Has anyone else had the Mail app do away with color flags?

I’ve been using the Mac’s basic Mail app for years, ever since Eudora bailed on their email app. (Yeah, I’ve been at this a long time.)

Part of my system for keeping track of important emails was to flag emails in the Inbox with different color flags right to the left of the “From” column. It wasn’t perfect, but it more or less did the trick of letting me scroll back through the last few weeks emails to catch emails I intended to answer, but was just now getting back to.

Then I got a much newer Mac mini (no longer Intel chips) and suddenly I leapt forward a half-dozen MacOS versions to Catalina or now Sonoma. The updated Mail app scrambled all my settings and I no longer had my color flags next to my emails… in fact, I couldn’t even see a way to visibly flag emails anymore.

This has given me no end of email chaos since I got the new mini (a M2 Pro from 2023). Has anyone else run into this, and more to the point, has anyone found a way to claw one’s way back to individually flagged emails visible in the Inbox?

Yeah, I’m an old-timer who got a Mac in the very first version in 1984 and have hung in there for 40 years. I used to get MacWeek every week, and was on top of things during the switches in management and the gradual march away from upgrading your own RAM or other self-service. But I’m now looking at turning 74 and this Mail situation has been wreaking serious havoc with my ability to deal with emails.

Any help would be appreciated.

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In Mail Menu select View > Customise Toolbar…
Click and drag “Flag” up into the Toolbar

I belive that as soon as yo have flagged one this should appear:

Screenshot 2024-04-23 at 10.50.21

Click on the "> " to show the different flags.


Thank you for your kind and clear reply. As it turns out, I had tried that already, but it doesn’t solve what I’ve been looking for. Previously, in older versions of the OS/Mail, if I clicked on the flag in the toolbar, it would place a colored flag of my choice immediately to left of the selected email in the list of emails in the Inbox. The flagged emails always showed the flags as I scrolled through all the emails. It was quick and easy to spot them. (I should mention that I let my emails stay in the Inbox for months, until I finally archive them in email folders. This is a system that works for me.)

The feature that you describe, just shows the “flagged” emails only in a list, but doesn’t show the colored flags to the left of the emails, in fact it doesn’t show the flags at all. All I can surmise is that someone thought this arrangement was tidier and an improvement, but it doesn’t work for me. Perhaps I just have the wrong settings now, but it’s as if the flagging feature got broken, as far as I can tell.

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Right-Click on the column headers and select the flag icon if it isn’t selected already. Click and drag where you want it


I have column view turned off for mail and the flags still show up there, to the right-hand side of the view, on the second line. I use flags all the time, but I do also take advantage of the special “Flagged” favorite mailbox to make them easier to find. I use them not only to mark mails that I want to follow-up on later, I also mark messages that I know I will want to delete in about a week to make them easier to find.

My only pet-peeve with the “Flagged” favorite mailbox is that it shows flagged messages in the deleted mailboxes. (Though see below…)

I am more frequently flagging messages in the mail app on iOS or iPadOS to deal with later on my Mac, but I do occasionally flag messages in the Mac app as well.

{Real-time follow-up: Mail app, Settings, General tab - turn off “Trash” in the search settings at the bottom and flagged message no longer show up in the Flagged mailbox.)

Thanks, all, for your suggestions. Doug, I do see the flag showing when column view is turned off and there is a second line. Unfortunately, I seem to be hankering for a previous version of Mail which also could show the flag on an email when using column view.

To make matters worse, in fiddling around with settings in Mail, I blundered into enabling Preview Windows for emails, which I totally do not want, but am unable to find a way to just quit preview windows altogether once they’ve been enabled.

I guess I should see if there is an alternative app for email that I can use instead of Mac’s Mail app. The more I mess with Mail, the more of a mess it becomes. Funny that.

@sbchasin gave the answer for that just above my reply. Has anyone else had the Mail app do away with color flags? - #4 by sbchasin


I tried @sbchasin tip.

By George, you’re right! I’d not understood what Steven was describing. P. Boersting’s graphic added enough visual clues to enable me to grasp it. I am grateful for your help!

Now if I can just get rid of the damn preview windows that are now attached to the right side of the Inbox. I prefer just double-clicking on a listed email to open it in its own window. Again, I find no understandable tip on this in Mail’s help app or handbook.

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There is a thin line between the inbox and the preview window - just drag it to the right and drop it on the right edge of the window. That will turn off the preview window.

Thank you! Thank heavens for the TidBITS crew! To me, this topic discussion by itself was worth my annual sub. As I told my wife over dinner tonight, solving my email problems of the last several months made me want to do my happy dance! I literally feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.