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Configuring E-mail Messages

Setting the number of messages to display

By default, the Mail app displays the 50 most recent messages in an e-mail account Inbox. If you want to see more messages, you must scroll to the bottom of the message list and then tap Load More Messages. That's not a big deal if you just have a few more messages to display, but if you have hundreds of messages on the server and you need to see them, constantly loading a new batch of 50 can get old in a hurry.

Mail solves that problem by letting you set a higher default number of messages to display. You can display 100, 200, 500, or even 1,000 recent messages. Here is what you do:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. You see the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. The Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen appears.
  3. Tap Show. The Show screen appears.
  4. Tap the number of recent messages you want to display. Your iPhone puts the new setting into effect.

Processing e-mail faster by identifying messages sent to you

In the Mail app on your iPhone, the Inbox folder tells you who sent you each message, but it doesn't tell you to whom the message was sent (that is, which addresses appeared on the To line or the Cc line). No big deal, right? Maybe, maybe not. You see, bulk mailers - I'm talking newsletters, mailing lists, and, notoriously, spammers - often don't send messages directly to each person on their subscriber lists. Instead, they use a generic bulk address, which means, significantly, that your e-mail address doesn't appear on the To or Cc lines. That's significant because most newsletters and mailing lists - and all spam - are low-priority messages that you can ignore when you're processing a stuffed Inbox.

Okay, great, but what good does all this do you if Mail doesn't show the To and Cc lines? No, it doesn't show those lines, but you can configure Mail to show a little icon for messages that were sent directly to you.

  • If the message includes your address in the To field, you see a To icon beside the message.
  • If the message includes your address in the Cc field, you see a Cc icon beside the message.

Here's how to make this happen:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. The Settings app appears.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. The Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen appears.
  3. Tap the Show To/Cc Label switch to On.

When you examine your Inbox, you see the To and Cc icons on messages addressed to you, and you don't see either icon on bulk messages.

Creating e-mail VIPs

Somebody once said that the world doesn't have an information overload problem; it has a filter problem. In other words, the tsunami of information that comes your way every day wouldn't be such a headache if you had the tools to separate the important from the trivial, the useful from pointless, the steak from the sizzle.

The version of Mail that ships with iOS 6 offers one such tool: the VIP list. This is a simple list of people that you designate as important. From an e-mail perspective, "important" means people whose messages you want to read right away because they always contain information that's useful or interesting to you. To find messages from these people, you normally have to wade through the sea of messages in your various account inboxes (or the All Inboxes mailbox, which combines all your accounts). With the VIP list, however, Mail sets up a special VIP inbox that only shows messages from your VIPs, so they're easily located. Also, the VIP feature is part of the Notification Center, so you see a special banner alert whenever you receive a message from one of your VIPs.

Follow these steps to set up your VIP list:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Mail to open the Mail app.
  2. If you're currently viewing an inbox, tap Mailboxes to return to the Mailboxes screen.
  3. Tap VIP. Mail displays the VIP List screen.
  4. Tap Add VIP. Mail opens the All Contacts screen.
  5. Tap the contact you want to designate as a VIP. Mail adds the contact to the VIP list.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you've added all your VIPs. The VIP list with a few names added. Note that if you need to delete a VIP, you can tap Edit and then tap the red Delete icon beside the contact.
After you've added a VIP or three, tapping the VIP inbox displays recent messages from your important folks. To return to the VIP List screen, instead, tap the blue Info icon that appears to the right of the VIP inbox in the Mailboxes screen.

Placing a phone call from an e-mail message

E-mail messages often include a signature - a line or three of text that appears at the bottom of the message. In business e-mail, a person's signature often includes contact information - what hipster business types like to refer to as their coordinates - their address (e-mail and postal) and their phone numbers (land and cell).

In a run-of-the-mill e-mail program, if you wanted to call one of your correspondents based on this signature information, you'd open the message, perhaps jot down the number if there was no phone nearby, and then make the call. As you know, your iPhone isn't run-of-the-mill anything, so you can just forget all that rigmarole. Why? Because when it sees a phone number in an e-mail message, your iPhone does something quite smart: It converts that number into a link. The number appears in blue, underlined text, much like a link on a web page. Tap the number, tap Call in the dialog that appears, and your iPhone immediately dials the number for you.

