Mac Productivity

Get Started With Mac Smart Groups Using These 9 Filters

Akshata Shanbhag 28-03-2018

Love smart folders in Finder 8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac (And How to Set Them Up) A Mac Smart Folder lets you group together similar files from all over your machine. Here's how to use them and some great examples to get started with. Read More on Mac? You’ll be glad to know that a few more Mac apps support smart groupings. Smart folders, albums, playlists, etc. are quick-access views that display search results to match specific criteria. You can use them to filter items in a snap. We’ve rounded up a few custom smart sets to get you started.


Smart Albums in Photos

You can create smart albums in the Photos app by clicking on File > New Smart Album. In the dialog box that appears, you’ll see three dropdown menus in a row. Select the right options within them and you have the condition in place to filter out the photos you want.


If you want to add more conditions for filtering, click on the Plus button next to an existing condition to get started. Be sure to change the Any box if you want the filter to only pick up items that match all criteria. Add an appropriate name for the smart album for easy identification, and then hit the OK button to wrap up.

The new smart album will show up under My Albums in the sidebar. You can drag and drop smart albums inside folders to organize them. Now, let’s get to those albums you might want to create.

Note: The process for creating smart groups in Contacts and smart mailboxes in Mail is more or less the same. Thus, we won’t walk you through the whole process again in the upcoming sections.


1. Photos That Didn’t Sync With iCloud


iCloud sync can run into issues at times, leaving you with a mishmash of photos that have synced with iCloud and others that haven’t. This smart album will help you identify the latter across all albums. While creating it, leave the first two dropdown menus alone. Set the third one to unable to upload to iCloud Photo Library.

2. Favorite Photos in Specific Albums


When you “like” or favorite a photo, it shows up under Library > Favorites. If that section appears crowded and you can’t find what you’re looking for, this filter narrows down your search. It displays photos marked as favorites from an album of your choice.


While creating the smart album, leave the default condition (Photo is favorite) as is and add this second one to it: Album is [Name]. Replace [Name] with the album from which you want to display your favorites.

3. Your Photos With a Specific Person

Imagine you want to erase a person from your digital memories by deleting photos featuring that person. You can find said person’s photos with this next smart album.

Create the album by setting your condition to Person is or Person includes followed by the name of the person whose photos you want to isolate.



You’ll have to select the person’s name from the third dropdown menu, but it won’t show up there if you haven’t matched it to a face first. To do that, visit the People section from the sidebar, hover on the relevant face, and add a name to it with the Name option.

Now let’s say you want to gift someone a photo book or a calendar with a few choice photos of the two of you. To find photos to choose from, set up a smart album with a face filter as you did above. But this time add a second condition: Person is [Your Name].


Smart Groups in Contacts

Click on File > New Smart Group to start creating a new smart contact group and set up your conditions for filtering contacts.


4. Contacts With a Birthday or Anniversary Coming Up


Gift giving and party planning is so much easier when you remember birthdays and anniversaries well in advance. Let the Contacts app remind you.

Create a smart group that goes with this condition: Birthday is in the next 1 month. For anniversaries, create a separate group and select the Anniversary option instead of Birthday.

You can select various labels from the dropdown menus to tweak your criteria. For example, you can also set the condition to Anniversary is within 2 weeks or Birthday is within 10 days.

5. Contacts Living in the Same City


Have you ever missed out on meeting a friend during a trip because you forgot to plan ahead? Did you forget he lived in the city you were visiting? You can prevent that from happening again.

Use a smart group to round up contacts who live in cities you visit often. Set it up with the condition City is [City Name]. The next time you plan your trip to a particular city, take a quick look at its smart group. You’ll know at a glance whom to send a “let’s catch up” message.

6. Coworkers You Want to Meet Outside Work


Do you work on a remote team? With a little tweak, the smart group we created above can help you organize meetups for coworkers who happen to live in your city.

All you have to do is add a second condition to filter contacts who belong to the your workplace. For this you can use a condition like Email contains, where is your company or team’s official domain name.


For coworkers who share your interests, add those interests to the Note section when you’re creating contacts. With such notes in place, you can filter people who can join you for a shared activity such as a dance class, a movie, or a football game.

To make this work, set up a smart group with these conditions:

  • Address contains [Locality Name] or ZIP is [ZIP Code]
  • Note contains [Keyword]

Smart Mailboxes in Mail

You’ll find the “create” option for smart mailboxes listed as New Smart Mailbox in the Mailbox menu.

7. Urgent Work Emails


Do you find yourself sidetracked by unimportant emails while checking work emails that need immediate action? Set up a smart mailbox to display only the kind of emails you consider both urgent and important to get work done. You can filter emails:

  • From one or more people with: From Contains
  • From a particular domain with: From Contains
  • With a particular keyword in the subject line with: Subject contains [Keyword]

Move this special mailbox to the top of the Smart Mailboxes section in the sidebar and check only that when you’re in a hurry.

8. Emails From a Specific Contact Group


Let’s say you want to read emails from ex-colleagues or from contacts whose emails you love. Add those people to a single contact group or a smart group in the Contacts app, and then use a smart mailbox to filter emails from that group. Here’s the condition you can use: Sender is member of group [Group Name].

9. Emails You Need to Reply To


Create a smart mailbox with the first condition as Message was not replied to. Now, do you want to filter emails from a certain sender, within a certain time span, or with a particular subject line? You’ll have to set the second condition accordingly. Here are a few examples for it:

  • From contains
  • Date received is between 7 and 10 days ago
  • Subject contains [Keyword]

Improve Your Mac Apps With Smart Groups

You know the best part about smart albums, mailboxes, and contact groups? You don’t have to worry about updating their contents. If the corresponding app finds an item that fits the bill, it automatically adds that item to the correct smart set.

It doesn’t matter how much data you have on your Mac’s hard drive. With smart folders and the like, finding relevant bits of data Find Files Faster and Organize Your Mac With Finder Tags Finder tags are a great way to organize data -- here's how to make the most of this handy organization tool on your Mac today. Read More becomes quick and painless. Spend a few minutes setting up some of those smart searches today!

Related topics: Contact Management, Email Tips, iPhoto, Mac Smart Groups, Mac Tips.

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