I'm not sure if I haven't seen that in earlier versions of Mail.app, but I would really love to have the ability to create a task in iCal from an email - and that this task could link to the original email.

Maybe there are some third-party solutions that would let this done easily?

7 Answers 7


It's possible to do that with AppleScript.

If you're familiar with this technology, you should just browse iCal and Mail respective dictionary. If not, that's the occasion to become familiar ! This is a great place to start.

Here's a very basic script you could use (tested on Snow Leopard only, but should work fine on Lion as well) :

tell application "Mail"

    set theSelection to selection
    set theMessage to first item of theSelection
    set theSumm to subject of theMessage
    set theDescription to "From : " & sender of theMessage
    set theUrl to "message:%3C" & message id of theMessage & "%3E"

end tell

tell application "iCal"

    make todo at end of events of (first item of every calendar) with properties {summary:theSumm, description:theDescription, url:theUrl}

end tell

In order to use it easily in Mail, you should save it in ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail/ (create folders if they don't exist) and activates the Scripts menubar item in preferences of AppleScript Editor. Here's the result when you're in Mail :

enter image description here

You can also use a productivity tool to launch your script. There are plenty of them out there but I personally use Keyboard Maestro & Alfred.

There's a lot of room for improvement. By example, you could set a default alarm, insert it in a given calendar… In order to improve it yourself, use the AppleScript dictionary : it's the best reference you could find. However, those links may be useful as well, as they provide many examples (some are maybe too old) : Scripting Mail & Scripting iCal.

  • Hi Olivier, I think this should be placed as a comment rather than an answer, unless you complete the script and provide that as the answer. The OP knows Applescript is a possible solution, as he has tagged it as such. I'm interested in the script too though, so hopefully you can provide it soon :)
    – stuffe
    Aug 16, 2011 at 13:59
  • The script is here :)
    – olivier
    Aug 16, 2011 at 18:25
  • Thanks! I find one problem with this approach - selection for Mail5, if I use conversation view, returns whole conversation, hence the script uses one of the messages from there. My original approach was to create an entry from a highlighted message from within the selected conversation. Is this even possible? Or should I rather use classic (non-conversation-centric) view?
    – kender
    Aug 16, 2011 at 20:02
  • I don't have any access to a Lion Mac until Friday so I'm not able to proceed to tests. I have the intuition that retrieving the highlighted message in AppleScript is possible, but I never did it yet so… I'll take a look at it on Friday if nobody does before. Though, with the non-conversation-centric view, it should work fine, does it ?
    – olivier
    Aug 16, 2011 at 20:07
  • It does with "regular" view. However, I'm loving the conversation view in Mail... and the ability to retrieve the selected message would rock :)
    – kender
    Aug 16, 2011 at 20:40

In Snow Leopard, I used the MailTag which is a Mail plugin, with the Mail.app. In MailTag, you are able to create a task which actually created in the iCal. However, MailTag released a new version for the Mail.app in Lion and temporarily removed this feature.

Since I am using the Things to manager the daily tasks, I usually just drag the mail message into the Things icon in the Dock and create an task there. Things will sync the tasks to iCal.

  • OmniFocus offers similar tools and sync tasks with iCal as well. But that seems like overkill in this situation.
    – olivier
    Aug 16, 2011 at 17:53
  • I tried to tie both solutions, and to use AppleScript to add stuff to things (to have it fired via keyboard shortcut and have the fields filled in instead of filling them manually), only one things I miss - how to create clickable link to the message in notes, like it's created when I drag email to Things... any clue? :)
    – kender
    Aug 16, 2011 at 19:24
  • Select a mail message (not the conversation), from the Mail.app Edit menu, Copy Message Url and you can get the message link. (the shortcut key is, U
    – kukoo
    Aug 17, 2011 at 1:51

There may be an even simpler solution, at least for my needs, using Automator. This solution takes selected text and uses it as the title of a new Reminder in a pre-set iCal calendar/to-do list.

