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Sending email at the right time can mean the difference between receiving a prompt response and waiting all day. As someone who lives in Australia with colleagues who mostly reside in North America, Europe, and India, I know what this feels like.

Apple’s Mail app doesn’t come with a scheduler by default, but you can add the functionality using Automator and third party plugins.

Why Delay?

We now exist in a digital world that never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t sleep. That’s why managing expectations is so important – how is anyone ever going to know the best time to reach you if you’re always available?

Thanks to the pressure placed upon us by read receipts, we feel compelled to reply to anything the second we see it, even if it’s 3 a.m. Maybe you do work best at unholy hours in your pyjamas, but your coworkers don’t need to know this. It might be a better idea to schedule everything for 8 a.m. the following morning.

Image credit: charleyBook via Flickr

There are a few other compelling reasons to delay sending that email. Maybe it’s really important, and you need to read over it before you send it. Maybe it’s someone’s birthday next week. Or maybe the recipient is away for 2 weeks, and you’d rather your message be near the top of the pile when they return.

There are two ways of doing this on your Mac. You can either make do with the software you already have, or invest in a paid tool to make life easier.

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Scheduling With Automator

Automator might be your Mac’s most neglected program 3 Easy-To-Create Simple Automator Workflows For Everyday Use 3 Easy-To-Create Simple Automator Workflows For Everyday Use Read More – find it in the Utilities folder, or search for it using Spotlight. It allows you to record workflows and automate all kinds of tasks, saving time and effort. You can use Automator to schedule an email by creating an application that sends your message, then scheduling that application to run.

1. Open Automator on your Mac and choose Application when prompted.

2. Under the Actions sidebar choose Mail, then click and drag New Mail Message into the panel on the right.

3. Add the recipient and contents of your email. If you would like to send multiple emails at once, keep adding them using the New Mail Message action.

4. Finally click and drag Send Outgoing Mail into the workflow, ensuring it’s at the very bottom.

5. Hit File > Save and make sure to choose Application from the “File Format” dropdown menu before saving.

6. Open the Calendar application, navigate to the date you would like to send your message and create a new event.

7. Double-click the event to bring up its info, click on the date, then activate the Alert drop-down menu and choose Custom. Now choose Open file, and point it at the Automator application you just saved. Adjust the timing if you like, then click OK.

Make sure your Mac is awake at the time you have set it to schedule. You can get much more fancy with this (try adding attachments or setting up regular alarms) and there are even Calendar events within Automator to play with, for even deeper integration.

Apple Mail Scheduling Plugins

If the Automator method strikes you as clunky and longwinded, you might want to invest in something to make it easier. It might even be worth considering a different mail client altogether.

MailActOn (free trial, $30)

SmallCubed is a small team of Mac developers who have created a useful set of plugins for Apple Mail. MailActOn is one particular product that includes a scheduler, allowing you to dictate exactly when an email is sent. You can choose to send immediately, after a delay, or on a date of your choosing at a specific time.

This is a Mail plugin, not an external service, which means your Mac will need to be on for it to work. Other features included with MailActOn include expanded keyboard shortcuts, automated filling tools, outbox rules for organizing sent messages, and some handy templates for email power users.

You can grab it in a bundle, or pay a one-off fee of $30 to send an unlimited number of scheduled messages. There’s a 30-day free trial, so be sure to test it out before you buy.

MailButler (free option, subscription-based)

A free app called SendLater was once our recommended plugin for scheduling email with Apple Mail. The bad news is that it’s since been swallowed up and is now a part of MailButler, a whole suite of plugins that add extra functionality to Mail. Worse still, it’s an expensive package.

The plugin comes with a free option, which limits the user to “30 professional actions” per month. An action is basically using any of the app’s features, so at face value that’s 30 scheduled outgoing email messages per month. But the service drops additional hidden costs on you, like limiting your actions to a single email account.

You’ll need to cough up €7.95 per month for MailButler in order to send unlimited scheduled messages, from multiple email accounts. There’s also a business tier which adds a whole host of advanced features for just shy of €30 per month. At around €80 per year, MailButler isn’t financially viable for many users.

Alternative Methods

The above method and plugins are the best way to schedule mail using the default macOS Mail app. If you’re not satisfied with either of these, or you’re willing to switch to something else, consider ditching Apple Mail entirely.

Airmail ($10, pictured below) is probably best choice in terms of a third party email client. It supports iCloud, Gmail, IMAP, POP3, and a whole host of other email accounts. It also comes with a handy scheduler which allows you to send email at a later time (provided your Mac in on, and the app is running).

