The Smart Mac: Address Book & Mail


Apple’s original implementation of “smart” file management isn’t just limited to the Finder, and in fact, you’ve probably seen it more often in other applications like Address Book and Mail.

Here are some ideas of how you can harness the power of these two applications using the same idea as Smart Folders.

Smart Groups

Address Book provides support for smart groups which allow for dynamic content, just like a smart folder. As new content is added that meet your guidelines, the group will automatically update.

Creating a Smart Group is as simple as going to File and selecting “New Smart Group…” or by clicking the plus icon (+) in the lower left corner of the Address Book window. Then give your group a name and set of criteria. As you add your second criterion, you’ll have the choice for your group to consist of any of your rules or all of your rules.

Here’s some ideas for useful smart groups.

Upcoming Birthdays

Interested in who might have a birthday this month? Set the birthday criterion to include entries that occur within the next month. (This will include all birthdays within a month of the current date or when you click to view the group.)

Upcoming Birthdays

Missing Email Addresses

To see a list of people who you do not have an email address for, set the email criterion to include entries that are not set.

Missing Email Addresses

My Coworkers

Most companies offer their employees an email address that uses the corporate domain. If you created a smart group for “email” that contains “” then you will have a group that is always updated with all of your coworkers. An extra bonus, these Smart Groups also show up and autocomplete in Mail.

My Coworkers

Or Anything You Want

Since the Address Book allows for a “notes” section on each card, you can use this region to “tag” cards and then use a smart group to show results based on that information. (You could also repurpose one of the other standard fields for this use.) For example, throwing the word “family” into the appropriate contacts’ card would allow for you to create a smart group that just showed your family members.

Currently, Smart Groups cannot be synced to iPods or iPhones. While they also cannot be synced through MobileMe to or Windows computers, they can still sync through MobileMe to other Macs.

Smart Mailboxes

Mail has its own flavor of smart file management too with the implementation of smart mailboxes. To create one, use the Mailbox menu or the plus (+) icon in the lower left of the message viewer and select “New Smart Mailbox.”

Give your smart mailbox a name and choose the appropriate criteria for your mailbox. With the ability to create criteria based on recipient, subject, mailbox, date, message, attachment and more, you can create some pretty powerful mailboxes to help organize your workflow. Here’s a few suggestions.

Recently Viewed

Most people process tons of email on a daily basis and frequently people have multiple email addresses for different purposes. With all of these messages, is there an easy way to find that email you were looking at last night?

Sure! Create a new smart mailbox and select “date last viewed” and choose “is in the last” and specify a number of days.

Recently Viewed

Recently Sent

If I wanted to quickly find an email that I had sent recently, I could create a Smart Group that showed me messages in the mailbox “Sent” that were “date received” in the past 2 days. Also make sure you tick the “Include messages from Sent” checkbox.

Recently Sent

Emails from My Family

Remember the family smart group we made in our Address Book earlier? We can create a smart mailbox to show us all the messages from those family members.

Select “Sender is Member of Group” and then choose the appropriate group from the drop down menu.

Similar to Smart Groups, Smart Mailboxes do not sync to iPods or iPhones nor to or Windows computers through MobileMe. They will only sync via MobileMe to other Macs.

Do you use Smart Groups or Smart Mailboxes? Have any tips you’d like to share? Share them in the comments.


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