Is Apple Mail really this hard?

I’m been using Google Mail for many years, but for a number of reasons I am considering moving to the macOS Apple Mail app. In Google Mail if I want to move an email from the Inbox to a particular folder/label, I simply click “Label,” and choose the appropriate label. If I can’t readily see the needed label, there is a search in the label interface which brings it right up. If I need to make a new label, that process is easy too.

In Apple Mail, however, the only way that I can find to move an email to a particular folder is to click on “Move to” and scroll through (no search available) the entire list of mailboxes until I find the one that I want. Alternatively, I can drag the email to the list of mailboxes in the sidebar. With the hundreds of mailboxes that I have (I’ve been at this for a long time.) that is a laborious process. Is Apple Mail really this hard, or am I missing something?

Worth noting that Google never actually “moves” a message. Every message lives in the “All Mail” folder, and Google filters your display by label. So adding a label isn’t “moving” anything.

I’m not familiar with Mail, but in MailMate there’s a keyboard command to pop up a folder list like you’re talking about, then you just pick which one you want. Pretty easy.

I often move messages from a given sender to the same folder. After moving a few, Mail will start offering that location as a suggestion. In addition to “move to…” I will also get the option “move to somefolder” where “somefolder” is the location I have moved previous messages from that sender. I find that the suggested location is usually the one I want. I rarely need to scroll through the list of folders to select one. The rare expectation is when I receive a message from a new sender or have some out-of-the-ordinary situation.

However, as I think about it, I don’t remember how that works on the Mac as I do most of my email on my iPad (and I don’t have access to my Mac right now). On the iPad, I swipe slowly to the left until the multiple options appear and select “…” (more). In the list of options which then appear is the “move to somefolder” option which is listed right below “move message…”


Mail has been pushing hard against the idea of filing email in lots of different folders, so it doesn’t have a search function for folders. I use a 2-finger tap to bring up the contextual menu on a particular message, and I’ve found that Mail on the Mac does a good job of populating that menu with the folder I actually want (and if not, the “Move to” on the contextual menu shows me everything).

It was difficult for me to transition away from obsessively filing every email message. However, I reluctantly found myself agreeing with Apple that the time it took was not paying off in terms of my ability to find things later. Yes, it made me feel good — but it wasn’t actually helping me. There’s simply too much email for even a hundred folders! I was always better off searching. So I switched to Archiving everything and using colored flags for active items (bills, receipts for items that haven’t arrived yet, etc.). I do have Sanebox triage my incoming messages, but email doesn’t stay there (or, it isn’t supposed to!).

If you don’t want to switch to the “Apple way” but want to keep using Mail, I recommend exploring MailSuite (includes MailTags and Mail Act-On) from SmallCubed ( I used Mail Act-On for years to give me quick access to filing.


Start typing the name of a mailbox after activating the Move to… menu. The selection will move to the item with the name starting with the letters you’ve typed. It’s not exactly the same as a search bar, but it works pretty well.


Mail is short on conveniences overall, so keyboard shortcuts and other customizations do the trick for me.

I used to be a filer, but now I use more of a “bucket” approach. I have less than 10 folders (big buckets). It’s much faster to drop messages into one of several big buckets and rely on search to retrieve messages, which is usually quick and accurate, than it is to dive into the deep folder system I used to have years ago.

One advantage of this approach when it comes to Mail, is all of my folders are favorites, so they pick up the ⌘1, ⌘2, ⌘3… shortcuts to Go To Favorite Folder, and ⌃⌘1, ⌃⌘2, ⌃⌘3… for Move To Favorite Folder.

I also have a Keyboard Maestro palette specific to the Mail app with custom shortcuts.


Yes as simple as the Apple Mail app is it leaves much to be desired and so I’ve been using Outlook for Mac (not without its flaws of course) since I’m Office/Exchange centric. I doubt I’d ever return to Apple Mail.

Does the new Outlook allow for real linking to individual messages? I’ve been stuck on because it’s the only app I’ve found that does (a) exchange support, (b) no forwarding to someone else’s servers, and (c) real linking using message IDs.

I’ve only ever been able to get linking to work with the web version of Outlook. I figured out the differences between the link as displayed, and the format needed to retrieve the message, and have a Keyboard Maestro macro that reformats the link of a selected message and pastes it into a task in Things. But I don’t think you can move the message to a new folder, or the link breaks.

There’s been a few suggestions here, including at least one app. I’ll add MsgFiler to the list:

I’ve bounced between a few different apps that do this, and have been using this one, as it seems the simplest.

If you want to try it, I would recommend a very good backup of Mail and the content.
While I know a couple of people who are very happy with the MailSuite, I also know a number of people (incl. myself) who had some serious issues after installing it, and in my case, I couldn’t solve them even after I deleted everything, because (I think) I used in parts a Backup, I made after I installed the MailSuite, and there seems to be something somewhere in it, that corrupts Mail again and again, while I reinstall from one of my backups (and I could not do it in an other way currently, because of my large local folders.).