Mozilla’s open source mail client Thunderbird can take advantage of the free Send Later plugin to achieve the same goal. Thunderbird is a free app that’s built up a hearty collection of plugins 10 Must-Have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 More) 10 Must-Have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 More) Thunderbird lives on. This desktop email client thrives because of its many customization options. These must-have Thunderbird addons will help you make the most of it. Read More  since its release in 2003, and it’s still going strong.

If you’re a Gmail user then your other option is to use something like Boomerang for Gmail to schedule your outgoing messages Schedule Your Messages Inside Gmail With Boomerang Schedule Your Messages Inside Gmail With Boomerang Baydin (the company behind Boomerang) has just announced that users can reschedule messages inside Gmail once they have already been scheduled. Read More . You’ll have to do this via the Gmail web interface, but you can connect other non-Gmail accounts and send mail from non-Google addresses How to Import & Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail How to Import & Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail It is not uncommon to have several email accounts, but checking multiple accounts in different places is tedious. Hence, many people revert to a desktop email client like Thunderbird or Outlook to manage all their... Read More  too if you want.

If you are stuck on Apple Mail and wondering what the alternatives look like, there could be some compelling reasons to opt for a third party client Choose a Third-Party Mac Mail App for All These Benefits Choose a Third-Party Mac Mail App for All These Benefits Looking for a new Mac email client? Tired of Apple Mail? Many third-party clients are worth considering, each packed with features either missing or lacking in Mail.app. Read More . If you’re a heavy Google user then be sure to check out our favorite Mac Gmail clients The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client Need a desktop client for Gmail on your Mac? Here are the best we could find. Read More too.

How do you schedule your email?

Article updated 24 March 2017

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  1. Danny
    December 8, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Please edit this article to say that you must create a "On My Mac" calendar. This option will be hidden if you don't already have a local calendar! To do this (with Yosemite) you must disable all current online calendars in the account preferences. Now, when you select File->New Calendars-> "On My Mac" will appear. This took about 2 hrs to figure out...

  2. ah
    April 3, 2016 at 6:58 am

    too bad Send Later is now ridiculously expensive I had it when it was just a simple app and now bundled with Mail Butler for personal use it's way out of price range

    • Tim Brookes
      April 4, 2016 at 2:04 am

      Wow that sucks, I didn't realise it had been swallowed up. You might have joy using one of the other solutions (scheduling mail with Calendar) which won't cost you, or you could go all-out and pay a once-off fee for a client like AirMail which already supports the feature.

      After having a look it seems like MailButler is free for light users, but you only get "30 actions" per month on this model. Their definition of an action is basically using any of the included features, so you might get on ok if you don't need to make heavy use of the feature?

      The monthly charge for the service sucks though. I could understand a one-off payment, but €8 per month (or slightly "cheaper" at $70ish per year) seems ridiculous. Maybe Apple will introduce the feature with OS X 10.12, they've put a lot of work into Mail in recent updates!

  3. Ian
    March 31, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    If the computer is off at that time, but is turned on later, will the email send as soon as the computer is turned on? Also is there a good free animator app for android phones? That would solve the problem of my laptop being off at the time I want the email to send.

  4. ele
    March 11, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Hi, but if i want to schedule the answer of an email?

  5. Hemant kumar arya
    February 11, 2016 at 4:18 am

    Awesome post, Now we can schedule mail in Gmail by juat downloading a extension named as boomerang in you chrome or firefox. Thats all you can schedule email free of cost. Thank you :-)

  6. TT
    January 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    For those of you who are having the problem of the alert disappearing - the problem is that your calendar is connected to icloud. You need to create a calendar on your mac, this will make the 'open file' alert work. Here is a text that helped me solve it:

    "OK guys- here's the problem. If you have iCloud Calendar turned on it means you want whatever file to open when you trigger it with an alert to happen on all your iCloud devices. It can't do that, so it won't (can't) hold the alert. You have to go to System Preferences>iCloud and uncheck Calendars. Then create a local calendar and try your alert again."

    and

    "I was too hasty in my previous reply- let me clarify.

    You can still leave "Calendars" checked in iCloud System Preferences- in fact if you share a calendar with any other device this needs to be checked. But if you want to use alerts to trigger opening a file or application (like an Automator app) on your laptop it has to be on a non-iCloud calendar. You have to create a local calendar "On My Mac" called "My scripted events," or something like that.

    For example, I want to set a date and time to open an Automator app I created called "Launch Slideshow." If I try to add an alert to open that file on an iCloud calendar, iCloud wants to open the file "Launch Slideshow" on my phone, my iPad, and everything that accesses that calendar in the cloud. This is impossible, even if I in fact have the file "Launch Slideshow" on the other devices because the path name is ultimately different. So calendar can''t hold the alert. Scripted events in Calendar have to be on a non-cloud calendar.