E-mailing a link to a web page

The web is all about finding content that's interesting, educational, and, of course, fun. And if you stumble across a page that meets one or more of these criteria, then the only sensible thing to do is share your good fortune with someone else, right? So, how do you do that? Some pages are kind enough to include an E-mail This Page link (or something similar), but you can't count on having one of those around. Instead, the usual method is to copy the page address, switch to your e-mail program, paste the address into the message, choose a recipient, and then send the message.

The Mail app converts phone numbers into fake links that you can tap, so it's not even remotely surprising that Mail also converts web addresses into actual links. That is, when you tap an address that appears in an e-mail message, your iPhone fires up Safari and takes you to that address. Even better, if the sender includes a link in the message, you can tap and hold the link to see a pop-up bubble that tells you the link address.

And, yes, with the copy-and-paste feature, you can do all that on your iPhone, but boy, that sure seems like a ton of work. So are you stuck using this unwieldy method? Not a chance (you probably knew that). Your iPhone includes a great little feature that enables you to plop the address of the current Safari page into an e-mail message with just a couple of taps. You then ship out the message and you've made the world a better place.

Here's how it works:

  1. Use Safari to navigate to the page you want to share.
  2. Tap the Actions icon (the arrow) in the menu bar. Safari displays a dialog with several options.
  3. Tap Mail. This opens a new e-mail message. The new message already includes the page title as the Subject and the page address in the message body.
  4. Choose a recipient for the message.
  5. Edit the message text as you see fit.
  6. Tap Send. Your iPhone fires off the message and returns you to Safari.

Creating iCloud message folders

In your e-mail program on your computer, you've no doubt created lots of folders to hold different types of messages that you want or need to save: projects, people, mailing list gems, and so on. This is a great way to reduce Inbox clutter and organize the e-mail portion of your life.

Of course, these days the e-mail portion of your life extends beyond your computer and probably includes lots of time spent on your iPhone. Wouldn't it be great to have that same folder convenience and organization on your favorite phone? Happily, you can. If you have an iCloud account, any folders (technically, Apple calls them mailboxes) that you create on your iCloud account - either on your computer or on the iCloud site - are automatically mirrored on the iPhone Mail app.

Even better, you can create new iCloud message folders right from the comfort of your iPhone. Here's how:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Mail to open the Mail app.
  2. Tap the mailbox button in the top-left corner of the screen. The Mail app displays the Mailboxes screen.
  3. In the Accounts section, tap your iCloud account. Mail displays the iCloud folders list.
  4. Tap Edit. Mail opens the iCloud folders list for editing.
  5. Tap New Mailbox.
  6. Type a name for the new folder.
  7. Tap the Mailbox Location and then tap the folder in which you want to store your new folder.
  8. Tap Save. Mail adds the folder, and iCloud propagates the change to the cloud.
  9. Tap Done.
To move a message to your new folder, display the iCloud Inbox folder, tap the message, tap the Move icon (the folder), and then tap the new folder.

Formatting e-mail text

We're all used to rich text e-mail messages by now, where formatting such as bold and italics is used to add pizzazz or emphasis to our e-musings. Until iOS 5 came along, the Mail app was having none of that. Oh, sure, it could display rich text formatting, but the missives you composed in the Mail app were as plain as plain text could get.

The iOS 5 version of Mail changed all that by giving you a limited set of formatting options for text: bold, italics, and underline. It's not much, but it's a start, and those same options are available in Mail for iOS 6. Here are the steps to follow to format text in the Mail app:

  1. In your e-mail message, tap within the word or phrase you want to format. The Mail app displays the cursor.
  2. Tap the cursor. Mail displays a set of options.
  3. Tap Select. Mail selects the word closest to the cursor.
  4. If needed, drag the selection handles to select the entire phrase you want to format. Mail displays a set of options for the selected text.
  5. Tap the arrow on the right side of the options. Mail displays more options.
  6. Tap the BIU button. Mail displays the Bold, Italics, and Underline buttons.
  7. Tap the formatting you want to apply. Mail leaves the formatting options on the screen, so feel free to apply multiple formats, if needed.
  8. Tap another part of the screen to hide the formatting options.
If you're composing a message on your computer and decide to work on it later, your mail program stores the message as a draft that you can reopen any time. The Mail app doesn't appear to have that option, but it does. In the message window, tap Cancel (unintuitive, I know!) and then tap Save Draft. When you're ready to resume editing, open the account in the Mailboxes screen, tap Drafts, and then tap your saved message.

