How to customize your email settings in the Mail app on Mac

The official Mail app is perhaps the most used software title on macOS. To maximize your Mail experience, you should consider customizing your email settings. Here are the ways you can customize the email app on Mac.

Check for new messages frequency

You can adjust the Mail app to check for new emails automatically, according to a schedule, or manually. With a schedule, you can decide how much time should pass before the system looks for new mail again.

  1. In the app, click on Mail in the macOS menu bar.
  2. From the Mail pulldown menu, select Preferences.
  3. Click on the pulldown to the right of Check for new messages.

Your choices are: Automatic, Every minute, every 5 minutes, every 10 minutes, every 30 minutes, every hour, or Manual.

By default, the system checks for new mail automatically. You may want to change this setting if you don't want to be disturbed by receiving further emails, have a slow connection or some other issue.

Change new message sound

When you receive a new message in Mail, you can get a sound alert on your Mac. To adjust this setting:

  1. Select Mail from the Mail menu bar.
  2. Click on Preferences.
  3. Go to the General tab.
  4. Click on the pulldown to the right of New messages sound.

You can select from a list of over 10 built-in sounds. You can hear a sample by clicking on them.

Change new message notifications

Perhaps you don't want to be alerted when every new email arrives. Instead, you only want to know when new emails arrive from specific individuals or groups.

  1. Select Mail from the Mail menu bar.
  2. Click on Preferences.
  3. Go to the General tab.
  4. Click on the pulldown to the right of New message notifications.

Your choices are Inbox Only (the default), VIPs, Contacts, or All Mailboxes.

With VIPs selected, you'll only get alerted when your most important contacts send emails. By contrast, when Contacts is selected, you'll receive a notification every time any of your contacts sends a message. With All Mailboxes, you'll receive notifications whenever a new (but unopened) message is dropped into any folder in Mail.

Change dock unread count

By default, the unread email count on the macOS dock is based on the number of unread messages in the Inbox. However, you can change this -- at least slightly.

  1. Select Mail from the Mail menu bar.
  2. Click on Preferences.
  3. Go to the General tab.
  4. Click on the pulldown to the right of Dock unread count.

Your choices are Inbox or All Mailboxes. Selecting the latter means you'll see a count of all unread emails across all the folders in Mail -- including your junk folders.

You can turn the unread count off completely by doing the following:

  1. Click on System Preferences in the macOS dock.
  2. Select Notifications
  3. Click on Mail on the left side of the screen.
  4. Uncheck Badge app icon.

Make the Mail app more your own by using its built-in customization tools.

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Let us know in the comments below if you have any more Mail tips or have questions about the email app in general!

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.