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.
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.
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.
Scheduling With Automator
Automator might be your Mac’s most neglected program – 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.
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 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. 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 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. If you’re a heavy Google user then be sure to check out our favorite Mac Gmail clients too.
How do you schedule your email?
Article updated 24 March 2017