Additional MailMate Tips

Uncategorized Apr 28, 2020

I received a ton of great feedback from visitors about my MailMate love-fest earlier this month. Most people didn’t know the app existed. So, here’s a few more details around how I have my setup configured along with the hidden preferences I’ve enabled.

Here’s my copy of MailMate:

MailMate window

On the left is your typical macOS source list with all of my mailboxes and smart folders. I’ll describe those later. But first, the three-pane main view.

At the top, outlined in red, is the message list. When Gmail came on the scene in 2004 and introduced email threading to the masses, it was a revelation. And I stuck with a threaded inbox view even after I switched my personal email account to Fastmail.

But maybe a year ago? I was digging through my archives trying to find a specific conversation with a customer, and I found it easier to do my research when I reverted back to a standard, chronological list of my messages. After fifteen years of only looking at threaded conversations, this “new” view just sort of…stuck? And it’s been my default MailMate view ever since.

Don’t get me wrong, MailMate has excellent support for organizing by threads. It even offers an amazing feature I’ve never seen in any other email client – showing the total number of messages in a thread and then allowing you to sort by that count. For example, here’s my threaded customer support archives sorted by longest conversation.

MailMate window

The right-most column shows the number of emails in each thread. Apparently one customer and I exchanged 57 replies!

Going back to the first screenshot, the bottom area outlined in green is the currently selected email. Even though MailMate is optimized for sending plain text (and HTML using Markdown) emails, it renders HTML messages just as well as any other client. Unlike most iOS email apps I’ve tried (as well as a good number of macOS apps), I’ve never encountered any significant HTML rendering bugs – even from the most ridiculously formatted mailing lists or advertisements.

As I said above, I prefer a chronological inbox with one email per row. However, I do find it incredibly helpful to see – at a glance – previous correspondence with the sender. All modern email clients offer threads, which is great, but MailMate offers an instant correspondence view (what I call a “history” view) that shows every email you’ve ever exchanged with that person – regardless if it’s part of the current conversation. And that’s the area outlined in blue.

MailMate window

I have a pretty good memory for my customers, but I find it invaluable to instantly see previous conversations I’ve had when someone reports a bug or has a question. The correspondence view also (accidentally) gives me an ad-hoc view into their order history. Because I bcc myself on every order receipt and serial number lookup, when I select their support email, the history view shows an email for every order they’ve placed, etc. It’s a crazy-useful feature.

Next up, the sidebar.

Inboxes are inboxes, so I’ll skip those. But the purple folders are smart mailboxes. And MailMate has by-far the smartest and most powerful search and filtering capabilities of any email client I’ve used. Here are the four main smart folders I’ve added to my top-level view:


This mailbox simply searches for the word “bill” in the subject or body of the email. I know, that’s a stupid simple rule. But, it works!

MailMate window


I have a secret email address that I only use for subscribing to newsletters and mailing lists that I actually want to read. This smart mailbox filters on that as well as for a number of From: senders that I signed up for long ago before I started using a dedicated newsletter email address.

I really like having all of these emails organized into a single view. I get too many to read everything. But, when I have time, I can quickly dip into the recent stream of updates and then jump back out – almost like a lower priority and less urgent RSS reader.


I mentioned above that every email my backend system sends to a customer is automatically BCC‘d to me just so I can keep an eye on things. For branding reasons, many of those emails come from different addresses based on what product they’re concerning or the reason for the email. This mailbox has smart rules defined to collect all of those.

Orders and Receipts

Finally, my Orders mailbox gathers all online orders, receipts, etc. It does this by searching for the keywords “order”, “receipt”, and “invoice”.

MailMate window

Again, it’s a really simple search to setup, but it works wonderfully for my needs.

MailMail Hidden Preferences

The MailMate manual has an entire section on hidden preferences that aren’t exposed through the GUI. Feel free to read through everything that’s available. Some of them are so useful, but also so esoteric, that I keep an updated shell script in Dropbox with all of my customizations that I can re-run if I ever need to setup a new computer.

defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmDockCounterFontSize -float 48.0
defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmDockCounterFontSize -float 36.0
defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmShowAttachmentsFirst -bool YES
defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmAttachmentButtonsOnLeft -bool YES
defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmSingleMessageWindowClosesAfterMove -bool YES
defaults write com.freron.MailMate MmComposerInitialFocus -string "alwaysTextView"

Dock Counter Font Size

I keep my Dock resized to be pretty small on screen, and I find the default badge sizes hard to read when I’m leaning back from my screen. Bumping up the font size is a nice touch for my fast-approaching-forty eyes.

Attachments Up Top

I never understood why MailMate defaults to showing an email’s list of attachments at the bottom of the message – offscreen if the message has to scroll. This bool makes them up appear at the top of the message view.

Close Window after Move

Does just what it says. If you’re viewing an email in a separate window, when you file away the message into a folder, MailMate will also close the extra window.

Give Composer Initial Focus

When you set this preference, pressing ⌘N to create a new email will focus the body of the message so you can begin typing right away – as opposed to focusing the To field.

So that’s a bit more about my MailMate setup. There’s a ton of additional tweaks, customizations, and power features you can set to bend the app exactly to your liking.