How to Use Mail Tabs in Mac OS

Oct 30, 2015 - 12 Comments

Tabbed Emails in Mail app for Mac OS X

The Mac Mail app has gained tab support in the latest versions of Mac OS X, making it easier to juggle multiple emails on screen at once.

There’s a catch with using Mail Tabs in MacOS X, however, and that is you must be using full screen mode to gain access to the tab feature. Perhaps because of this, email tabs are particularly useful for laptop users with smaller screens, but this could also appeal to users who like to minimize distraction.


Additionally, you can also use Mail tab emails with Split View, so it’s quite useful for productivity.

How to Use Mail Tabs in Mac OS

Here’s how to access and use tabbed emails in Mail app for Mac OS X later:

  1. Open Mail app if you haven’t done so yet, then send the application into Full Screen mode by clicking the green maximize button in the Mail app titlebar
  2. Exit and Enter Full Screen Mode in OS X

  3. Compose a new email by hitting Command+N (or by going to the Mail menu and choosing “New Message”)
  4. Create new open mail tabs in OS X Mail app

  5. Repeat the prior step by creating additional new Mail message compositions, each new email will appear as a tab

Each new email tab sits across the top of the screen, just like tabs in Safari, Finder, and elsewhere:

Tabbed Emails in Mail app for Mac OS X

You can click on any of the tabs to open that email, and you can close and open new tabs once you’re in tabbed Mail mode:

Demonstrating email tabs in Mail app for OS X

As mentioned already, if you like to use Mail tabs feature but need to gain access to some other data elsewhere in MacOS X from another application, you can put the app into Split View mode and share the screen with another app side by side.

Note if you exit Mail app from full screen mode, you’ll lose the tabbed emails instantly, with each appearing as a separate email message composition window as usual. This means if you had quite a few tabbed emails open, you’ll end up with some window clutter by leaving full screen in Mail app.

Leaving full screen mode escapes the tabs in Mail app

As mentioned before, this requires Mail app in OS X El Capitan or newer, so if you’re on an older version of Mac OS or Mac OS X you will not find the tabbed email feature available.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

12 Comments

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  1. Typical Yuppie says:

    I am disappointed this requires being in full screen mode to access. I do not like full screen at all, I find it a poor experience on a 24″ display, waste of space. But I would like to use Mail tabs! Maybe a future version will bring this to all mail windows.

  2. VTBassman says:

    Tabs are a blinding flash of the obvious, typical at Apple these days.

    Another way to do this, though not as elegant, but uses no screen space is minimize all open emails and use the Window menu. How hard is that?

  3. Wharf Xanadu says:

    I don’t like full screen mode much it’s not iOS we are on a Mac

    • QuattroGam3r says:

      I thought I was the only one. I would actually use it if they made just the app full screen, but they had to go stick it on a new desktop. My 6 desktops is enough, well 7 if I have VMWare running.

  4. sgtroxtc says:

    I’m on El Capitan. I do not get tabbed windows, I get the old style frozen window in front of mail. (I hate that!) I see nothing in preferences, nor nothing in the menu to enable tabs. I can’t grab the title bar and drag it.
    I’m on Mail 9.2 (3096.5). Ideas?

    • fomi says:

      To access Mail tabs, go into FULLSCREEN mode in Mail app, then compose a NEW email message. Then compose another new email message. There’s your tabs.

      • sgtroxtc says:

        Ah, Thank you! I was expecting the tabs to be a part of the message viewer window, not the email window. Hence, I never tried to open the second new email. It pays to read attentively & follow the instructions closely!

      • Craig says:

        My tabbed composition windows are different than the screenshots in this post. In this post, the tabs appear to be in the primary mail window.

        You can tell b/c the green maximize button is available at the top (check the first image on this post) and that maximize button doesn’t appear in an overlaid compose window – even when multiple tabs are open in the overlay.

        I can create multiple email drafts but they STAY in the overlay and can’t be maximized or docked to the main window.

        I would love the functionality shown here. Perhaps there is some little box that needs to be ticked?

  5. RPJ says:

    I could not find the tabs at all, but then I noticed they were at the bottom of the Mail window and not at the top as they were in the screen grab I was looking at. Did Apple change the location after releasing some shots showing them at the top? or can you choose whether they are at the top or bottom? Anyone know?

  6. Mike says:

    …hate all the glorious “new” features which are a step backwards… on my opinion.

    In my old version, 10.8., I had for mail-tabs a third party plug in, which worked absolutly fine.
    And that worked perfect in all size!

    I work on a notebook, however I don’t like full screen there, too :-((

    Poor Apple!
    They canceled aparture…, my lovely “total finder” doesn’t work any more, even Photoshop (cs 5) needs some additional old stuff, and so on.
    Im using Mac for almost 10 Years now.

    However with every new “opimizations”, over the time, I get the feeling that there are not focusing on working people anymore…

    On our family computer we use Win 10, which work really fine. Photoshop (cs 5) runs like on XP and adjustments are pretty easy….

    So, I’m really thinking to go back to WIN on my notebook, too.

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