Reduce your email load with three features in Apple Mail

Complaining about getting too many emails is like complaining about bad traffic – we got it on ourselves, and while it’s impossible to escape completely, knowing how to reduce it is worth it . Apple is also fully aware of the problem and has built features into the last few versions of Mail – on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad – to help. Here are three you might find useful in different situations: mute, block, and log out.


It’s a huge email conversation about the annual Christmas party at work, but you can’t leave and more and more people keep joining. However, since there are only a lot of addresses on the Cc line, there is no way to go away, although you don’t need to be informed of all the back and forth.

So that you can silence a conversation that is too chatty, Apple Mail has added the mute function. On the Mac, select the conversation and choose Message> Mute, or click the Mute button on the toolbar. On an iPhone or iPad, touch and hold the message until you see a popover, then tap Mute. You can also swipe left on the message, tap More, and then tap Mute.

Messages will still flow in, but if you normally get notifications through email messages, you won’t get notifications for the muted conversation. In Mail, a small bell icon with a slash reminds you that the conversation is muted. To unmute a conversation, repeat these steps but choose to unmute it instead.

Don’t you want to see those muted messages at all? You can discard them automatically. On the Mac, go to Mail> Preferences> General and choose Archive or Delete Muted Messages. In iOS and iPadOS, go to Settings> Mail> Thread Muted Action, where you can choose between Mark as Read and Archive or Delete.

The phrase “archive or delete” may seem confusing, but Apple lets you choose whether when a message is “discarded” it is archived (removed from your inbox) or deleted (moved to the trash). On the Mac, look for this setting in Mail> Preferences> View> Move Discarded Messages To. In iOS and iPadOS, this is an account-specific option under Settings> Email> Accounts> Account Name> Account> Advanced under Move Discarded Messages To.


Muting is about conversations, not people. But what if you never want to see email from that particular person again? Maybe it’s an angry ex roommate, your embezzled ex-business partner, or someone who just doesn’t stop forwarding politically offensive memes. For such people, Apple offers blocking.

On the Mac, open a message from the hurting person, hover over their name, click the down arrow, and choose Block Contact. In iOS and iPadOS, tap the person’s name so it turns into a blue link, tap it again to view their contact card, tap Block this contact and confirm your decision. If you change your mind, repeat the steps and select Unlock.

All that changes immediately is that Mail puts a banner at the top of the message that says “This message was from a blocked sender”. However, Mail also has a Settings button or link that offers more options. On the Mac, they’re in Mail> Preferences> Junk Mail> Blocked. In iOS and iPadOS, you can find it under Settings> Email> Blocked Senders Options. You can choose to leave blocked emails in your inbox or move them to the trash.

Note that we’ve used spam senders here as examples, but for actual spam, consider using the Move to Junk command instead to mark it as spam and train Mail’s junk filter. Blocking is only useful for real people and only works with certain email addresses. So if someone can send from a different address, Mail doesn’t know to block that address until you block it too.

to unsubscribe

It’s all too easy to land on a bazillion mailing lists these days. That can’t be a problem if you find the news useful and rare enough not to be a bother. But if you order something online and immediately get two email blasts a week promoting new products, you don’t have to sit there and suffer.

However, what you shouldn’t do is use the Move to Junk command to mark these messages as spam. If you have a legitimate business relationship with the organization, they are not doing anything illegal by sending you email, and marking their messages as spam could cause Mail’s spam filter to intercept related emails that you want. It will unnecessarily detract from their delivery rate, too, and while that’s not your problem, there is a better way.

Whenever Mail detects that a message came from a mailing list, it displays a corresponding banner along with an unsubscribe link. Click or tap on it, confirm your decision, and Mail will send an unsubscribe message from you to the mailing list server.

Unfortunately, this feature is a bit weak between mailing lists that don’t provide the required details and Mail unable to understand everything. If it works it’s great, but just because you don’t see an unsubscribe banner doesn’t mean you can’t unsubscribe.

If so, scroll to the bottom of the message and look for an unsubscribe link. Click on it to go to a website where you can log out. Unfortunately, as shown below, Apple’s commercial email itself appears to be exempt from Mail’s unsubscribe banner, and the company has one of the less obvious unsubscribe links out there.

As helpful as muting and blocking can be, you will get the biggest bang for your buck by unsubscribing from mailing lists. Remember, you can always find these companies on the web in case you want to interact with them again.

(Featured image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)