Using Keyboard Shortcuts in Lion Mail

Mail icon

In the new version of Mail in OS 10.7 Lion, Apple has introduced a new Favourites Bar. This enables us to drag our favourite folders to the Favourites Bar, and use predefined keyboard shortcuts to quickly process our email.

In a recent article, I suggested that it might help your email productivity to reduce the number of folders that you use to store your messages. I keep my inbox clear and move all my emails into one of three folders (four if you count trash as a folder). These are;

  1. Archive – This is where most of my emails go, if they are not deleted.
  2. Action Items – This is where I move any emails that are actionable, but I can’t action immediately.
  3. Review – This is where I put reports and articles that I may want to read, but don’t have any readily identifiable actions.

By having a small number of email folders to manage, we can use the new keyboard shortcut functionality with the Favourites Bar to speed up our email processing.

First we need to add our mail Folders into your Favourites Bar. To do this, simply click and drag the folder from the sidebar to the favourites Bar as shown below.

Inbox Drag Favourites

If you change your mind and no longer want the folder on the Favourites Bar, simply drag the item off the  Bar and you will see a cloud symbol. Let go of the mouse button and the folder will disappear off the bar.

Mail  Remove Favourite

Now we can use keyboard shortcuts to either switch focus to our new favourite folders, or use a keyboard shortcut to move our emails into one of the folders.

Press [Command] and 1 keys will trigger the keyboard shortcut to shift focus to the leftmost folder on the Favourites Bar, which in the example below is the inbox. ⌘2 will show the next item – Drafts, ⌘3 will show the Sent Folder and ⌘4 will show the Archive folder and so on.

Inbox Keyboard Shortcuts to Move emails

As well as providing keyboard shortcuts to move the view window to different folders, by adding the ⌃ [Control] key we can get mail to move the emails as well.

Suppose I have an email in the inbox that I want to move to the Archive folder. I simply select the mail message then type ⌃⌘4, and you will see a nice little animation as Mail moves the message from the inbox to the Archive folder. If I want to move it to Action Items I would type ⌃⌘5 instead.

Using the Favourites Bar and the associated keyboard shortcuts, it is now possible to speed up the processing of your emails.



  1. Marie Chandler  March 21, 2012

    I hadn’t even realised there was a Favourites Bar in Mail so to find that, as well as keyboard shortcuts – I am in email heaven! Thank you for taking the time to put together this information. Going to keep browsing for more interesting tips! ;p

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