Taming Mac OS X Mail - Previous Recipients

Mac OS X's Mail program has a very handy feature called 'Previous Recipients' that does a very nice thing: It saves a list of every person and email address you've ever sent an email to. Then, it automatically fills in that person's email address when you type it or the person's name in the 'To' field in a new message. This is usually a good thing, because it saves you time (you don't have to look up the address again!).

However, there are times when you want to send an email to a specific email address for that person, and the email address that Mail automatically inserts is—gasp!—the wrong address. For example, I want to send an email to my friend John, so I type in "John" in the To field. Mail fills in the address I usually send emails to: [email protected]. But I want to send the mail to John's alternate address, [email protected]... and I want to start sending emails to that address rather than to his first email address all the time. There are two easy solutions to this problem:

  1. You can open Address Book (Applications > Address Book), create a new contact (or edit your old contact for "John") and put in the new email address. This works most of the time, but not always.
  2. You can Go into Mail's "Previous Recipients" window, search for John's old email address, delete it, and never have to worry about it appearing automatically again! I'm going to take this approach.

To open Previous Recipients, simply go into the Mail application and select "Previous Recipients" from the "Window" menu:

Window > Previous Recipients in Mac OS X Mail

You will see a window with a listing of every email address/name you've ever sent an email to. Click in the search field, then type in the name/email of the address you want to remove, and then click on their name and hit the "Remove from List" button.

Previous Recipients List - Remove Item in Mac OS X Mail

That's all there is to it! Now you want have the wrong name automatically filling your emails anymore, and you can streamline your email sending procedures.


I have tried to get rid of old obsolete e-mail addresses, first by correcting them in my Address Book, secondly by searching for them in the Previous Recipients list and deleting them. But there are some that are in neither place. If I'm not careful, they pop into the TO field when I am writing to the people and type in part of their name, and if I don't notice, the post bounces and I have to start over. The guy at the Mac store (the smarter guy) was not familiar with this problem. It's quite annoying.

@ Chris Maack - quite annoying indeed! I've never experienced that... You might want to consider clearing out mail's preferences (in your user folder > Library > Preferences). That may not help, but it's worth a shot.

I have a mass email out to do and want to make use of the huge database I have on my Mac Mail previous recipients. How do I that.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to mass email those in your previous recipient list.

I found the solution on Apple-Support and thanks to V.K.

Quit mail and adressbook and delete the  /user/username/library/application support/addressbook/


then log out/in and start Mail.

There won't be any names. You'll just have to start accumulating "previous recipients from scratch.