Schedule Email to Send Later (in Mail.app)

This is a great question, posed by one of our awesome readers... "Is there a way to schedule an email to send from Apple's Mail app?"

First, know that Apple's Mail app does not natively support the scheduling of emails to go out at a later date. In order for this feature to work properly, it would need to be supported by Apple's mail server (on the "back-end"), and since it isn't supported there, it isn't a built-in feature.

OS X has a built-in automation utility called Automator. To say this utility is very, very cool (not to mention wildly customizable) is an understatement! I really like Automator, a lot. It's probably the most underutilize app on anyone's Mac, but can do many things to help automate your daily workflow. Let's start by opening Automator (Applications > Automator):

Immediately upon opening the app, we are asked what kind of a project we want to create. For the purposes of this tip, we will choose "Application" (as you can see, there are lots of other options to choose from later):

I won't go into all the ins and outs of the application in this post (there are way too many to cover in a single post), so I will just dive right into solving the issue at hand... scheduling email to send later. Here is an overview of what we will be doing:

1) Composing an email using Automator
2) Scheduling the using Calendar

1) Composing an email using Automator

With Automator open, we want to filter the list of available actions on the left to only show those pertaining to mail actions. To do this, simply type "mail" in the search field at the top. As a result, there a dozen or so actions related to mail. To solve our immediate issue, we want to perform two operations: 1) New Mail Message and 2) Send Outgoing Messages (in that order). Simply find those two items in the list on the left and drag them into the working canvas on the right side of the app (since Automator processes actions in sequence, it's important that these be in the right order). When done, fill-in the blank fields for the email you want to send like you would expect to. Below is an example:

With that done, we need to save the Automator application (File > Save...) to your Desktop. I chose to name mine "Meeting Reminder" (a meaningful name).

Congratulations! You just created an Automator application (insert pat on back here).

We're done with Automator, so we can Quit the app (Command + Q). We're now left with a new application on our Desktop. If we were to double-click on the icon, it will run the application (which will result in sending the email you composed). That's fine, but we need to schedule the application to run. To do this, we will turn to Calendar.

2) Scheduling the using Calendar

Let's open Calendar and create a new event for the date/time that you want your email to send. In the properties of that event, you will want to change the alert from the default "Message and Sound" to "Open File". In the drop-down box below that, you will want to browse for the Automator application you just created. It will look something like this:

When you're done scheduling the event, click "Done" and you are, well, done! You just created your very own Automator application AND scheduled it to run at a specific date and time. The result will be an email sent at that date and time.

Before using this live, I would definitely do a trial run so that you feel completely comfortable with the process. You don't want to overlook something and mess up, especially if it's going to someone important.

There's one caveat with this tip... the computer you have scheduled the application to run on need to be turned on and awake at the date and time you scheduled the mail to be sent (in most cases, I'm guessing that's not a big deal).

Bonus Tip

When you're done with this specific Automator application, you may want to spend some time checking out the other Automator actions that are available. There are some really good ones in there, including some of my favorites:

  • Send automatic birthday emails
  • Rename files in batch
  • Resizing images in batch
  • Combining multiple files into one
  • Encoding video

The list of actions is incredible and because you can build actions on top of actions ("nesting"), the possibilities are literally limitless!

Want to learn more about Automator? Follow this link.

Posted on June 3, 2013 and filed under How To, Mac.