How to Use Mail’s Previous Recipients List

Did you know that Apple’s Mail application automatically builds a list of all recipients to whom you’ve sent email? I think it’s very useful to review this list a few times each year. By reviewing this list you can easily add useful email addresses to your Contacts and delete outdated email addresses or ones that contain typos.

Before we review this list, it’s important to understand how it is used by Mail. When you are creating a new email message and you begin to type a person’s name or email address in the To: field, you’re typically presented with a list of email addresses which match the letters that you’ve typed. This list of email addresses is a composite of email addresses from your Contacts application as well as addresses listed in your Previous Recipients list. [Note The Contacts application was previously named Address Book Contacts before OS X Lion so if you have a older Mac then you might still be using the Address Book application.]

If you ever made a typo in an email address and then sent the email message, this incorrect email address was likely added to your Previous Recipient list. By reviewing this list you can remove such undesirable email addresses.

To view your Previous Recipient list, open Mail, click on the Window menu and select Previous Recipient. You can search this list using the search field in the upper right corner. You can also sort this list by any of the columns listed: Name, Email, or Last Used. You can also sort by the left-hand most column which is not named. This column indicates if the email address is saved in your Contacts. If it is then you’ll see an icon which resembles a Rolodex card. If the address is not in your Contacts, this space will be blank. I like to sort by this column to find common recipients whose email addresses I want in my Contacts. I then select them and use the Add to Contacts button. If you don’t typically add people to your Contacts, this can be a fast way to add a whole lot of people to your Contacts.

In order to remove an email address containing a typo, I often use the search field to locate it. Then I’ll click on the address to select it and use the Remove From List button.

I like to sort the list by the Last Used date. I review the oldest addresses listed and if I don’t recognize them then I select one or more and remove them from the list too.


  1. Good presentation and useful.

    Familiar with the “previous recipients” on a iMac. Curious to know if there is a similar option on an iPad of iPhone as a friend of mine only has those. Cleaning out spurious entries is a vital activity

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