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Quick Tip: How to Create a VIP List in Mail

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If you're anything like me, you receive tons of emails every day to several different work and personal addresses. That's a lot of information to manage! Odds are though, the really important stuff only comes from a few different people. Today we'll learn how to highlight these messages with the new Mail.app VIP feature in Mountain Lion.


The Old Way: Smart Mailboxes

I've been manually setting up my own VIP lists for years in Mail to highlight important contacts, so I was thrilled when Apple decided to save me the trouble and build the feature right into Mountain Lion. I realize that some of you are still on systems without Mountain installed though so I think it's worth showing how this would work on anything before OS X 10.8.

Step 1: Create a New Smart Mailbox

The Mountain Lion Mail VIP feature is really just a glorified Smart Mailbox, so you can easily duplicate the functionality if you don't have Mountain Lion. Let's do this it two quick steps. First, go to Mail > New Smart Mailbox...

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Create a New Smart Mailbox

Step 2: Set the Conditions

Next, name the Smart Mailbox after the person that you're highlighting, then set the conditions to "From" and "is equal to" with the sender's name in plain text (not an email address). This will ensure that all of this person's messages will be go into this Smart Mailbox, no matter which address they're mailing you from.

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Setting up a Smart Mailbox to highlight a specific contact

From here, hit the "OK" button and you're all done. Repeat this process for all your favorite contacts and you'll have yourself a nice VIP list in the Smart Mailbox section on the left side of your screen.

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Smart Mailboxes appear in their own section in the panel on the left.

The New Way: VIPs

If you're in Mountain Lion, you can skip the Smart Mailboxes in favor of an even simpler process. All you have to do is right-click on someone's name in a message and choose "Add to VIPs."

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Right-click on a name and choose "Add to VIPs"

VIPs are placed near the top of the left-side panel right under your inboxes. They are shown in an alphabetically arranged list with stars next to each name. There's also a quick link in the little strip of buttons just above the main section of the interface and below the primary toolbar.

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Right-click on a name and choose "Add to VIPs"

Clicking on one of these names will show you a list of the recent emails from that person and clicking on the "VIPs" header will give you a list of all important emails. As with the Smart Mailboxes above, each contact can be added once to your VIP list and that will cover all of their various email addresses. To remove a VIP, simply right-click on their name and you should see a "Remove from VIPs" option.


Go Do It!

So that's the new VIP feature in Mail. Now that you know all about it, go set up some VIPs! You can even get creative with the feature and take it further. Hal Gumbert has a quick tutorial on automatically moving non-VIP emails to a separate mailbox and TUAW shows you how to set up notifications for VIP emails.

If you come up with any great, creative ways to use the VIP feature, let us know in the comments below.

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