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Reuben Feffer Level 2 (205 points)

I want to make a Rule in Apple Mail, but I can't figure out how to do it.


What I want to do is have Mail automatically move all of the messages out of my Inbox that were received over 30 days ago, and put them all in the same mailbox called "Received Messages 2011".


Is this possible?

iMac, Mac OS X (10.6.8), iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2010) 12GB RAM
  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    Try this:


    Screen Shot 2011-09-08 at 1.57.54 PM.png

    Do you know how to create Rules? It's in the Apple Mail preferences under the Mail Menu. Make sure to select the new mail box in the very last drop-down menu.

  • Kappy Level 10 (263,335 points)

    You can't because rules only operate on incoming mail. What you can do is create a Smart Mailbox that searches the Inbox for mail that's 30 days old. You can then select the content of that mailbox and move it to a permanent mailbox.


    Alternatively, look for add-ons to Mail like Mail Act-On 2.2.2 that may provide additional features you can use.

  • Reuben Feffer Level 2 (205 points)

    Yes. I know how to create rules in Apple Mail. I figured out that part myself.


    Screen shot 2011-09-08 at 19.05.46.png


    However, how do I get that rule to apply only to the Inbox?


    Kappy said that rules only operate on incoming mail, which is a good thing isn't it? That means I don't have to apply it specifically to the Inbox, because it automatically applies to incoming mail.


    The problem is, if the rule is only applied as the mail comes in, it will never have a "Date Received Greater Than 30 days old", will it?

  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    It seems like you should be able to Apply the Rule after that fact to existing messages in the Inbox. Not just when they are received. I know that's how other Email clients use the filters/rules. Given that it only acts upon the Receipt of New Email messages a Smart Folder is your only other option to grab stuff manually that already is sitting in the InBox unfortunately. I can say however that other Email clients do it more the way you were hoping it would work instead of how actually Apple Mail works.

  • Kappy Level 10 (263,335 points)

    Here's how I have set up a Smart Mailbox like I mentioned earlier:


    Screen Shot 2011-09-08 at 1.22.34 PM.png


    Periodically, I select all the messages that are listed in the smart folder and move them to a regular, permanent location (or you can just delete the selection if you don't wish to keep the messages.)

  • Ernie Stamper Level 8 (37,545 points)

    You can periodically select all messages in the Inbox, click on Message in the menubar and choose Apple Rules to selected messages.  That way the time sensitive Rule will be applied.  But you have to do this manually from time to time.



  • Reuben Feffer Level 2 (205 points)

    Thanks Ernie.


    But, if I have to remember to select them myself, and then click to apply a rule, I might as well just select all the messages from the previous month and just drag them to the mailbox I want them in.


    I think in this particular situation, Rules don't really help that much.

  • sor67 Level 1 (0 points)


    For some reason the example of the Smart Box folder you've included is showing as a small blue question mark - I'm new to Apple but can you suggest why that might be? - I am having no problem seeing the screen shot from Reuben Feffer above.

    I would love to see it - I am having awful trouble with these rules - I've been trying to set rules to manage my IMAP quota by auto moving files to my hardrive after a set period of time (like I used to be able to do on PC with auto archive) - this is necessary as I'm a recruiter and need to keep almost all my sent and received as a record.  In end I have achieved this for sent and deleted items by unchecking mailbox behaviours "Store sent messages on server".  

    I then anticipated setting a rule for Inbox like Elikness suggested above - but believe you are saying that won't work because the rule only applies as mail comes in, not once it is (say) 2 weeks old.

    So I had a go at setting up a Smart Mailbox with the following: Contains messages that match "All" conditions: "Date received" "is not in the last" "14" "days" - and I did not check the Include messages from Trash/Sent.  This had a bad result - there were still several emails in the IMAP inbox older than 14 days old, and there were 15,000 odd emails in my Smart Inbox (which seem to have come from deleted items/sent items and possibly from some inbox subfolders On my Mac.  MMM - I clearly do not know what I am doing.   If I can achieve it, it will be great because it appears the Smart Box sets itself up on my harddrive (ie. off my server) - and two weeks worth of incoming mail is my only risk or exceeding my mail limit (50MB).

