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I was recently reading about different strategies for streamlining the processing of emails in Mail, and multiple sources suggested a smart mailbox populated with recently viewed emails. Here's one such source for the sake of example.

I agreed that this seemed useful, so I created a smart mailbox inventively called "Recently Viewed," with the settings shown in the following image.

My mail settings

Seems pretty straightforward. However, this mailbox appears to behave erratically. It includes some emails I view, but not others, in a pattern whose logic I have not yet been able to discern. That is, I can look at email A, then check the Recently Viewed smart mailbox, and email A appears there, at the top of the list. Then, I can go look at email B, and check the smart mailbox again, only to find that email B is not present.

I always assume user error – that is, my error – until I feel confident I've eliminated that possibility. As such, I tried to determine the cause of this seemingly strange behavior. Here are some factors I considered:

  1. My first thought was that there was some threshold for considering an email "viewed," which I was only occasionally meeting. To this end, I tried all of the following, in lots of combinations, to see if I could reliably cause a message to be marked as viewed (as indicated by its appearance in the Recently Viewed smart mailbox).

    • "Look" at the email for a while. That is, keep it open and in the foreground for a minute or two.
    • Scroll to the bottom of the email.
    • Open the email in a new window by double-clicking it.
    • Reply to the email.
    • Follow a link in the email.

    None of these could reliably make the email appear in the smart mailbox – some seemed to work, sometimes, but none worked every time, or even half the time, telling me they are not the critical elements.

  2. I use the setting Organize by Conversation (View -> Organize by Conversation). I thought that maybe this was confusing Mail somehow, so I turned it off. This did not fix the issue.

  3. I tried the requisite restart Mail and restart computer, just to be sure.

Can anyone explain this behavior? Is this buggy, or, as I suspect, am I doing something foolish?

Additional info:

I'm using:

  • Mail 6.3 (1503)
  • OS X 10.8.3
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