Sorting folders/sub folders in Apple Mail

I recently had the issue of folder and subfolders in Apple mail becoming unorganised meaning they were no longer in alphabetical order……..this annoyed me (bit petty I know).

If your are like myself and look to keep your inbox clear of clutter then you too will have quiet a few different folders, the option of manually checking and moving them all seems tedious and dull. I looked into this and found a relatively quick fix:

Say your mail folder’s set up was just single letter but after a while you found it looked  unordered – like the basic version below, just follow the few steps listed and all will be sorted for you!

Mail Unsorted

Go to Mail and then preferences.

Then select the account you wish to edit which in this case is test:

mail accounts


Once the account has been selected tick the advanced tab and untick the ‘Enable this account’ checkbox:

enable this account

Once the above is done,  your account will disappear from the right hand side panel (don’t be alarmed by this), simply Quit Mail, MAKING SURE YOU SAVE CHANGES!

Then relaunch Apple Mail and reverse the steps above to re-enable (tick the box) the account’s folder’s will appear ordered.

44 Replies to "Sorting folders/sub folders in Apple Mail"

  • Bobby

    You are awesome! I use Apple Mail for work and it was driving me nuts to have to look at it unsorted every day! Thank you!!

  • Steve

    I assume this is a Mail feature, but I appreciate you passing along the work around!

  • Mark

    this helped me – thanks for posting

    I can add that the non- alphabetical behaviour may have to be initiated by rearranging folders or a move.

    I had 1 folder that was alphabetically sorted and maintaned this correctly and 1 that was not on the same account

  • Mark Palmer

    Thanks for all your comments… and pleased that I could be of service!


  • CCNH

    Thank you so much! With the number of folders we have over there, it was ridiculous!!

    Thanks again!

  • SKA

    Thanks a bunch!! I have so many folders that I was starting to create duplicate folders b/c I couldn’t find the original ones. This was a ton of help.

  • PeteW

    I have the same problem but getting my mailbox folders into alphabetical order doesn’t work when I follow the recommended procedure. I’m running Mountain Lion and the enable account tick box is not showing under ‘Advanced’. It shows under ‘Account Information’.
    No matter what I do my mailbox list under ‘ON MY MAC’ remains in a random state. Also, when I quit Mail I am never asked to save changes and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to save changes I make under ‘Preferences’. Can anyone offer advice?

  • Hey PeteW,

    Unfortunately disabling then re-enabling will not help your issue as your folder(s) are set up ‘on my mac’ instead of part of a mailbox, this means that the folder(s) are not part of a Mailbox and are therefore stored locally to the machine.

    We do not recommend this as it means should there be an issue with the machine and it gets re-installed, you will lose that folder structure and a chance of losing your emails.

    I would suggest that as it is ‘on my mac’ that you manually drag/drop the folder(s) so they are alphabetical.

    There are other more complex ways to attempt to fix this but it would require a technically detailed understanding about mail settings.

    Hope that this helps,


    • PeteW

      Thanks Mark, Would it be better if I moved all my folders from ‘On my Mac’ to another place. I have a mailbox called ‘’. Should I set up folders there and move all my emails across? Pete

  • UK iMac User

    Highlight Mailbox to be sorted

    Export Mailbox, inc subfolders

    Open in Finder

    Arrange by Name (etc) by clicking on the top

    (Not sure if you need to actually do this )

    Mail, Import mailbox

    Import files

    Import is sorted, just copy to mailbox required, and delete old folders

    (This is how I remember doing it)

  • Neil Salkind

    In 10.8.4 the Enable box is on the Mailbox Behaviors tab and works the same way. Thanks!

  • Paul

    Was completely frustrated by this issue. Worked like a charm. Was a little worried about the “disable” part and the email did go away but came right back when I reversed the process.

  • Sharon

    Help! I tried your method to sort all my folders.
    Before doing this, under the heading “MAILBOXES” at the very top, I had a Trash Folder and a Junk folder, both with two sub-folders: iCloud, and On My Mac.

    Afterward, under the Heading “MAILBOXES”, at the very top, my Junk folder now has TWO iCloud folders, and one is disabled (the circle icon with a short lightening bolt inside it).

    Also, at the very bottom of pane with the list of mailboxes, under the heading “ICLOUD” there used to be two folders: “Archive” and Junk (iCloud), but now afterward the two sub-folders are “Archive” and “Junk (On My Mac)”.

    What do I do now?
    I’d appreciate any help, as I don’t know if the Junk Mail function will work, since I can’t test it by sending myself an email.

  • James

    Hi Sharon

    Unfortunately without being able to directly view your Apple Mail I cannot be much help.

    It seems as though in ‘Mailbox Behaviors’ you have deselected ‘Store sent messages on the server’ and changed your trash settings. But again without directly seeing your mac I cannot be certain.

    I would advise you seek help from a genius bar as the issue is on an Apple product, using Apple Mail using an iCloud account so they should be able to help you.

  • BAm

    Excellent! Thank you! I have been trying to fix this seemingly forever! 🙂

  • Letizia

    THANK YOU!! You put a big smile on my face. A big Christmas present indeed.
    Best wishes to you.

  • Barefootguru

    Excellent, thanks. I added some folders/labels to my Gmail account. They appeared in alphabetical order on one client but not the other, and they refuse to be reordered manually. Disabling and reenabling my Gmail account got them into sorted order.

  • pat

    Thank you! I finally have my folders back in order. On another note, I have several subfolders that were mistakenly made in Mail for my Mac. How do I move the subfolders, without losing the emails, out of their subfolder status? I want them to be typical folders.

  • dhb

    This does not work on my Mac … OX X Yosemite, 10.10.5.

    Also – the enable account checkbox has moved from the “Advanced” tab to the “Account Information” tab.

  • michael

    Is there a fix for a Mac running El Capitan? The above fix doesn’t work for sorting my subfolders. Maybe the fix is outdated?

  • Daryl McCartney

    Unfortunately as of 10.10.5 this solution seems to not work. I am working on trying to find an alternative method to automatically reorder the sub folders but as yet am unsuccessful and we appear to be stuck back with the old manually dragging them to a preferred order.

  • I’m having this problem also with El Capitan & the fix doesn’t seem to work
    Any help really appreciated – it is so frustrating !
    (You expect this with MS, not Apple !)

  • Stephanie

    Am I the only person who thinks it’s INCREDIBLY STUPID that Apple doesn’t just simply provide a “sort” option for your mailboxes? Export, import, disable, enable…. this is so ridiculous! Right click and sort by name, how hard is that!! Come on Apple!!!

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