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How to quickly see what emails are a part of a conversation in Apple Mail

If you need to more quickly locate conversations in Apple Mail on MacOS, there's a handy feature tucked within the app that makes this very easy.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
working on a laptop
Getty Images/Geber86

My inboxes are crazy full. Every month I go through all of them and cull the oldest missives to keep things from getting too far out of hand. Within that massive trove of communications are a number of back-and-forths between family, friends, clients, customers, and even strangers that I have to go back to for replies or to grab certain information. If it weren't for a very handy feature in Apple Mail, the task of locating those conversations would be a chore.

Also: How to enable and configure junk mail filtering in Apple Mail 

Conversations are exactly what they sound like -- a conversation between you and one or more people that are bundled together so you don't have to scour through your inbox to put the thread together. They are also a simple way of keeping your inbox under some semblance of control.

Apple Mail joins those emails together as a conversation by default. Although you can disable it, I would recommend against following that instinct; otherwise, your inbox could quickly get out of control. So, that's one less thing you have to do. 

But how do you configure Apple Mail to highlight those conversations such that they can be easily found within your inbox? The app has that feature built right in and it's very simple to use.

Also: How to quickly fix Apple Mail when it's not working

One thing to understand is that when you enable this feature, all of the conversations in your Inbox will be marked in the same way. You can't configure it to highlight each conversation with a different color. You can, however, customize the color used to mark conversations. Before you get to that, however, you'll want to enable the feature.

How to highlight conversations in Apple Mail

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is an updated version of Apple Mail. Of course, you'll also need at least one email account configured for the app. That's it. Let's highlight those conversations.

1. Open Apple Mail

The first thing to do is open Apple Mail from either the dock or the Launchpad.

2. Enable Highlight Conversations

With Apple Mail open, click View > Highlight Conversations. Once you've enabled this, all conversations will be highlighted in a light-blue color.

The Apple Mail View menu.

You can quickly switch between Conversation and non-Conversation modes from the View menu.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to change the highlight color for ungrouped messages

Let's say you opt to disable the Conversation view in Apple Mail. Some people do prefer this mode because it makes individual emails easier to read. If you do disable the Conversation view, you'll still want to be able to locate those related emails and Apple does this automatically. The only thing you can change for this is the highlight color. Unfortunately, you cannot configure the highlight color used when grouped conversations are highlighted. However, if you choose to disable Conversation mode, you'll still want to be able to quickly locate those related missives by color.

Also: How to use Apple Mail Redirect (and when not to)

Here's how to change the color of ungrouped conversations.

1. Open Settings

With Apple Mail open, click Mail > Settings.

2. Change the un-grouped highlight color

Click the Viewing tab in Settings and, under View Conversations, click the color selector and select the color you want to use for un-grouped conversations. Once you've done that, close the Settings window. 

The Apple Mail Settings window opened to the Viewing tab.

Make sure Include Related Messages is enabled.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once you've taken care of this, if you click View and disable Organize by Conversation, you'll notice the blue highlight disappears. However, if you click one of the emails that belongs in a conversation, scroll through your inbox and you'll notice all emails associated with that conversation are highlighted with the color you chose in Settings.

That's it. You've made it even easier to locate conversations in Apple Mail, whether you group those conversations together or not.

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