Why and how you should use email thread notifications on iPad and iPhone

I wonder if they all use this tip?

Today I wanted to talk about an astonishingly useful iPhone/iPad Mail feature that will help you track important threads within a sea of emails, thread notifications.

What are email thread notifications?

Apple has a feature called VIP, a collection of names you’ve designated as important people. You are then notified when a VIP gets in contact with you.

Email thread notifications work a little the same, in that you will receive a special notification when you receive an answer within an email thread, the difference is that you can enable this feature for people who are not in your VIP list.

You might use it to:

  • Track a discussion with an online retailer
  • Monitor a topic thread concerning an ongoing business deal
  • Arrange a meeting with multiple people
  • Or any other important business.

The beauty of the feature is that you don’t need the people involved in the conversation to be VIPs, and you can disable these notifications once you’ve had enough. So, how do you use these?

This is what to look for

This is what to look for

How do I use email thread notifications?

It is very easy to create an email thread notification in Mail on iPhones and iPads.

  • Open a new message to write a new one
  • Tap in the Subject field while you compose the message
  • You should see a small bell icon appear to the right side of the subject field
  • Tap the bell icon
  • Select Notify Me when you see the ‘Receive notifications when anyone replies to this email thread’ prompt.

You will now be notified whenever someone replies to this thread, making it much easier to monitor important messages.

NB:This prompt only appears the first time you set notifications up for a specific message. If you subsequently disable these notifications only to re-enable them at a later point you will not see the prompt.

Tim and Jony

‘Look, I’ve still not managed to fix email!’

How do I set up email thread notifications for an existing message?

You can also create an email thread notification for an existing message, including emails in your own sent messages folder.

  • Open the mail you want to be alerted about.
  • Tap the flag button.
  • Select Notify Me….
  • You may need to select Notify Me… again in the ‘Receive notifications when anyone replies to this email thread’ prompt.

Alternatively, short swipe left over a message you want to monitor, tap More and then choose Notify Me… from the menu that appears.

How can I tell which threads I am watching?

Email threads you have enabled for notifications are easy to find, just look for the small bell icon in either the message list in front of the sender. You will also see the bell enabled to the right of the subject header field If you look inside an open email.

How can I switch off email thread notifications?

To disable these notifications when you no longer need to monitor the thread you can either:

1/ In the email messages list, find the relevant email and swipe left, tap More.. and choose Stop Notifying in the next menu.

2/ Open the message that has thread notifications enabled, tap the flag button and select Stop Notifying from the menu.

Why should I use email thread notifications?

I think most people’s email is compromised.

Most of us receive thousands of messages we don’t need which means urgent communications often get buried. In conjunction with VIPs, this handy feature makes it far easier to keep an eye on priority communications.

I use this feature frequently, not just in my professional, but also in my various voluntary capacities. It helps me quite a bit, despite which I would be deeply grateful if Apple spent a few million dollars investing in making email more collaborative, smarter and more useful. A creative combination of Agenda, Trello, Slack, Otter.ai and Boomerang technologies would make email so much more productive – let alone making it less of a memory hog.

How would you improve Mail?

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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