I have dozens of filter rules in my Apple Mail (under Mavericks).

(the SyncedRules.plist file is 110460 bytes long)

99% of my rules move spam mail to the trash.

My criteria are somewhat loose, and sometimes it happens that legitimate messages end up being moved to the trash.

I have a case where I can't find manually which rule applied to a specific message. This message is moved to the trash, but I can't figure out which rule it responded positive to.

How can I get the info of the rule which was found as a match to a specific message, so that I can tighten it and avoid it apply in the future to alike messages ?

1 Answer 1


2 ways I can think of, neither particularly 'fun'

  1. The 'one rule' method

    • Disable all rules bar one
    • put the 'mistreated' email back in the inbox
    • Run the single rule
    • see if it moves the email
    • rinse & repeat
  2. the 'sounds' method

    • Add a new line to each existing rule - Play Sound
    • repeat for each rule, using a different sound
    • move the email back to the inbox & Apply Rules
  3. a late posible 3rd… eliminate by halves [based on 1, but better for a large number of rules]
    but this requires that no rule will halt the entire process with "Stop evaluating rules".

    • Add a rule halfway down the list that will play a sound if it processes that far.
    • test by halves, disabling rules & moving the sound to the 'silent' half each time
  • I will try out the 3. which sounds (sic) very nice idea indeed. Methods 1 and 2 are not really applicable, I have too many rules. Thanks !
    – user64297
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 19:55
  • BTW, in order to avoid this specific scenario, I have a self-made folder called z-Spam, into which all the detritus goes, per rules & also via SpamSeive. Every day or so I just go through it, finger on Delete. It's pretty easy to spot anything misfiled. This leaves my Trash folder for actual trash; things I have actually deleted.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 20:01
  • It worked ! a great many thanks, I didn't know rules could play sounds. Here is how I proceeded: I created a rule "play sound Ping and stop". I also used two identical rules "play sound Purr", let's call them top and bottom which I use to delimit the borders of my dichotomy. Placed these two at the extremities, the "ping and stop" at middle, tried out to see if the message was trashed. If yes, I moved up the bottom, if no, moved down the top, and iterate. As per your comment, does the Mail trash gets emptied without the user asking it ? Anyway, again many thanks.
    – user64297
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 20:12
  • it is a bit of a miracle that I still had the message triggering the rule, the problem dates back to one month ago, and on a mail account which I regularly reduce because it is subscribed to a number of mailing lists which are anyhow archived on the net.
    – user64297
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 20:15
  • Nice interpretation - kind of a reduce by 2 alternative - glad it worked for you. Re the Trash folder, there used to be a Trash pref 'empty Trash on Quit', but I don't see it anymore. I'm pretty certain it's emptied at user command - but I am not 100% certain, as I never need to check it for 'errors' I just periodically have to remember to empty it, manually.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 20:20

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