I have certain Smart Mailboxes in Mail.app (Mountain Lion, Version 6.3 / 1503) which help me find invoices for my tax declaration. I only need them once a year and would like to archive them for the other 50 weeks, because they clutter my mailbox list.

I could edit the rules and note down the search criteria, re-creating the lists once a year ... but I am looking for an elegant solution.

Is there something like Smart Playlist Management (app that exports the smarts of Smart Playlists for iTunes) ... only for Mail.app? Any idea (App, Terminal, workflow) is greatly appreciated.

2 Answers 2


You can create folders for smart mailboxes, and collapse the folder so that it only takes up one line in your smart mailbox list no matter how many smart mailboxes it contains. Use the menu item Mailbox → New Smart Mailbox Folder…, give the folder a name, and then drag your special smart mailboxes into the folder. Click the triangle to the left of the folder to collapse it.

(This answer has been written based on experience with Mail version 5.3. I do not know if later versions have significant differences, but the option appears to be still present.)

  • Neat! This also works on Mountain Lion. Didn't know that was possible. Seems like a good solution — also taken into account I want to keep some other smart playlists. Thanks!
    – myhd
    Apr 6, 2013 at 13:42

Well, really, a smartmailbox is like a rule that is stored inside a mailbox.

  1. I would suggest, creating the criteria for a smart mailbox as a real rule. Mail(menu)>Preferences>Rules(tab).

    This way, you can just check/uncheck those rules when you want. This may adversely affect the rest of your organizational routines. However, you can choose to move or copy the messages, so perhaps copying could avoid the aforementioned caveat. Or an alternative

  2. For me, if I go (in Finder) to /Users/myusername/Library/Mail/V2/MailData
    there is a file called SmartMailboxes.plist . You could always drag this out (Mail should not be running), and return it when you need it again.
    (There are also these associated files:

    • SmartMailboxes.plist.backup
    • SmartMailboxesLocalProperties.plist
    • SyncedSmartMailboxes.plist
    • SyncedSmartMailboxesLocalProperties.plist
    • VersionedSmartMailboxes.plist
    • VersionedSmartMailboxes.plist.backup

      that may either need to be moved with, or just deleted. I don't use smart mailboxes at all, just a few dozen rules that I have changed/deleted/had in various forms for years over multiple OS/computer combos.) (Italics indicate a file that is there if you have synced smart mailboxes, which I never have, so that file doesn't exist for me, but does for the OP).
  3. as far as a terminal shell script, you would want to edit the relevant plist files with the strings you need, by adding/removing them as need. You will get the strings you need by looking at the files themselves. You might want an app to look at them cleanly though, this could be XCode, PlistEditor, or something lite like TextWrangler if you're not messing around with XCode.

Notes: I'm running Mountain Lion with Mail.app 6.2. You should endeavor to always give the software version number of all relevant apps/os's to help the helpers help. I don't know if those files exist in the same way for you (more/less/different name/location), but the place to start for any recent Mac OS X version is the ~/Library/Mail (where ~ is your username/home folder), if your library folder is invisible you can get there by typing in the string in the window that pops-up with command-shift-g.

  • 1
    Thank you very much for the detailed post! I examined options 2) and 3). Seems like 10.8 Mail, SyncedSmartMailboxes.plist and SmartMailboxesLocalProperties.plist are the two relevant files. Editing the former has no effects unfortunately; I assume the data is cached somewhere else. Even though I LOVE working in the terminal, editing any of these files by hand feels a bit too dangerous for me :)
    – myhd
    Apr 6, 2013 at 13:39
  • 1
    I understand your reservations, it's not exactly a clean way, as some small change by apple in say 10.8.4 or 10.9 updates could render the script useless or destructive. However, FYI, if you download fseventer( fernlightning.com), you can see temporary files as created, 10.8 does love doing this for each little thing, then proceed with blocking the file(s) updating etc… Also, thanks for pointing out the relevant files. after thought yesterday I pegged those would at least be important for icloud/iOS+OSX/multi-device synching! Also, in '1', remember you can COPY the messages instead of moving! Apr 6, 2013 at 17:34
  • Regarding the relevant files, I have JUST recently upgraded my second Mac to Mountain Lion, and it turns out all Smart Mailboxes are indeed synchronized between the same iCloud account on various Macs (neat!). That’s the reason for the Synced filename part I guess...
    – myhd
    Apr 6, 2013 at 19:39

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