Mail: Turn On Toolbar Text to Eliminate Guesswork

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This is such a simple tip, but I think it can really help with Apple Mail's ease of use. What we're going to do is turn on text underneath the icons in the program's toolbar so that we don't have to guess what the symbols mean. I find this especially useful for folks who are new to Mail (or to the Mac!), as it makes what you're clicking on so much clearer.

So here’s what the Mail toolbar looks like by default:

To change things, just right- or Control-click on the grey toolbar area, and this menu will pop up:

As I’ve done above, switch “Icon Only” to “Icon and Text,” and this is how your toolbar will look:

Oh man, I like that so much better. If you like it, you can do the same thing for your composing windows, as well. Just start a new email first to change the appearance of the toolbar you get when you're writing a message.

Is there anybody who could figure out what that rightmost icon means without hovering over it to get a tooltip? 

Oh, “square with dots and lines” means “stationery.” It's so obvious! Wow, I'm sarcastic today.

Anyway, as before, right- or Control-click on the toolbar, pick “Icon and Text,” and voilà! Texty-icony goodness. 

I have a hard time understanding why this isn’t the default in Mail, as I think it would help a lot of people. But, you know, I don’t make the rules. Yet, anyway. One day, my plans will come to fruition.

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What version of Mail are you using? In v7.2 control-clicking on a new message window does NOT bring up any options to Customize the Toolbar.

Melissa Holt

Hey krgraham,

I’m running v7.2, as well. Be sure that you’re Control-clicking on the grey area of the toolbar at the top, not the message window itself.

Hope that helps!


Hello Melissa:

I actually did know what that icon meant, but that’s because I’ve used the stationary feature a time or two.

Your article does remind me, however, to alert colleagues new to the Mac about adding text to the icons. Many who have migrated from Outlook on the PC in particular find Mail a substantial change, and the text can facilitate that transition.

Melissa Holt

Thanks for the comment, wab95! I’m a big proponent of pretty much anything that helps people use Macs more easily. grin


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