A Guide to Customizing the Apple Mail Sidebar

Discover how to customize your Mac Mail sidebar for a more efficient and personalized email experience.

A Guide to Customizing the Apple Mail Sidebar

We’re all familiar with the daily email grind that can eat into our work hours. If you’re a Mac user replying in Apple Mail for your email communication, there’s good news: the Mail app allows you to customize many things to tailor it to your email management workflows and inbox habits. 

One of the things you can customize within the Mail app on your Mac computer is its sidebar. Although Apple Mail doesn’t allow for extensive sidebar customization, there are some things you can adjust to your liking. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to customize the Mac Mail sidebar to match your aesthetic preferences and inbox habits.


What Is Apple Mail’s Sidebar? 

The sidebar in Apple Mail is a navigational panel located on the left side of the application window. It provides quick access to various mailboxes, folders, and accounts, allowing users to organize and manage their emails easily. The sidebar includes folders like Inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Flagged, along with any custom mailboxes or folders you created. 

There’s also a Favorites section at the top of the sidebar where you can add frequently used inboxes and folders for convenient access. 

Thanks to the sidebar, you can quickly drag and drop emails between folders, create new mailboxes in one click, and manage all of your email accounts in one place. Simply put, think of the sidebar as a control center for managing your emails. 

 💡The sidebar can also be referred to as a “mailbox list.” 

Why Customize Sidebar on Mac Mail?  

Although Apple Mail’s sidebar customization options are limited, you can still adjust it to match your preferences and inbox habits. Here’s why customizing Apple Mail’s sidebar may be convenient for you: 

  • It can help you streamline your workflows: By customizing the sidebar, you can prioritize and organize your most frequently used mailboxes and folders. This way, you can make it easier to access important emails and manage your inboxes. 
  • It can help you improve email organization: Adjusting the sidebar to match your habits allows you to create a customized email management system. You can arrange the mailboxes and folders based on projects, clients, or categories, which makes it easier to keep track of your emails. 
  • You can clean up your inbox: Without clear organization, your inbox can quickly become cluttered. Removing unnecessary or less-used folders and mailboxes from the sidebar can help you declutter your Mail app. This will help you reduce visual distractions and keep your inboxes clean so important emails are always easy to find and access. 

How to Customize Sidebar on Mac Mail

Whether you’re looking to prioritize certain mailboxes, declutter your inboxes, or simply personalize the appearance of your Mail app, customizing the sidebar can make a difference. There are a few things you can do to customize the sidebar on Apple Mail. Here they are.

Organize Mailboxes and Folders

One handy feature of the Mac Mail sidebar is its ability to organize mailboxes and folders. You can simply drag and drop them to arrange them in your preferred order, making it effortless to access the ones you use the most often. You can also adjust the sidebar view by hiding folder lists under your mailboxes. 

Adjust the Smart Mailboxes Section 

The Smart Mailboxes section on Apple Mail’s sidebar allows users to create dynamic inboxes based on specific criteria, such as all the emails they received today or from a particular sender. Unlike traditional mailboxes, which contain emails manually sorted into folders, Smart Mailboxes automatically gather emails that meet specific criteria. 

To customize the Smart Mailboxes section, follow these steps: 

  1. Click on the “+” button at the bottom of the sidebar and select “New Smart Mailbox.”
  2. A window will appear, allowing you to define criteria for your Smart Mailbox. You can specify conditions such as sender, recipient, subject, and keywords.
  3. Give your Smart Mailbox a descriptive name to easily identify its purpose.
  4. Once you’ve set the criteria, click “OK” to create the Smart Mailbox.
  5. The newly created Smart Mailbox will now appear in the Smart Mailboxes section of the sidebar, automatically updating to display emails that meet the defined criteria.

Adjust the Favorites Section

The Favorites section at the top of the sidebar allows you to add mailboxes and folders that you frequently use. To customize this section, simply drag and drop the desired folder into the Favorites area within the sidebar. 

Another way to customize the Favorite sections is to add and remove folders by right-clicking them. You can also rearrange the order of the folder within the Favorites section to prioritize the ones you access most often. 

Show or Hide the Sidebar

The sidebar in Mac Mail can be toggled on or off based on your preference. To do this, navigate to the View menu at the top of your screen and select either Show Sidebar or Hide Sidebar. Hiding the sidebar is particularly useful when you want to focus on reading your emails without distractions.

Resize the Sidebar

The width of the sidebar is adjustable to suit your needs. To resize it, hover your cursor over the separator bar between the sidebar and the main email window. When the cursor changes to a resizing icon, click and drag to adjust the sidebar’s width. This is especially helpful if you have long folder names or want to see more of your email list.

Change the Icon Color and Size

If you find the default icon and text size too small or too large, Mac Mail allows you to adjust these settings. You can customize the color and font size of your sidebar on Mac by going to System Settings > Appearance and changing the accent color, highlight color, and sidebar icon size. 

Tips and Tricks to Effectively Customize Apple Mail’s Sidebar

Although using and customizing the Apple Mail’s swipe options is a straightforward process, there are some things you should keep in mind. Here are some practical tips and tricks to effectively customize your swipe actions. 

Prioritize the Most Used Inboxes 

Consider placing your most frequently used mailboxes and folders at the top of the sidebar, in the Favorites section, for quick and easy access. Organizing your sidebar based on priority and frequency of use will help you streamline your workflow and minimize the time spent searching for essential emails (even if it’s just a few minutes).

Take Mac Settings Into Account

Your Mac’s system settings can impact the appearance and functionality of the sidebar. For instance, adjusting the system’s font size and accent color will automatically adjust the color and font size inside the Mail app. 

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can make navigating the sidebar more efficient. For example, if you want to hide the sidebar from view, you can do that by using the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-S.

Review and Adjust 

Over time, your email management needs and inbox habits may change. That’s why it’s always a good idea to review and adjust the sidebar from time to time to match your new preferences. Remove unnecessary or outdated mailboxes and folders and add new ones to organize your email workflows better. This will help you ensure that your emails are always well-organized. 

Mac Mail How to Customize Sidebar, the Bottom Line

If you rely on Apple Mail to manage your emails on your Mac computer, customizing the sidebar can help you improve your email organization and productivity. While the default sidebar in Mac Mail is functional and handy, you may want to tailor it to your needs. 

Although the Mail app doesn’t allow for extensive sidebar customization, you can better organize the order of the folders, add and remove folders from favorites, hide the sidebar from view, resize it, and change its color and font size. 

By following the steps and tips outlined in this article, you can adjust Apple Mail’s sidebar to match your preferences. 

Customize Sidebar on Mac Mail, the FAQs

❓How do I change the view pane in Apple Mail?

Changing the view pane in Apple Mail is simple. To switch between the classic layout with a separate list of emails and preview pane and the newer layout with a single column, go to the View menu in the menu bar and select Use Column Layout. If you want to go back to the classic layout, simply unselect Use Column Layout. 

❓How do I get rid of the sidebar in Apple Mail?

If you want to temporarily hide the sidebar in Apple Mail on your Mac, you can easily do so. Just go to View in the menu bar and select Hide Sidebar. If you want to unhide it, go to View again and select Show Sidebar.

❓How do I manage the sidebar on my Mac?

You can customize the color and font size of your sidebar on Mac by going to System Settings > Appearance and adjusting the accent color, highlight color, and sidebar icon size. 

❓How do I remove favorites from the Mail sidebar on Mac?

To remove a folder from favorites in your Apple Mail sidebar, right-click on the mailbox or folder you want to remove and select Remove from Favorites. 

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