I use Apple Mail as an IMAP client for my Gmail account. I have a few Smart Mailboxes that I use regularly, e.g. "Today", "Yesterday", etc.

If I'm browsing the contents of a smart mailbox and mark a message read / unread or delete it, the change is immediately visible in the smart mailbox and also in the original folder.

But if I try to move a message to a folder while browsing in a smart mailbox, it has no effect. The message briefly disappears from the smart mailbox, and then immediately reappears. It remains in the original folder, as if the move had no effect.

I thought this was just an unfortunate limitation of smart mailboxes, but then I found this quote in Apple help:

If you change an email while viewing it in a Smart Mailbox—such as marking the email as read or unread, or moving or deleting it—the change is reflected in the mailbox where the email is stored.

So what's going on? Is there a setting I need to adjust to get this to work? Is it a limitation of using Apple with Gmail / GSuite accounts?

Or, is there a workaround for this? Some way to jump to a message in its original folder, so I can move it from there?

enter image description here

  • A smart mailbox isn't really a mailbox and doesn't contain anything. It's a saved Spotlight search. You can't change the results of the search without changing the search criteria.
    – Linc D.
    Jul 21, 2023 at 12:36
  • Understood. But note the quote above from Apple help.
    – Bill
    Jul 21, 2023 at 12:41
  • I'm not trying to move something "out" of the smart mailbox. The smart mailbox has identified a message and I want to move that original message to a new location. It then may or may not fall into the smart mailbox criteria.
    – Bill
    Jul 21, 2023 at 12:41
  • I can move messages when I manually type search criteria into the search bar. Based on what Apple said above, the same concept should work for smart mailboxes.
    – Bill
    Jul 21, 2023 at 12:43
  • Hard to tell what's wrong. Um. It could be a limitation or issue specific to your setup or configuration although I'm unsure where to look at. Tough question.
    – Thinkr
    Jul 24, 2023 at 9:51

2 Answers 2


In this answer, "Gmail" refers to what is visible in the Google Mail web interface and directly relates to the what is stored on Google's servers.

The Gmail product has concepts which do not fully match the usual IMAP protocol. This causes considerable confusion when an IMAP client (e.g. Apple Mail) does not show a mail folder structure in quite the same way as the Gmail web interface.

Some problem areas:

  • Categories (e.g. Social) which are a message tag and have no equivalent in IMAP. These can be ignored as far as Apple Mail is concerned.
  • Labels which can be applied to messages and any message can have multiple labels.
  • GMail does not have Folders which are a core concept in structuring email in any IMAP client.

This mismatch between label and folder concepts has to be resolved by each IMAP client.

In Apple Mail, GMail's labels are two-way synchronised with Apple Mail's folders. But messages can have more than one label with the consequence that messages can appear in more than one folder. This can be something of a surprise and, worse, can cause unexpected behaviour.

The unexpected behaviours are often a result of which Gmail System labels are synchronised to Apple Mail folders.

Based on my experience the synchronisation of System labels should be reduced to the essentials. My Gmail web settings for System labels to/from IMAP are reduced to this:

enter image description here

Notice that IMAP synchronisation of the All Mail label is disabled.

If an "all mail" folder is wanted, it is best to create a Smart Folder in Apple Mail, like this:

enter image description here

So, in simple terms, disable IMAP synchronisation of "All Mail".

  • This solved it for me - I had to uncheck "Show in IMAP" for "All Mail" and then restart Apple Mail. Thank you!
    – Bill
    Oct 15, 2023 at 2:29

A Smart Mailbox isn't a mailbox to store emails, it's designed to sort your emails for you to have all emails of a certain kind in the same mailbox. You can also observe that a Smart Mailbox can take emails from all of your inboxes, even across accounts:

Screenshot of two emails from two different accounts in a Smart Mailbox

Due to this, emails of a specific kind (e.x. Received today) will stay in the Smart Mailbox even if they are moved (except if they get deleted).

Let's use a simple example if that's still unclear:

  • You have received an email at 8am this morning.
  • You have a Smart Mailbox configured to show email received today.

This email will be in one of your main inboxes (consider there are no rules applied) and in the Smart Mailbox (received today).

Even if you move the email to another mailbox, the email will still keep its "Received at 8am" attribute and it will therefore still stay in the Smart Mailbox.


What you need to do to be able to move items out of the Smart Mailbox to another mailbox is make a Smart Mailbox (or edit yours) and set it to something similar to this:

enter image description here

Here, it's a sample Smart Mailbox that should show all emails received today. But, it will exclude messages that lend in the "Newsletters" folder. This means that if you move a message to this folder, the email will disappear from the Smart Mailbox, even if it was received today.

You'll just have to add a condition for each of your mailboxes.

  • Thanks - I understand how a smart mailbox works. I just added a photo of the definition ("date is today" and "in All Inboxes"). When I'm browsing the contents of this smart mailbox and I drag a message into a folder (a non-inbox folder), then according to the excerpt from Apple's docs, the message will be moved into the target folder and out of the inbox, so it should no longer satisfy the criteria of my "Today" smart mailbox.
    – Bill
    Oct 9, 2023 at 18:41
  • But what actually happens is that it gets labeled with the new folder, but is still in the inbox. This only happens when a smart mailbox is involved - if I drag an email out of the inbox and into another folder, it works correctly.
    – Bill
    Oct 9, 2023 at 18:41
  • 1
    The question isn't why the message is still in the smart mailbox. The question is about why it's still in the Inbox after being moved to another folder.
    – Barmar
    Oct 9, 2023 at 20:55
  • @Barmar I think I have answered that: "This email will be in one of your main inboxes (consider there are no rules applied) and in the Smart Mailbox (received today). Even if you move the email to another mailbox, the email will still keep its "Received at 8am" attribute and it will therefore still stay in the Smart Mailbox." See the full example for more info
    – Thinkr
    Oct 10, 2023 at 18:45
  • 1
    That's NOT what they're complaining about. They're complaining that it's still in the Inbox, not the mailbox they moved it to. The received time is irrelevant.
    – Barmar
    Oct 10, 2023 at 20:28

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