Mastering Mac Mail Message Sorting: A Comprehensive Guide

Master the art of Mac Mail message sorting. Explore the various sorting techniques and optimize your email management

Mastering Mac Mail Message Sorting: A Comprehensive Guide

Email has become an integral part of our daily lives, and for Mac users, Apple’s Mail app is often the go-to choice. With its user-friendly interface and seamless integration with other Apple services, it’s no wonder many prefer it. But as with any email client, the influx of messages can become overwhelming. That’s where the Mac Mail’s message sorting feature comes into play. By understanding and utilizing this feature, you can streamline your inbox and boost your productivity.

Understanding Default and Classic Layouts

Before diving into the sorting options, it’s essential to understand the two primary layouts in Mac Mail: Default and Classic. The default layout offers a preview text and displays full emails in a pane to the right. In contrast, the classic layout shows all emails on single lines at the top, with the content of the selected message displayed below.

Sorting in Default Layout

In the default layout, sorting is a breeze. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the “Sort by” option in the message list’s header.
  2. Choose from various criteria such as:

You can also decide the order (Ascending or Descending) based on your chosen criteria.

Sorting in Classic Layout

For those using the classic layout, the process is slightly different:

  1. Navigate to View > Columns to see available viewing options.
  2. Activate the columns you want to display in your inbox.
  3. Click on any visible column to sort by that criterion. Clicking repeatedly will toggle between ascending and descending order.

Tips and Tricks

  • Switching Between Layouts: If you’re unsure which layout suits you best, you can easily switch between the two. Go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and toggle the “Use classic layout” option.
  • Quick Sort Using Menu: Both layouts allow for quick sorting. Simply open the View menu and select “Sort By.” This menu provides both sorting criteria and the ascending/descending options.
  • Customize Your Experience: Remember, the key is to find a system that works for you. Experiment with different sorting options and layouts until you find your optimal setup.
  • Using Smart Mailboxes: Mac Mail’s Smart Mailboxes can automatically sort emails based on criteria you set. For instance, you can have a Smart Mailbox that gathers all unread emails or emails from a specific sender.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Familiarize yourself with Mac Mail’s keyboard shortcuts. For instance, Command + Option + S toggles the sidebar, which can speed up your sorting process.
  • Color Coding: Use color-coded flags to quickly identify and sort emails. This can be especially useful if you’re working on multiple projects or tracking different types of communications.

Third-Party Solutions

While Mac Mail offers robust sorting options, third-party solutions can further enhance your email management experience. One such tool is CanaryMail. Known for its focus on security, CanaryMail also offers advanced features like smart filters and focused inbox, making email sorting even more efficient.


Efficiently sorting your emails can drastically improve your email management and overall productivity. By leveraging Mac Mail’s built-in features and considering third-party solutions, you can create a streamlined and organized inbox.


  1. Lifewire Article on Mail Sorting
  2. CanaryMail Blog on Message Sorting
  3. Oryon Knowledge Base on Filters and Rules

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