Yes, it’s that bad.
People pay $50 to smallcubed to try to fix it.
Search is also terrible, and usually doesn’t find all messages it should.
I think this is an example of the developers not “eating their own dog food”, I.e. using their own software.

I’ve moved on to Thunderbird which works well, has tagging and other features built in, plus shortcuts that make sense like A to archive, J for junk, etc.

It’s also free.

I hear this a lot, but on MacOS my search is solid. Weird. I have way more issues with spotlight than Mail.

I do not get me start on searching mail in iOS.


Yeah, it’s kind of like TimeMachine, some people swear by it, others swear at it.
I’m in the latter camp for both.

I moved to Apple Mail from Gmail recently just because I don’t like the browser-based interface. Apple Mail lists my various Gmail labels as “mailboxes,” and I have some that I marked as favorites. Those appear at the top of the left sidebar. I’m using IMAP, if that makes a difference.

Gmail still does all the heavy lifting though. I have dozens of filters set up, so emails are automatically labeled before Apple Mail sees them. The rare one that sneaks through, I either drag and drop into the appropriate mailbox in Apple Mail, or I log into Gmail and set up a filter for it.

My experience is same as yours with search on the Mac. Works like a charm. My search results on iOS have improved greatly. Where it falls down is my firm’s exchange e-mail. Once exchange messages get saved in a folder they become harder to find. It’s irritating, but I think this is an Exchange issue.

I just wish both iOS and macOS mail would allow searching for a precise date range. That is often the most useful type of search for me.

I’m an obsessive folder user, but I have probably read all the same articles as you have that tell us organizing emails into folders is a waste of time. The freedom to not move emails would save me so much time.

But here is where this falls down (for me), and I’d love to know how others deal with this. My email folders are generally organized by a project. The concept of a folder is great because all of the message in the project are grouped together. You can browse through the folder, search just that folder, etc. If you use search and you want all the messages in the project, you have to search separately for each sender. Sometime’s senders use (purposefully or accidentally) multiple e-mail addresses. Sometimes multiple people are communicating on an issue in the project, but there are different subject lines and different groups of TO: and CC: recipients.

Search is great when you want to zero in on an e-mail. Which may be the most frequent use case for accessing messages in our repository. But it seems unhelpful when you want a broad look at “every” message that might have been communicated on a topic.

I’ll give you an example of how this comes up in my work. Client or a witness is responding to a request for production of documents and sends documents via e-mail attachments. Let’s say that three different company employees send me documents in multiple batches of emails. I may not be able to act on them “now,” but I need be sure that I can swoop up all of the emails when I am ready to act on them. Having to remember which senders sent the documents, what subject lines they used, and how many they sent, is far harder than just tucking them in a folder. (By the way, the “I” here could be me or other people on my team.) [Also, you may say “Well, the client shouldn’t do it that way.” To which, I’d reply is “True, but they still do.”]

Note that I put this here in the hopes that someone might have a good idea for how to solve for that issue, that frees me from constantly moving emails to folders.

I might be a Mail unicorn, because it’s been rock solid for me for years. Both my day job and the college I’m an adjunct with use Office365 for mail, so having a native, well supported email client that talks to exchange is important for me. Search works great, I’ve got a few keyboard combos burned into memory, and I honestly never have an issue.

Thinking about it a bit, part of why I never have an issue is probably because I keep my inbox clean and either archive (⌘⌃A) or delete my mail. If there’s something I need to deal with later, I hit ⌃⌥⌘ Space and send it to OmniFocus before archiving it. Anything more is a waste of time for me.


Pet peeve with software and shortcuts. There is no need for modifier keys in this case. You’re not in an edit field, you’re just looking at a list of messages. What does A by itself do? Nothing. That means it could just as easily archive that email that’s selected, rather than requiring a ⌘⌃A contortion. Or you can use both hands, and only contort two fingers on your left hand, and tuck that right thumb under your hand. Super convenient. /s


Man I am so good at this contortion :slight_smile:


Another approach is to activate a menu search by pressing Shift+Command+/ (a standard facility in most Mac apps)…and then start typing the name of the destination folder. This will expose both Move and Copy options, with the Move option on top.

For example, when I searched “draw 2019,” it found a folder with those two words in the name. The first result is a Move command, and the second performs a Copy.

CleanShot 2022-09-01 at 20.05.11

You can use the arrow keys to select a result. This will reveal its position in the menu structure. Pressing return will perform the command. No mouse or trackpad is required.

For some reason selecting the Move command doesn’t work 100% of the time (sometimes nothing happens), but it works often enough to be useful.

On a side note, there’s an app called Paltero that does essentially the same thing as the menu search, but with a more contained interface and some added intelligence. It’s available directly from the developer and through Setapp.

I hope this helps!