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How to Create Smart Mailboxes in Mac OS X Lion

A smart mailbox is Mail’s version of the Mac OS X Lion Finder’s Smart Folder. In a nutshell, smart mailboxes are mailboxes that display the results of a search. The messages you see in a smart mailbox are virtual; they aren’t really in the smart mailbox itself. Instead, the smart mailbox displays a list of messages stored in other mailboxes that match whatever criteria you’ve defined for that smart folder. As with Smart Folders in the OS X Lion Finder, smart mailboxes update automatically when new messages that meet the criteria are received.

Here are two ways to create a smart mailbox:

  • Choose Mailbox→New Smart Mailbox.

  • Press the + button at the bottom of the mailbox pane, and choose Smart Mailbox from the pop-up menu.

Whichever way you choose, the next thing that happens is that a sheet drops down with a field for the smart mailbox’s name, plus some pop-up menus, buttons, and check boxes.


Name your smart mailbox; determine its criteria (by using the pop-up menus, plus and minus buttons, and check boxes), and then click OK. The smart folder appears in the mailbox pane with a little gear on it to denote that it’s smart. Notice that the smart mailbox has a gear, and plain mailboxes don’t.

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