Mail.app seems built to punish us for not having inbox-zero.

I hear a chime telling me new mail has arrived, but with a list of mailboxes that look like:


how can I possibly tell which one has new new mail, as opposed to the old new mail? Or better yet, is it possible to make an email's newness expire after a certain period?

2 Answers 2


Create a Smart Mailbox with "Message is Unread" and sort it by Date Received. I have this setup as my default mailbox for processing my email. I also have the Mail.app dock icon badge set to point to this Mailbox so I can see how much unread mail I have, though in your case this won't be an advantage.

Pro Tip. Just mark all those messages as unread read. You're never going to read them.

  • That's why I'd like the unread status to expire automatically. Marking them unread isn't a long-term solution. Sep 30, 2010 at 1:53
  • That’s why I switched to gmail, archive and forget :) Sep 30, 2010 at 9:35
  • 1
    You can also alter the smart mailboxes to only show those where date received is > some date
    – mmmmmm
    Sep 30, 2010 at 10:59
  • Sorry, I miss-typed. I meant mark then all as READ.
    – Henry
    Sep 30, 2010 at 23:05

When I used Mail, I had a lot of smart mailboxes, but one of the most used ones (and their main conditions) where:

UNREAD (message is unread)

TODAY (date received is TODAY)

YESTERDAY (date received is YESTERDAY)

WEEK (date received is within 7 days from now)

MONTH (date received is within 30 days from now).

FLAGGED (message is flagged)

And every year, I’d create a (new) one like this:

2010 (message is received between 1/1/2010 and 31 dec 2010).

2009 (like 2010, but with the correct dates)


Those ones were inside a folder. It allowed me to group messages by year, because sometimes I needed a message that I got in 2008…

Of course I’d add other conditions like not in spam/trash, etc. Sometimes you have to “nest” smartmailboxes. Like have one that is message is not in spam or thrash. And then a new smart mailbox that says: Message is not in + other conditions.

The reasoning behind all this smartmailboxing is that once you start getting thousands of emails, searching in mail is not fast. For that reason I switched to Gmail, but that’s just my personal preference.

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