Avoid misdirected Mail messages

If you use Mail, you’re probably well aware of the auto-completion feature in the recipient fields—start typing someone’s name, and Mail will complete it for you, based on information in both your Address Book and recent e-mails.

Most of the time, this feature is great. For me, though, it can be troublesome: I have a good friend named Jason, which also happens to be the first name of someone at Macworld. So if I’m not careful, e-mails intended for my friend Jason can wind up going to my co-worker Jason instead—and as good of a guy as he is, he probably really doesn’t need to see my “Hey, wanna go play some 9-ball tonight?” e-mails, especially as he and I live about 600 miles apart!

So how do you avoid this problem? The answer lies in Address Book’s Groups feature. You see, Mail won’t just auto-complete based on names; it can also do so for groups in Address Book. This is a good general tip, and one you may have already known—create a group of your golf buddies, for instance, name it golfers , and you can send an e-mail to all of them in Mail by simply addressing it to golfers .

But there’s no rule that says a group must have more than one person in it, and you can use this fact to solve the same-name problem in Mail.

In my case, I created two new groups in Address Book (File -> New Group, or click the plus sign in the lower left corner). I named one da boss (because, well, he is) and the other wrx (which is the brand of car my friend Jason owns). As you might have guessed by now, I then dragged Jason Snell’s contact record into da boss group, and my friend Jason’s card into the wrx group.

Now in Mail, when I want to send a message to Jason at Macworld , I simply enter da b in the To field—as soon as I type that “b,” Mail auto-completes the group name. When I press Return, I see the e-mail addresses for all members of the group. In this case, of course, that means I see Jason Snell’s e-mail address. When I want to email my friend Jason, I just type wrx and press Return.

You might think it takes a while to “unlearn” typing Jason , but really, I made the adjustment quite quickly. Just pick group names that are short, unique, and easy to remember. I find it easiest to remember the group name if I relate it to the individual in some way, as shown in this (real world) example.

Not a huge hint, but it can definitely prevent some potentially embarrassing e-mail exchanges!

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