I launched Automator and chose "Service" when it asked me what I wanted to create.

I left the initial settings at default ("Service receives selected [text] in [any application]")

From the Library pane on the left, I selected Calendar, and from the middle pane selected New To Do Item. I then selected Add to: [Existing calendar] and chose a calendar (my default Reminders calendar, which is on iCloud and syncs with my iPhone). Automator assumes (correctly) that you want to feed any selected text into the new To Do item. For my purposes, it made sense to set a default priority by ticking the checkbox and choosing Medium, but your needs may differ.

I saved the Service as CreateReminder (Automator automatically appended the extension .workflow). Voila, the service shows up in Mail.app when I select text, right-click on it, and select Services > CreateReminder.

As a bonus, this lets you create a reminder from selected text in in any application, not just in Mail.app.

  • Can you post a screenshot of the Automator workflow? It helps to see it visually rather than you explaining it.
    – daviesgeek
    Jul 21, 2012 at 5:16

Theo got it spot on, this is what I did as well:

enter image description here


I can recommend this third party solution that makes this brain dead easy : Fantastical

This will do everything you ask.

Fantastical works with your favorite Mac calendar application: iCal, BusyCal, Entourage, or Outlook. You can even use Google Calendar or Yahoo! Calendar

The key thing about FANTASTICAL is how it creates a new iCal task (or event) purely from natural language analysis.

As an example, an extract from this macrumours Fantastical review :

Using an advanced natural language engine, Fantastical is extremely expressive, allowing users enter event text in their own style. For example, enter a sentence such as "Lunch with John at 123 Main Street on Tuesday" and Fantastical will translate the sentence into an event and add it to their calendar.

An example of how you would create a work flow to gain the ability to add an iCal task or event from an email using Fantastical is :

( the following assumes you have created a new Automator task to pass clipboard copied text to FANTASTICAL ) :

  1. select your email sentence to use for your new task, such as "get this done by friday".

  2. copy this selected task via CMD+C

  3. hit your predefined shortcut key to process the text copied to your clipboard directly into iCal as a new task (or event) using FANTASTICAL's natural language engine

OR - (if you prefer not to use Automator ) :

  1. select your email sentence to use for your new task, such as "get this done by friday".

  2. copy this selected task via CMD+C

  3. hit whatever keyboard shortcut you predefined in FANTASTICAL.

  4. paste your selected text into the FANTASTICAL entry field, then click OK.

  5. Boom! your new task (or event) has been added into your iCal calendar via FANTASTICAL's incredible "natural language" engine.

  • 1
    It doesn't appear clear from that quote whether Fantastical supports creating tasks from email. Can you provide a link to or quote from documentation about that feature? Aug 17, 2011 at 12:58
  • @ Kyle, sorry, I should have been more explicit on just how fantastical integrates to create a task or event in iCal from your email -- I have updated my post to reflect this. Aug 17, 2011 at 15:13

I edited an old AppleScript i found online to work with Reminders. It uses the message subject as the title and the message body as the note. The caveat is iCal must be active or the workflow will fail. I have set iCal to minimize when the Service is run. I also added a launch for Reminders at the end. The only thing I can't seem to figure out is adding a link to the email, but other than that it works well.

on run {input, parameters}
    tell application "Calendar" to activate
    tell application "Calendar"
        set miniaturized of window 1 to true
        tell application "Mail"
            set theSelection to selection
            set theMessage to item 1 of theSelection
            set theurl to "message://%3c" & theMessage's message id & "%3e"
            set thedes to theMessage's content
            set input to theMessage's subject
        end tell
    end tell

   tell application "Calendar"
       tell calendar "Reminders"
           make new todo at end with properties {url:theurl, summary:input, description:thedes}
       end tell
    end tell
    return input
end run

Hope this helps someone! Kevin


You can just drag and drop the email from Mail.app into iCal.

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