10 Tricks to Master Apple Mail on iOS

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Apple’s mobile email client has been designed with simplicity in mind, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some useful tips and tricks to be found if you look closely enough.

A few of the tips we’ve mentioned here only apply to the new iOS 9 software Apple rolled out last week, but some of them can be used in Mail in iOS 8 as well.

1. Swipe down on drafts

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When you’re composing a new email you might well want to refer back to a date, address, or hilarious turn of phrase from a previous message. To get back to your inbox, swipe down on the draft from its title bar—your new email drops to the bottom and can be recalled again with a tap.

2. Scribble over email attachments

One feature that is exclusive to iOS 9 is the ability to add annotations to email attachments. Tap and hold on an attachment (such as an image or a PDF) and you should see a Markup option somewhere in the list that pops up. A variety of pen sizes and colors are available, plus a text tool.

3. Tweak the gesture options

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You might have already realized you can swipe left or right on messages to perform certain actions, but you don’t have to stick with Apple’s default configuration: From Settings, tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars and then choose Swipe Options to set the mail actions you want quick access to.

4. Set up thread alerts

When you want special alerts for a particular email thread (as opposed to a particular contact, which is handled by the VIP list), tap on the alarm bell symbol in the subject field when composing a message and then choose Notify Me. Head to the notifications part of Settings to customize the alert.

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5. Delete all messages

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Getting back to inbox zero just got a whole lot easier in iOS 9: Tap the Edit button at the top of the messages list and there’s a new Delete All option to take advantage of. You can get back trashed messages the same way as always, by tapping the relevant email box under the list of accounts.

6. Quickly get to drafts

You can get to your drafts easily enough through the accounts list on Mail’s opening screen, but there is a quicker way that you might not have seen yet: Just tap and hold on the Compose icon (a pen inside a box) to bring up all of your current drafts together with the option to start a new message.

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7. Handoff emails

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Thanks to Apple’s new Continuity feature, you can start an email on your iPhone and finish it on your Mac (or vice versa). On all devices, you need to be signed into the same iCloud account, on the same wifi network and with Bluetooth enabled. The option to continue your email appears in the dock.

8. See more of your emails

This is an older trick but it’s still handy. From Settings head to Mail, Contacts, Calendar and then tap Preview—here you can set how many lines of each email you’re able to read without opening it up, which can make all the difference when you’re trying to locate a particular message quickly.

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9. Change photo resolutions on iPad

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If you’re importing large pictures into Mail on your iPhone, you’ll be asked if you want to change the resolution straight away, but it’s different on iPad: Tap the Images link that appears to the right of Cc/Bcc when multiple pictures have been imported and choose the image resolutions from there.

10. Add attachments from anywhere

iOS 9 finally ushers in the option to add any kind of attachment to your email messages, rather than just images. Double-tap inside an email you’re composing and select Add Attachment; to choose a file from somewhere other than iCloud, tap on the Locations option in the top left-hand corner.

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DISCUSSION

sigmaoctans
sigmaoctans

One other thing about attachments, not just in email: In iOS9, it now supports uploading any kind of file to websites that require you upload files and include a “Browse” or “Choose File” button. Previously, clicking on these file upload links in iOS Safari just allowed you to upload images from the camera roll. Now, you can upload files from iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or any number of other file storage apps you might have installed.

This is a huge improvement for use cases like applying for jobs from your phone or iPad, since you can now upload PDF or text files (or anything else) to websites that ask for them. A surprising number of people (including low-income people, and recent college grads) don’t have home internet and rely on their iPhone (or other smartphone) as their only internet browser. So applying for jobs entirely on one’s phone isn’t that far out the realm of possibility.

Also, personally, my work has a website that requires updating data via CSV file upload. I occasionally have to do this at short notice after business hours, sometimes when I’m away from home. Being able to generate the CSV in Excel on my iPhone, save it to iCloud drive, and upload it to my organization’s web portal all from my iPhone is HUGE.