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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Add email aliases in Mail on OS X and iOS

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

The number of email addresses I maintain only slightly exceeds the number of versions of Star Wars that I own. Many of my email addresses, however, are not full-fledged mailboxes, but simply aliases that forward email to a central account (i.e. the Six Colors email listed at the end of every post).

While it’s easy enough to receive messages from all those disparate addresses, when I reply to them from that central mailbox, it exposes that main account–one which I generally don’t want to throw around. However, with a little bit of tweaking, you can set up Mail on OS X and iOS to let you customize the From line of your emails so that you can send from any of those aliases.


On OS X, launch Mail, go to Mail > Preferences, and select the Accounts pane. If you’re using a standard IMAP, POP, or Exchange account, all you should need to do is find the field listed as Email Address, and add a comma followed by the other address.

Mail aliases

(Note: If you’re using an iCloud account on OS X Yosemite, you may notice that Email Address is un-editable, showing up as a grayed-out field. Choosing “Custom” from the Alias dropdown above Email Address makes the field editable, but even after adding the aliases, I had no luck sending email from them via iCloud’s outgoing mail server.1 For more on a workaround, see below.)

Now, when you send an email, place the cursor over the From line and choose from the drop-down menu which address you’d like the email to come from. (On OS X, Mail seems to be smart enough that when you reply to a message it automatically sets the From line to the same address the original message was sent to.)


On iOS, this feature is hidden a little deeper, but it’s still pretty easy to set up. If you’re running a standard IMAP or POP account, you should be able to add additional email addresses with ease.

Open Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and select an email account. (Note: As above, iCloud–and also Gmail–accounts won’t work in the same way, but I’ll address those below.) In the following screen tap on Account and then tap on Email. You’ll see a screen listing the primary email address and then an entry for Add Another Email. Tap that and enter the email address you want to use, then hit the Return key on the keyboard (make sure you do that, because if you navigate away from the screen in any other way, it won’t save).

iOS Mail aliases

When you’ve done that, you should once again see the Add Another Email entry below your new address. Now you can back all the way back out, making sure to hit the Done button in the top right corner of the previous screen.

As on OS X, when you send an email, you should be able to tap the From address in the compose screen to choose your address–you may actually need to tap it twice: once to expand the full list of headers, and again to choose the address. iOS, in my brief tests, doesn’t seem as good about automatically choosing the appropriate email address for replies, so keep that in mind.

iCloud and Gmail accounts

You’ll probably notice if you try to follow the above instructions that you can’t add any aliases to an iCloud account that aren’t for (and you have to go all the way to the iCloud web interface to do even that). Gmail accounts on iOS, meanwhile, don’t appear to let you add aliases at all.

There are a couple options here. One is to instead re-create your Gmail or iCloud account using the generic IMAP configuration rather than the provider-specific options that iOS and OS X offer. For iCloud, you’ll need this support doc for the correct settings2; for Google, you’ll have to wade through this interactive tool, or simply look around for instructions on manual IMAP configuration for Gmail. However, as noted above in the OS X section, those addresses may not
even work after all those perambulations, since Apple’s outgoing iCloud server is apparently very strict about what addresses you use.

So, before you go down that bleak path, I’ve found a faster, simpler workaround. If you already have any generic IMAP account set up on your Mac or iOS device, follow the instructions above to add the additional email alias to that account. iOS doesn’t directly link addresses to mailboxes, so when you compose a message or a reply you can choose any address or alias that is set up on your iOS device. It’s way easier and doesn’t require you to go through the hassle of reconfiguring your account.

Alias away!

Armed with those tips, hopefully you’re ready to handle all of your multiple-email-sending needs. I’m constantly trying to make my email setups work a little more efficiently, and this is really just one step in a long line of long-delayed tweaks to my workflow. But each little step helps.

  1. In the El Capitan beta that I am currently running, there is no longer a Custom option at all, so it seems like Apple is cracking down on people sending emails from addresses that are not their own. Good for spam, likely, but annoying for people with lots of addresses. 
  2. If you have two-factor authentication on your iCloud account, you’ll need to generate an app-specific password to use when logging into the mail servers. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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