Creating a custom iPhone signature

E-mail signatures can range from the simple - a signoff such as "Cheers," or "All the best," followed by the sender's name - to baroque masterpieces filled with contact information, snappy quotations, even text-based artwork! On your iPhone, the Mail app takes the simple route by adding the following signature to all your outgoing messages (new messages, replies, and forwards):

Sent from my iPhone

I really like this signature because it's short, simple, and kind of cool. If that default signature doesn't rock your world, you can create a custom one that does. Follow these steps:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. Your iPhone opens the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. You see the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen.
  3. Tap Signature. The Signature screen appears.
  4. Type the signature you want to use.
  5. Tap Mail. Mail saves your new signature and uses it on all outgoing messages.
Mail doesn't give any way to cancel your edits and return to the original signature, so type your text carefully. If you make a real hash of things, tap Clear to get a fresh start.

Disabling remote images in messages

Lots of messages nowadays come not just as plain text but with fonts, colors, images, and other flourishes. This fancy formatting, called either rich text or HTML, makes for a more pleasant e-mail experience, particularly when using images in messages, because who doesn't like a bit of eye candy to brighten his day?

Unfortunately, getting images into your e-mail messages can sometimes be problematic:

  • A cellular connection might cause trouble. For example, it might take a long time to load the images, or if your data plan has an upper limit, you might not want a bunch of e-mail images taking a big bite out of that limit.
  • Not all e-mail images are benign. A web bug is an image that resides on a remote server and is added to an HTML-formatted e-mail message by referencing an address on the remote server. When you open the message, Mail uses the address to download the image for display within the message. That sounds harmless enough, but if the message is junk e-mail, it's likely that the address also contains either your e-mail address or a code that points to your e-mail address. So when the remote server gets a request to load the image, it knows not only that you've opened the message but also that your e-mail address is legitimate. So, not surprisingly, spammers use web bugs all the time because, for them, valid e-mail addresses are a form of gold.
HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, is a set of codes that folks use to put together web pages.

The iPhone Mail app displays remote images by default. To disable remote images, follow these steps:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. Your iPhone opens the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. You see the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen.
  3. Tap the Load Remote Images switch to Off. Mail saves the setting and no longer displays remote images in your e-mail messages.

Preventing Mail from organizing messages by thread

In the Mail app, your messages get grouped by thread, which means the original message and all the replies you've received are grouped together in the account's Inbox folder. This is usually remarkably handy, because it means you don't have to scroll through a million messages to locate the reply you want to read.

Mail indicates a thread by displaying the number of messages in the thread on the right side of the latest thread message. Tap the message to see a list of the messages in the thread, and then tap the message you want to read.

Organizing messages by thread is usually convenient, but not always. For example, sometimes you view your messages and scroll through them by tapping the Next and Previous buttons. When you come to a thread, Mail jumps into the thread and you then scroll through each message in the thread, which can be a real hassle if the thread contains a large number of replies.

If you find that threads are more hassle than they're worth, you can follow these steps to configure Mail to no longer organize messages by thread:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. Your iPhone opens the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. You see the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen.
  3. Tap the Organize By Thread switch to Off. Your iPhone saves the setting and no longer organizes your images by thread.

Deleting Gmail messages instead of archiving them

With most e-mail accounts, you can tidy up the Inbox folder by tapping Edit, choosing one or more messages you no longer need, and then tapping Delete. Not so in your Gmail account. However, when you open your Gmail Inbox, tap Edit, and then select one or more messages, you see an Archive button instead of a Delete button. Tapping Archive moves the selected messages to the All Mail folder.

If you'd really prefer to delete your Gmail messages instead of archiving them, follow these steps to knock some sense into the Mail app:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. Your iPhone opens the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. You see the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen.
  3. Tap your Gmail account. Your iPhone opens the Gmail settings.
  4. Tap the Archive Messages switch to Off. Your iPhone saves the setting and no longer archives your Gmail messages.

