Mac OS X Mail uses “Sent Messages” folder, not “Sent”

Oh, Mac OS X…

It is pretty. But it has so many quirks. I suppose if you’ve been a long-time Mac fan these things don’t feel that weird to you, but I have to say that I’ve just come across the most non-obvious way of changing an application’s settings.

A few months back I took the plunge and made Mac OS X Mail my primary mail app. I figured all I had to do was hook up the accounts like I did on my iPhone and iPad: pick an account type, enter some credentials, and that was it. Generally-speaking, that is true. But I started running into this problem: sent messages from OS X Mail weren’t showing up in my Sent mail folders on my iPhone and iPad.

I still have lots of IMAP mail accounts. When you add those IMAP accounts to an iPhone or iPad you can go to the advanced server settings and choose where you want the Sent messages to go: on the phone/tablet or to a folder on the server. And when you pick the folder on the server you normally would pick “Sent”. Not so for OS X Mail!

OS X Mail creates a folder called “Sent Messages” and there is no indication anywhere that’s the case. If you look at the Mailboxes bar there is a Sent category which expands to show you all the sent-mail folders for all accounts you’ve connected. And if you open up your IMAP account folders you might see a Sent folder but no Sent Messages folder. As you send messages out your Sent Messages folder gets all those new sent messages.

(And, no, there is no indication in the Preferences for Mail that Sent Messages is the destination sent mail folder.)

How do you fix this? A post back in 2004 has the answer:

  • Open Mail
  • Navigate to the Sent folder of an IMAP account
  • Click the name to highlight it
  • From the Mailbox menu choose Use This Mailbox For, then choose Sent

If you look at your IMAP folders now you will see the Sent Messages folder listed.

How horrible.