How do you use Smart Folders/Mailboxes?


Smart FolderSo I’ve been using Tiger since the day it was released and there are many features that I love and others that I find completely useless or have yet to find a use for. A couple of those things that I’ve yet to really find a use for are Smart Folders and Smart Mailboxes.

I do quite a bit of client work and so I’ve got hundreds of jobs to manage and tons of mail from all of those clients to organize. For me it just seems hard to grasp the idea of having an “imaginary” directory. A year from now I need to know exactly where various files and emails are and it seems quite disorganized to just throw all my client files and emails into a base directory and then have Smart Folders organize everything based on dates, keywords, file types, etc.

All that being said, maybe I’m just looking at this whole concept wrong. So, how do use them? Are they as useful as Apple makes them out to be? I’d love to hear how you guys (and gals) use them.



May I thank you for adding that astonishing info. I have learned a lot from it. To run a home office is very challenging. One has to be disciplined and work hard, fulfill every task organized and structured in order to overcome all these disturbances and disruptions. To stay organized with my emails I use Email Sorter Wizard, a MS Outlook add-in that helps me to stay organized with my inbox too. It is so easy to create the rules and the add-in is organizing all my emails the way I want. Interesting post and I’m sure every reader will profit from it.


Ya, I think one of the best uses is to locate files by size. So you can clean up mail archives, image files, etc on the fly. Also, in mail it’s quite useful to keep “Today” “this Week” etc.

Egypt Urnash

Smart Mailbox named “Nicole”

Contains messages which match any of the following conditions:
Any Recipient contains [Nicole’s first e-mail account]
From contains [Nicole’s first e-mail account]
Any Recipient contains [Nicole’s second e-mail account]
From contains [Nicole’s second e-mail account]

Include messages from “Sent”

– this makes the ‘threading’ feature of Mail actually useful, as I can see my responses amongst theirs.

Similarly, I have a smart mailbox folder that includes anything sent to-from my current illustration client.

Edward Loveall

I use them for clutter control. I set it to find files that are more than 500mb (or a similar amount) so when accidentally keep a disk image or something or a huge file that was used once i can weed that out.

Robert Nicholson

A great way of using Smart Mailboxes if you have IMAP and your mail spread across muitple folders ie. filtered for you on some server as it arrives and stored in the appopriate folder.

One such Smart Mailbox I have is “Today” which simply checks the date the message arrived in order to get a quick summary of mail that arrived today across all Mail folders.


One thing I like about having a “Flagged” folder, is that if you unflag an email, it will not immediatly disappear from the folder until you leave that view. At work I use Outlook, and flag many items, and have a similar “flagged” folder. In Outlook, if you unflag an email it disappears from view straight away.

If you did the wrong one though, you now have to go hunting for it to flag it back! In Mail I can just flag it back straight away.


I file everything immediately, flagging whatever needs to be dealt with, which then appears in smartbox “To Do” (with a “flagged” criterion). So ditto to Tomasz’s short but all important last sentence. Someday, I hope there will be graduated flags so that I can have a hierarchical To Do, but this is a pretty good start — for the first time since forever, my inbox is empty.
One note about this system… I ended up creating a regular folder I call “waiting on” where I put any messages that need dealing with (and thus have been flagged) and need to be kept around for a bit, but don’t need to be archived long-term. Because I clean out the “waiting on” folder on a weekly basis (just by sorting by what’s flagged and deleting whatever is not) I’m not archiving any useless messages.
After that, I have the following smart mailboxes: what came in today, what came in in the last 7 days, what came in in the last 2 weeks, what went out yesterday and today, what went out in the last week, and what went out in the last two weeks. Again, I still archive religiously, but this just gives me ultra fast access to emails that would be otherwise laborious to find even using Spotlight and even having archived.


I have an “Old” folder in Mail, with further folders below to keep my old mail organised. Before Tiger, I also had a Contacts folder with separate folders for each person. Now I have a single Contacts folder where I drag everyone into but use some Smart mailboxes to filter those. Included in that is one for any emails from the last 7 days (that is in this Contacts folder).

I have another Smart mailbox for “Unread” emails, since I have several types of emails going to folders via rules as they arrive, I can still go to one place to quickly read them.

And the last Smart mailbox shows any emails that are Flagged. So I can see at a glance if there are things I still want to chase up.

Rich Trouton

I use them mostly for “on-the-fly” searches, then delete them after I’ve found what I’m looking for (unless I know this is going to be a frequent search, then I keep it.)


I’d love to use Smart Folders, except that they cause the Finder to beachball, even on my 1.8GHz G5. *grumble*


I use it mostly for “All ___ file types”. Things like all voodoopad documents, all photoshop images, etc. I am fairly organized now, but it’s easier to find files like that then to look through dozens of folders.

I also made a “To Organize” smart folder that looks for all folders that have a yellow label on them. Then when I had a messy folder that I would need to clean I would just mark with yellow label, and I’d have an easy way to see what I would need to organize.

Elizabeth Webber

I still have rules that move them to saved folders on my harddrive in various categories like Business, Shipping, Schedules, etc. but then I use the smart folders for more in depth quick looks at them which when I have tons of NEW email to sort through makes it easy to see what I need to read first…plus I can quickly look at only today’s emails or only unread emails in one folder no matter which of my 3 accounts they came from

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