Configuring your Exchange ActiveSync settings

If you have an account on a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 or 2007 network and that server has deployed Exchange ActiveSync, then you're all set to have your iPhone and Exchange account synchronized automatically. That's because ActiveSync supports wireless push technology, which means that if anything changes on your Exchange server account, that change is immediately synced with your iPhone:

  • E-mail. If you receive a new message on your Exchange account, ActiveSync immediately displays that message in the Mail app on your iPhone.
  • Contacts. If someone at work adds or edits data in the server address book, those changes are immediately synced to your iPhone Contacts list.
  • Calendars. If someone at work adds or edits an appointment in your calendar, or if someone requests a meeting with you, that data is immediately synced with the Calendar app on your iPhone.
  • Reminders. If someone at work adds or edits a reminder, that data is immediately synced with the Reminders app on your iPhone.

ActiveSync works both ways, too, so if you send e-mail messages, add contacts or appointments, or accept meeting requests, your server account is immediately updated with the changes. And all this data whizzing back and forth is safe, because it's sent over a secure connection.

Your iPhone also gives you a few options for controlling ActiveSync, and the following steps show you how to set them:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. Your iPhone opens the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. The Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings screen appears.
  3. Tap your Exchange account. The Exchange account settings screen appears.
  4. To sync your Exchange e-mail account, tap the Mail switch to On.
  5. To sync your Exchange address book, calendars, and reminders, tap the Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders On/Off switches, respectively, to the On position. In each case, if your iPhone asks what you want to do with the local content on your device, tap Keep on My iPhone.
  6. To control the amount of time that gets synced on your e-mail account, tap Mail Days to Sync, and then tap the number of days, weeks, or months you want to sync.
  7. If you want more folders pushed to you, tap Mail Folders to Push, and then tap each folder you want: Sent Items, Deleted Items, or Junk E-Mail.

Controlling e-mail with Siri voice commands

If you have an iPhone 5 or 4S, you can use the Siri voice recognition app to check, compose, send, and reply to messages, all with simple voice commands. Tap and hold the Home button (or press and hold the Mic button of the iPhone headphones, or the equivalent button on a Bluetooth headset) until Siri appears.

To check for new e-mail messages on your iCloud account, you need only say "Check e-mail" (or just "Check mail"). You can also view a list of iCloud messages as follows:

  • Displaying unread messages. Say "Show new e-mail."
  • Displaying messages where the subject line contains a specified topic. Say "Show e-mail about topic," where topic is the topic you want to view.
  • Displaying messages from a particular person. Say "Show e-mail from name," where name is the name of the sender.

To start a new e-mail message, Siri gives you lots of options:

  • Creating a new message addressed to a particular person. Say "E-mail name," where name is the name of the recipient. This name can be a name from your Contacts list or someone with a defined relationship, such as "Mom" or "my brother."
  • Creating a new message with a particular subject line. Say "E-mail name about subject," where name defines the recipient, and subject is the subject line text.
  • Creating a new message with a particular body. Say "E-mail name and say text," where name is the recipient and text is the message body text.

In each case, Siri creates the new message, displays it, and then asks if you want to send it. If you do, you can either say "Send" or tap the Send button.

If you have a message displayed, you can send back a response by saying "Reply." If you want to add some text to the response, say "Reply text," where text is your response.

You can also use Siri within Mail to dictate a message. When you tap inside the body of a new message, the keyboard that appears shows a Mic icon beside the spacebar. Tap the Mic icon and then start dictating. Here are some notes:

  • For punctuation, you can say the name of the mark you need, such as "comma" (,), "semicolon" (;), "colon" (:), "period" or "full stop" (.), "question mark" (?), "exclamation point" (!), "dash" (-), or "at sign" (@).
  • You can enclose text in parentheses by saying "open parenthesis," then the text, and then "close parenthesis."
  • To surround text with quotation marks, say "open quote," then the text, then "close quote."
  • To render a word in all uppercase letters, say "all caps" and then say the word.
  • To start a new paragraph, say "new line."
  • You can have some fun by saying "smiley face" for :-), "wink face" for ;-), and "frown face" for :-(.
  • To spell out a word (such as "period" or "colon"), say "No caps on, no space on," spell the word, and then say "No space off, no caps off."

When you're finished, tap Done.