Tiger Tip #6: Adding Keyboard Shortcuts to Prioritize Messages in Mail

by Chuck Toporek

Tiger's new Mail application adds many new features, including the ability to finally prioritize your outbound messages, but you've got to know where to look.

When composing a new message, there's no obvious way to set a message's priority from the new message window. What's more, if you Option-Command-click on the toolbar button in the window's upper-right corner, you won't find a widget that you can add to a message window for setting the priority (see Figure 1). However, you can go to Message > Mark >, and then select either As Low Priority, As Normal Priority, or As High Priority (see Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 1: Look ma, no widgety thingy for adding a priority to an outbound email message. Crap!

Figure 2

Figure 2: Sure, I can use the menus to add a priority to a message, but should I really have to do that?

So, the solution I've come up for this is to simply add keyboard shortcuts for the priority menu items. To pull this off, first quit Mail then launch System Preferences and go to Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts, and follow these steps:

  1. Click the plus sign button (+) to add a keyboard shortcut.

  2. In the Application pop-up, select Mail (or Mail.app, if you've got file extensions turned on in the Finder).

  3. In the Menu Title field, enter "As Low Priority" (without the quotes).

  4. Tab down to the Keyboard Shortcut field, and then give the menu item a shortcut of its very own (as you can see in Figure 3, I've used Control-Command-L for "As Low Priority").

  5. Click Add to save the shortcut.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Adding your own keyboard shortcuts is pretty easy, using the Keyboard & Mouse's Keyboard Shortcuts pane.

Now go back and add keyboard shortcuts for As Normal Priority (Control-Command-N), and As High Priority (Control-Command-H), then quit System Preferences and launch Mail again. When you open a new message window, try using one of the keyboard shortcuts you've just assigned to Mail, and when you do, you'll see the little Priority widget show up in the message window (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4: Hey, how about that, now I can change a message's priority from a new message window, but still only after I've used one of the keyboard shortcuts.

The one glitch with this that I've noticed is that if you've set up a signature file to use in your messages, the sigfile widget interferes with the priority widget. Maybe that's why Apple didn't include the priority widget as part of the customization set, but still, you'd think this would be a pretty easy problem to resolve. Regardless, I've got my keyboard shortcuts now, so I am -- as Mojo Nixon would say -- "A Happy Boy".


2005-05-09 23:27:48
But You *Can* Have the Priority Menu Always
While your post is a *great* tutorial on creating custom keyboard shortcuts, and I'm sure there will be people who really want those shortcuts, I think it's still much easier to use the priority menu that appears on each new message--yes, you can get it to appear on each new blank message. The caption from your last screenshot leads me to believe you haven't yet discovered this tip: With a compose message message window open, pull down the little menu that appears to the left of the Account line. Choose Customize, then check the priority option on the far right of the window (and any other of these options you want to appear on subsequent compose message windows), then click OK. From now on, there's a priority menu on every new message you type; for those still wanting to just use the keyboard, tab down to it after filling in your addressee and subject lines and you can change the level with just your arrow key. Seems easier to me.
2005-05-10 08:24:46
re: But You *Can* Have the Priority Menu Always
Ah, you're right, so I stand corrected. As ShastaX points out, you can get the Priority widget to appear on your messages, and what's even better, when you do it that way, the widget won't interfere with the Signature widget, either.

Thanks for kicking me in the head to find that. Still, though, the option to add the Priority widget is hidden, and it takes some digging to find that. Doesn't that go against Apple's whole philosophy around the Human Interface Guidelines?