How to Mark Email as Unread on Mac

Jul 21, 2019 - 10 Comments

How to mark emails as unread or read on Mail for Mac

Wondering how to mark an email as unread in the Mac Mail app? Maybe you want to mark an email as read in Mail for Mac? If so, you may have noticed there’s no easy “Mark as Read” or “Mark as Unread” buttons in Mail for Mac, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change emails status to be unread or read.

Read on to learn how to perform this simple function to “Mark as Unread” and “Mark as Read” in the Mail app for Mac, we’ll cover three different methods to achieve this common emailing task.

How to Mark Email as Unread on Mac Mail

The easiest way to mark an email as unread (or read) on Mac is to use the Message menu like so:

  1. Open the Mail app for Mac if you haven’t done so already
  2. Select or open the email message you want to mark as unread
  3. Pull down the “Messages” menu and choose “Mark as Unread”
  4. How to Mark as Unread in Mail for Mac

  5. Repeat with other emails as desired to change their read/unread status

That will change the message status to be marked as unread, or marked as read, depending on what the current status of the message was when the command was invoked.

There’s also a quick keyboard shortcut for toggling emails as unread or read on the Mac Mail app: Command Shift U

To use the keystroke for toggling emails as read or unread, select an email and then hit the Command+Shift+U keyboard shortcut combination. The keystroke is the same for both marking as read, and marking as unread in mail for Mac.

Marking an email as unread with keyboard shortcut on Mac Mail app

How to Mark Email as Read / Unread in Mail for Mac with a Right Click

You can also quickly mark emails as read or mark emails as unread with a the a Mac right-click either with two-fingers on a trackpad or control-clicking or using a literal right click on a mouse or trackpad. Doing this is also easy, simply select the email you want to mark as read or unread, then select “Mark as Unread” or “Mark as Read” respectively.

How to Mark as Unread or Read in Mail for Mac with a right-click

These tricks are particularly handy for Mac users who like to use the Unread Email Filter on Mail for Mac to quickly scan and sort emails, since marking them as read or unread will move items in and out of that displayed email list.

You can also customize the Mail menu bar on the Mac to include simple buttons for this unread / read behavior, if that would be easier for you. If you use other email apps and clients, or have a mobile device, you can use a “Mark as Unread” / “Mark as Read” button in Gmail, and there’s always the flag access to mark as unread or mark as read like on iPhone and iPad Mail, as well as the quick gestures for marking as read/unread for iPhone Mail as well.

There are a few other tricks that you can use for managing mark as read and mark as unread behavior on the Mac, but they require Mail plugins or defaults commands, so these are best for advanced Mac users who are comfortable with those methods.

Do you have any handy tips or tricks for marking emails as read or unread in Mail for Mac? Share with us in the comments below!


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


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  1. mpfj says:

    Your sentence “there is no option to customize the Mail menu bar” seems a bit strange. I have both on my toolbar. It is one of the options in the usual “customize toolbar…”

  2. Jimmy says:

    Hi – There sure is a way to add “Mark as Read/Mark as Unread” buttons to the Mail for Mac toolbar, both in the main Mail Window and when viewing individual messages.

    While viewing the main window (where your mailboxes and messages are listed), click View > Customize Toolbar… You’ll see a palette of buttons that you can customize, and the existing buttons on the toolbar will jiggle. Drag the Read/Unread button set to the toolbar where your other buttons are jiggling When finished customizing, click Done.

    Customizing the toolbar in the message view is similar, but you get a single button which toggles the Read/Unread status for the message you are reading. Note that you must be viewing a message before you can customize the toolbar.

    And, if you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, you can add a button which will toggle Read/Unread status. Note that real estate space for buttons on the Touch Bar is limited, so you may have to replace a seldom used button.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for the correction Jimmy, you’re right you can add the read/unread button into the Mail toolbar!

  3. someonefromapple says:

    the simplest way for marking unread/read: just swipe the message in the inbox to the right (magic mouse or multitouch-trackpad) until you see the blue marker.

  4. Ian Wilson says:

    You can customise the toolbar and add a pair of buttons for marking emails as read / unread.

  5. Neil McKenzie says:

    This article is not correct ins stating that you cannot add a button for changing the “read” state of an e-mail message. I am using Apple Mail and I have added buttons to the menu bar to allow the change of an e-mail message to “Unread” or “Read”.

    • Paul says:

      You’re right, you can add read and unread buttons to the Mail toolbar, that was an error and it has been corrected. Thanks!

  6. Norm Beazer says:

    There is also a menu bar button one can use to toggle between read / unread – found under Customise Toolbar. Can also be used with a selection of emails.

  7. Norm Beazer says:

    There is also a menu bar button one can use to toggle between read / unread – found under Customise Toolbar. Can also be used with a selection of emails.

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