail can significantly enhance your productivity. 

However, occasionally, you may encounter issues where these custom shortcuts don’t behave as expected. One common scenario is when upgrading to a new macOS version, such as Big Sur, which might alter or reset your custom Mail keyboard shortcuts without warning.

Here are some things you can do to troubleshoot any issues you encounter with Apple Mail keyboard shortcuts: 

  • Check for duplicate shortcuts: Sometimes, the shortcut you’re trying to set may already be assigned to another function within Mac Mail. Double-checking for conflicting shortcuts can often resolve this issue.
  • Restart the Apple Mail app: Restarting the Mac Mail application can help apply any changes you’ve made to the keyboard shortcuts. This simple step can often resolve minor glitches or inconsistencies.
  • Update macOS: Keeping your macOS up-to-date is crucial for ensuring compatibility with various applications, including Mac Mail. Updating to the latest macOS version can resolve any underlying compatibility issues and ensure that your custom keyboard shortcuts function smoothly.

Tips and Tricks to Effectively Customize Mac Mail Shortcuts 

Although using and customizing the Apple Mail keyboard shortcut is a straightforward process, there are some things you should keep in mind when changing your shortcuts. Here are some practical tips and tricks to effectively customize your Mac Mail shortcuts. 

Start Simple

If you’re new to customizing keyboard shortcuts on Apple Mail, start with simple changes. For example, you could begin by changing the shortcut for sending an email or deleting a message. This will help you get comfortable with the customization process.

Plus, starting simple allows you to evaluate whether the new shortcuts you’ve created are aligned with your preferences. If not, you can change them bit by bit rather than everything at once, which could make using your mail app confusing. 

Consider the Context

macOS comes with a set of system-wide keyboard shortcuts that perform various functions, such as taking screenshots, opening Spotlight search, or navigating between applications. Be cautious not to override or conflict with these shortcuts, as they are essential for system functionality.

What’s more, take into account the keyboard shortcuts you’re already using in other apps on your Mac. For instance, if you use Command+S for saving in one app, assign it to the same action in Apple Mail. This way, you won’t get confused. 

Use Consistent Key Combinations

Using consistent key combinations for similar actions can significantly enhance the usability and memorability of your custom shortcuts in Apple Mail. When you create a pattern where related tasks share similar shortcut keys, it becomes easier for your muscle memory to recall and execute these actions efficiently.

For example, if you use “Command + S” to save a draft, using “Command + D” to delete a message creates a logical association between the keyboard shortcuts and their functions. This not only helps you remember your custom shortcuts faster but also makes it less likely that you will forget or confuse them. 

Create a Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheet

When you create new keyboard shortcuts in Apple Mail, it can be easy to forget what shortcut you assigned to specific actions. So, until you get used to your new shortcuts, it’s a good idea to create a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet. 

You can keep it in your Notes app or print it out and keep it near your computer so you have it handy whenever you need to check a shortcut. 

Review Your Shortcuts Periodically 

Once you’ve set up your custom shortcuts the way you wanted, it’s a good idea to check in on them every now and then. As you get more used to how you work and what shortcuts you use the most, your needs might shift a bit. 

This way, you can make sure they’re still helping you navigate your inbox efficiently. If something’s not quite right or if you’ve discovered a new way of working, you can easily tweak your shortcuts to keep things running smoothly. 

Share Your Shortcuts With Other Users 

If you share your Apple Mail account with family members or use Mac Mail at work, consider sharing your custom shortcuts with your coworkers or other Mac users. This way, you can create a more streamlined experience for everyone who uses the computer and avoid confusion in case they try using old shortcuts that don’t work anymore. 

Use Third-Party Tools for Advanced Customization

For those who want to take customization to the next level, there are software options that offer more advanced features. These tools allow you to create complex shortcuts involving multiple keys or even gestures. 

Apple Mail Keyboard Shortcuts, the Bottom Line

If you use your email a lot, keyboard shortcuts can be a great way to reduce the time you need to perform all the email-related tasks. If you’re using Apple Mail as your main email client, you can use the default keyboard shortcuts that come with the app on your Mac. 

However, to make your experience smoother, you may need to customize the Apple Mail keyboard shortcuts to match your workflows and preferences. You can do that in just a few simple steps we outlined in this article. With the right shortcuts, you can turn Mac Mail into a powerful tool tailored just for you.

macOS Mail Keyboard Shortcuts, the FAQs

❓Does Apple Mail have keyboard shortcuts?

Yes! Apple Mail comes with a default set of keyboard shortcuts you can use when navigating the mail app. 

❓What is the keyboard shortcut to move email in Apple Mail?

The keyboard shortcut to move an email in Apple Mail depends on where you want to move the message. For instance, if you want to move an email to the junk folder, you can do so by using the Shift-Command-J keyboard shortcut. 

❓Can I customize Apple Mail’s default keyboard shortcuts?

Yes, you can! Customizing Apple Mail’s shortcuts is actually pretty simple, and you can do it in just a few steps. In this article, we’ve outlined detailed instructions on how to change Apple Mail keyboard shortcuts to match your preferences. 

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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