    Clear as mud?"

  7. idim
    December 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    When i hit apply the alert, the alert details disappear!! Hundred times the same result!!

  8. reefcomber
    September 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I created an Automator application to send attachments automatically.

    The workflow is as follows: Get Specified Finder Items, New Mail Message, Add Attachments to Front Message, Send Outgoing Messages.

    I then created an Event in Calendar that launched the above application. Everything worked fine, except that the message was not sent. It automatically created the message, sending to the correct email address on the correct date, but the message did not automatically go out.

    Am I missing a command in the workflow?

    Thanks

  9. Byron Bray
    September 13, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I'd like to point out a couple of tweaks, in the use of Automator to schedule emails, that may make it a little easier and more predictable to set up and test:

    1) If, in testing this method, you set up a Calendar event to run an Automator application, you may find that it does not work, at first. This may be due to the fact that the event is still open in Calendar and may not have been saved. When you create Calendar event, the program doesn't necessarily save the new event until you move to another event or another day. You can ensure that your activating event is recorded by clicking 'Apply' or by clicking on another day or event, so that the newly-created event is actually added to the Calendar data file.

    2) Since you've created a new application, the File Quarantine alert may be activated the first time you try to execute the new application you've created. If you're not there to approve it, the app may not execute. You can prevent this problem by inserting your own email address and some dummy-text in the message, when you create the Automator application, and then executing the application manually, so as to invoke and approve the File Quarantine alert before you actually employ it.

    • Trish
      November 28, 2015 at 1:40 am

      I've clicked 'Apply' but the Alert details immediately disappear. What am I doing wrong?

    • Ross Heitkamp
      March 24, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      I am still having trouble with #2 - the file quarantine. I tried setting it up with my own email address and see that the second time this is scheduled, I don't get the warning. BUT, when I save the automator again for any reason, File Quarantine appears to reset and want to confirm execution again. So there appears to be no way to change the addressee without ending up blocked by File Quarantine. I'd have to send them one message just to get past quarantine. Apple has become quite an obstacle with its nanny software.

      • Ross Heitkamp
        March 24, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        I figured out a workaround to the File Quarantine obstacle with changing the addressee. If you send the message to an addressbook group, then you can test and approve the execution of the script while having your own email in the group, then change the group recipient to your intended one before your scheduled sending time.

  10. Nicko
    May 18, 2015 at 3:43 am

    Calendar doesn't seem to play nice for me when adding in a custom multi-day-per-week repeat with the open file procedure when scheduling.

  11. Doni1985
    May 1, 2015 at 11:02 am

    THANK YOU so much! Terrific - I love Automator <3

  12. Tim Brookes
    April 27, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Yes that's true, though once you've opened the application once and given it permission to run you shouldn't have that problem again.

  13. Wayne Smith
    April 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Good article and very well detailed. One problem I'm having is the "Your opening the application "x" for the first time..." warning. This means that, if I'm not at my computer to click "open", when the iCal event opens the email will not send.

  14. Wayne Smith
    April 23, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Good article and very detailed. One problem I'm running into is the "Your opening the application "x" for the first time" warning. This means, if I'm not at my computer when the iCal event takes place, the email will not send until I tell OS X to open the application.

  15. Kaloyan
    April 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Great article.

    Do you have any recommendations for an OS X app that schedules incoming emails? Instead of receiving each email as it comes, I'd like to get emails at specific time slots.

    • Tim Brookes
      April 14, 2015 at 12:53 am

      Hi Kaloyan,

      This functionality already exists in the default Mac email client. In order to receive email periodically, launch Mail on your Mac, click Mail at the top of the screen, then click Preferences. Under the General tab change the Check for new messages field to an interval that suits you.

      You can't designate specific times, but if you want email every hour or every half-hour (or a custom period, say 90 minutes) then this allows you to do that.

      Hopefully this helps you out,
      Tim

  16. Kyle
    March 19, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I am having trouble saving the event. It sets it up but when I leave the event window it deletes the open file reminder. Anyone have a idea as to why?

    Thanks
    Kyle

    • Trish
      November 28, 2015 at 1:38 am

      I'm the same. Did you get an answer to this?

    • Jane
      December 17, 2016 at 5:08 am

      I found it saved to my original calendar although I had disable them all. Just need to change the "colour" of the calendar to the iMac one then the event will appear.

  17. inge
    February 22, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    what if I want all my emails to go into an outbox, before actually sending them, like in windows live mail.. and then when I`ve reread them and I want to send them I want a send/receive option (like windows) so that all emails in my outbox get sent at once