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Email overload is almost a given today, and there are oodles of apps, techniques, and advice on how to better manage the many messages that flood your inbox every day. Honestly, dealing with too much email is a little like dieting — almost any approach will work, at least for a while, so the hard part is finding what fits best with your working style. But we’re here to help you use your Apple devices better, not convince you of the One True Path to Email Bliss.

For today’s lesson, then, we’re going to learn about swiping, either on the screen of an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 or later, or on the trackpad or Magic Mouse of a Mac running OS X 10.11 El Capitan or later. By swiping left or right on a message in the message list, you can quickly manage the message. It’s a fast way to work through email that doesn’t require a reply, and let’s face it, most doesn’t.

Swiping on the iPhone or iPad: In iOS, when you swipe a short distance right on an unread message (from left to right), Mail displays a Read button. You can either tap it or keep swiping to the right to mark the message as read. If the message has already been read, that button changes to Unread. This swipe is great for those who like marking messages as unread to keep them around for later processing.

Swipe left (from right to left) a short distance, and you get three buttons, Archive, Flag, and More. Tap Archive to store the message in an Archive mailbox (or All Mail for Gmail users), which is good for getting it out of your face without deleting it, and Flag marks the message with a flag so you can find it again easily in Mail’s Flagged mailbox — some people do this to track messages that need replies or other actions. Swipe all the way to the left to archive the message with one motion. (If you see Trash instead of Archive, that’s fine. We talk more about configuring which buttons you see shortly.)

If you tap More, you get a bunch of additional options, depending on the message, that include: Reply, Reply All, Forward, Show Related Messages, Mark (which offers options for flagging, marking as read/unread, and marking as spam), Notify Me (which alerts you when anyone replies to the message), and Move Message (for filing in another folder). Mail is smart enough not to let you reply to automatically generated messages.

Do you prefer to flag messages with a single swipe instead of a swipe and a tap? Go to Settings > Mail > Swipe Options and choose which buttons appear when you swipe right or left. If you like deleting messages instead of archiving them, select Archive in the Swipe Right settings and it will become Trash automatically if the account requires swiping left to offer the Archive button.

Remember that you can always shake your iOS device to undo an errant swipe action!

Swiping on the Mac: On the Mac, swiping works the same way, but fewer options are available. You can swipe right with two fingers to mark a message as read or unread, depending on its current status, or you can swipe left to delete or archive the message.

As with Mail in iOS, you can twiddle the delete/archive setting by choosing Mail > Preferences > Viewing. Choose Trash or Archive from the Move Discarded Messages Into pop-up menu.

That’s it! Take a few minutes and practice swiping, and before long you’ll be marking, flagging, and archiving messages with just a flick of the finger.

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