    Your thoughts much appreciated!

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 6 (9,135 points)

    "So I had a go at setting up a Smart Mailbox with the following: Contains messages that match "All" conditions: "Date received" "is not in the last" "14" "days" - and I did not check the Include messages from Trash/Sent.  This had a bad result - there were still several emails in the IMAP inbox older than 14 days old, and there were 15,000 odd emails in my Smart Inbox (which seem to have come from deleted items/sent items and possibly from some inbox subfolders On my Mac.  MMM - I clearly do not know what I am doing."


    It's the conditions set that is creating the problem. What you have above is searching every mailbox on your Mac.


    Try This:


    All Conditions Met:

         "Date Recieved" "is not in the last 14 days"

         "Message is in Mailbox" "Inbox"


    Check to include sent mailbox if desired.


    Screen Shot 2012-02-03 at 7.30.40 PM.png

  • sor67 Level 1 (0 points)


    Wow - that's terrific - thanks indeed for clarifying!   I think I assumed that I could not specifiy a particular mailbox to search (which is a limitation of Rules).

    I was very excited when I saw this - however, am I right in seeing that the Smart Mailbox merely makes a copy of the same email, and does not actually remove it?   If that is the case, it doesn't actually do what I'm hoping to do - ie auto moving it off the server. 

    True I can manually move these emails at some point, but then I could highlight emails older than 2 weeks and move them without a Smart Mailbox anyway.   I really want to auto move them after two weeks because when I run advertisements for jobs sometimes I get a huge flood of emails and if I've forgotten to manage my inbox, I could exceed my mailbox limit and lost potential candidates.  


  • Glenn Leblanc Level 6 (9,135 points)

    Well it's not really a copy. You're just looking at the same emails that reside in the mailbox it searches. It's just a smart search folder that shows the emails you're looking for. The acutal emails remain where they are until you do something with them and you can do it from within the smart folder.

    For quick organizational purposes, you can make different smart folders with different criteria to help you when you get a lot of email. Just depends on how someone would benefit from the uses.


    It's true that you can't program a smart folder to perform a function such as move. It's really just a specific search tool that is always there until you no longer need it and delete it.

    Deleting a smart mailbox will not delete the messages within, but you can manually select the messages within it and delete or move them to another mailbox and it will remove them from where they reside.

    I'm sure you could use automator to perform an action automatically, but I'm not really familiar with using it to build a script. But without getting to complicated, it's not so hard to check that folder on occasion and manually perform the actions needed.

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 6 (9,135 points)

    Another way to deal with huge amounts of mail when you have limited server space in an IMAP account is to create different local folders for specific emails.

    Ex: a rule to move messages to MailBox2 (local created by you) from people not in your address book.

    Ex: a rule to move messages from a specific address to another local created by you.

    Ex: a rule to move messages containing a specific subject such as job advertisment ***

    In other words, whatever you can imagine that mail rules will allow.


    This would also help to organize mail and keep the inbox uncluttered.

  • sor67 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks Glenn

    And I'm much clearer on how Smart Mailboxes work now - so thanks for that.   I can definately see the benefits of Rules and Smart Mailboxes - and I'm sure I'll use them well.   And as you say I guess I can manually move the inbox - It's just that I'm coming from Outlook with autoarchive and I assumed I could just simply do the same - but I will survive I'm sure.

    Much appreciated - Cheers

  • jan_at_Solvay Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the useful thread, it saved me time searching for something that doesn't exist. Like several here I bought a smartphone and then switched from POP to IMAP mail management only to discover Apple mail app's limitations in that respect. It's a pity that Mail rules don't offer the option to act on specific mailboxes, and more specifcally the outbox. It does offer the option to act on specific accounts, so why not mailboxes?


    FWIW, i did set up a rule that systematically moves any incoming mail to a local mail archive box. My hope is that will allow me to just manage the incoming mail IMAP box to remain within the quota, while being sure that there already is a local copy.


    Third-party plugins like mail Act-on mentioned above could be a solution, why waste additional money and time configuring and maintaining the thing for such a simple feature?


    If anybody comes up with a script or other homebrew I'm willing to try it.

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