Switching from Mail to Airmail on iOS: 7 tips to get started

Learn how to customize Airmail's sidebar, choose your own swipe actions, "snooze" messages, and more.

Switching from iOS Mail to Airmail: 7 tips to get started
Credit: Ben Patterson

Those looking to ditch Apple’s stock Mail app for iOS already have plenty of options—from Google’s Gmail and Inbox to Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS—but now, there’s a new player on the field: Airmail, a sleek iPhone version of an already popular Mac mail client.

Boasting dozens of customization options, one-tap inbox filters, and the ability to “snooze” messages, Airmail makes for a tempting alternative to Mail, so long as you’re willing to pony up for the $5 price tag. (That’s just for the iPhone version, by the way; there’s no iPad version of Airmail yet.)

If you decide to take the plunge, we’ve got a few Airmail tips to help get you started, from the first settings you’ll want to customize to how to integrate Airmail into iOS’s sharing menu.

Customize the sidebar

One of the first things you’ll see when you launch Airmail is its slide-open drawer on the left side of the screen, complete with navigation links to your various account inboxes, your starred messages, sent mail, message labels, and more.

Customize the sidebar Ben Patterson

Tap and hold a message label in the sidebar to rename it, change its color, or add it as a “favorite.”

While the drawer of quick links to your accounts and messages is already a plus, even better is your ability to customize it. Just tap the edit button to move, add, or hide anything in the sidebar.

You can even tap and hold a message label in the sidebar to rename it, change its color, or add it as a “favorite.” (Too bad you can’t drag messages from your inbox directly into the sidebar.)

Pick some new swipe actions

Once you’re done with the drawer, you can start customizing what happens when you swipe a message in one of your inboxes.

Pick some new swipe actions Ben Patterson

You can pick two “actions” per swipe: one that activates once you swipe a message about halfway across the screen, and a second that snaps on after you’ve swiped about two-thirds or more across.

More than a dozen swipe actions are available under the Settings menu—everything from archiving and trashing a message to giving it a new label, snoozing it (more on “snooze” in a moment) or filing it into a “to do” list.

Just tap the three-line “hamburger” button to open the sidebar, tap Settings near the bottom of the screen, tap Swipes, then start customizing both your left and right swipe shortcuts.

Note that you get to pick two “actions” per swipe: One that activates once you swipe a message about halfway across the screen, and a second that snaps on after you’ve swiped about two-thirds or more across.

Choose a new default browser

Typically in iOS, tapping on a web link in a message or any other app will either open an in-app browser or Safari. In Airmail, though, you can decide which browser—anything from Safari or Chrome to Firefox or iCab—gets your business when you tap a link.

Choose a new default browser Ben Patterson

Nope, Safari isn’t the only option for opening web links within Airmail messages.

Open the left-side Airmail drawer, tap Settings > Default Browser, then take your pick.

”Snooze” messages you’d rather deal with later

Here’s a clever way of dealing with annoying messages that you know you’ll need to respond to sooner or later. Instead of, say, letting the message sit in your inbox or marking it as unread, just “snooze” it.

Ben Patterson

You can “snooze” a message until later in the day, tomorrow, next week, or however long you choose.

When you do (just add the snooze feature as a left or right swipe option, or you can find it in the three-dot “action” menu in the corner of the screen), the message will disappear from your inbox for however long you see fit—anything from just a few hours to the next day, the weekend, next week, or any date you choose.

You can also tap Settings > Snoozes to customize when snoozed messages will reappear in your inbox—for example, you can set “Later Today” to mean anything from an hour to 24 hours later.

(Google’s Inbox app also lets you snooze messages, by the way—and if you ask me, Apple needs to steal this feature for Mail, pronto.)

Filter your inbox instantly

If your inbox is chronically stuffed with messages, Airmail boasts a feature that can cut through the clutter in an instant: Quick filters that you can enable in a single tap.

Just scroll up a bit in your inbox and a series of buttons will appear at the bottom of the screen: Unread, Attach, Threads, Today, and Smart.

Filter your inbox instantly Ben Patterson

Just scroll up a bit in your inbox and a series of one-tap filters will appear at the bottom of the screen.

Tap the Unread button, and your inbox will immediately shrink to display only unread messages. The Attach button filters out every message without an attachment, while Threads will show only ongoing email conversations.

Best of all are the Today and Smart filters. Today shows only messages received during, well, the current day, while Smart filters out any message that isn’t from one of your contacts.

Only get alerts for messages from your VIP’s

Like iOS Mail, Airmail has a way of flagging specific contacts as VIPs—and once you do, you’ll be able to tweak your notification settings so you’ll only get alerts when you get messages from your besties. (Unfortunately, you can’t get alerts for new messages in a specific thread, as you can in iOS.)

airmail ios tips vip notifications 6 Ben Patterson

You can set Airmail to only bug you with alerts when you get messages from “VIP” contacts.

Keep in mind that Airmail’s VIP feature is completely separate from iOS, meaning that if you already have a big list of VIPs in the iOS Mail app, you’ll have to recreate it for Airmail.

First step: Make a list of VIP contacts. Tap the three-line “hamburger” button in the top-left corner of the screen, tap Contacts (if you don’t see Contacts in the sidebar, tap Settings, then select it from the list of menu options), then tap All Contacts. Search for a contact you want to add to your VIP list, tap it, then tap the little heart button near the top of the screen. If the VIP you want to add has more than one email address, you’ll need to “heart” each of them.

Next, go back to the Airmail sidebar, tap Settings, pick an email account at the top of the screen, then tap Notifications > Only VIP Contacts.

Last but not least, go back to your iOS home screen, tap Settings > Notifications > Airmail, and make sure your Airmail alerts are enabled and set up just as you’d like.

Add Airmail as a button under the “Action” menu

When you’re surfing the web in Safari and spot a webpage you’d like to share, one option is to tap the Mail button to send the link via email—and doing so will send the message using the default iOS Mail app.

Add Airmail as a button under the Ben Patterson

You can add an Airmail button under the iOS “Action” menu in just a few taps.

If you want to share links (or photos, or something else) using Airmail instead, try this:

  • Tap the Action button (it’s the square one with an up-arrow in the middle, typically found in the bottom toolbar of Safari and other iOS apps), flick the top row of apps all the way to the end, then tap More.
  • Scroll through the list of options until you find Airmail—and when you do, enable it, then tap, hold, and drag the little three-line handle to move it ahead or behind other buttons in the list.

Now, you’ll see the Airmail option the next time you tap the Action button; tap it, and you’re ready to share via Airmail.

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