Relevant to: E-mail Users, Mac Users

Read Time: 4 minutes.

My brother Dave recently came to me fired up about two “simple questions” that had been driving him mad about his new Macbook Pro and how to get the Mail software that came with it for e-mailing clients, etc to just work.. The “simple questions” were how do I get spell check to work and how do I stop spam?

Although these questions are pretty simple, there are a few things to understand and set up before they “just work” like you want them to. Here’s the need to know, a workflow on setting up spell check to act like YOU want it in Apple Mail, and some tips on cutting down what seems like ever increasing spam.


The Gist:

There’s no auto-correct in Apple Mail, set it up to prompt you when you hit send.

The Information:

The Macintosh or Apple operating system has spell check built into several of it’s core applications, like Mail, iChat, Safari and so on. You may have noticed this when a dotted red line appears underneath a word you are typing. I’ve found most people realize the red dotted line is telling them the word is spelled wrong, but don’t know what to do about it. The action is to use your mouse’s right button (or if you are using a laptop, hold down control) and click on the word. A list of options will appear for you to correct the spelling. See below.

You can use this feature to correct spelling wherever you see a word underlined. Apple Mail works like this, and also includes an option to prompt you when you hit send on an e-mail message if a word is misspelled.

The How:

While in Apple Mail, Select “Preferences” from the menu bar. Then click the composing tab and locate “Check Spelling”. See below.


The Gist:

Spam prevention starts at your host server, meaning, Yahoo, or your company, or Gmail. It then filters to your computer, and the applications you use to check your e-mail to further prevent Spam. In order to stop more junk mail, you need to train the program (Apple Mail in this example) to identify certain messages as junk and then auto trash them, this takes setup and is not automatically configured.

The Information:

Over %90 of the mail sent out on the web is junk mail. There are thousands of junk messages you aren’t getting for every one you do get. You don’t care about that though, you just want it to stop.

Your solutions vary. You can complain to your host to tighten security, you can purchase extra spam software and learn how to configure it (who is going to do that though?), or you can set Apple Mail to automatically identify junk and trash it. Below we’ll explore how to set up Mail to junk messages properly.

The How:

1. Tell Mail What to Junk

While in Apple Mail, select “Preferences” from the menu bar, and then click the “Junk” tab. See below. Read through these settings. Set Apple Mail to automatically move messages to the junk folder (as that’s the common preference), but remember to continue marking messages as junk to train it.

If a particular messages continues to get through, select “Perform Custom Actions” and then click advanced. You’ll be able to specify to junk certain messages with a specific subject, sender, etc. here.

2. Use the Junk Button

  • To identify one or more highlighted messages in your Inbox as junk mail, select the messages and then click Junk in the toolbar, or choose Message > Mark > As Junk Mail.
  • To correct a message that has been wrongly classified as junk, select the message and click Not Junk in the toolbar, or choose Message > Mark > As Not Junk Mail.

Mail maintains an internal database of information that helps it detect junk mail. When you mark messages as junk or not junk, Mail updates the junk mail database accordingly and your junk mail filter continually improves over time. If you change your mind about what is junk mail (for example, you want to receive someone’s messages that you previously specified were junk messages), you need to mark them as not junk.

3. Trick: Bounce!

This trick will  help with stubborn junk messages you continue to get. Select the message, click the “Message” drop down in the menu bar (see below) and choose “Bounce” this will reject the e-mail and disguise the rejection notice as if your e-mail address doesn’t exist.

Two simple questions that will save you time and frustration if you take a couple minutes to address them. They seem so trivial, but when we’re constantly dealing with e-mails between clients and important contacts, these things need to just work.

Note: If you aren’t constrained to use your work or schools e-mail servers, Google Mail or Gmail offers some of the best spam protection I’ve come across and can be used both in a web browser and through Apple Mail.

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