One of my favorite new features of both Mountain Lion and iOS 6 is VIPs in Mail. Granted, the idea is simple and basically mimics the functionality of the smart folder but it has a hidden power that is disabled by default on the Mac.

VIPs has the ability to add anyone who you’ve corresponded with or who resides in your contacts to a special folder and provides a visual cue by marking the email with a star. On iOS, it’s possible to set up notifications so that when you receive typical email, no notification is pushed; however, when you receive mail from a VIP, you’ll be notified via an on-screen push notification. As you can imagine, this is a wildly useful feature. Now when I see a mail notification, I no longer worry that it’s spam, nor do I get bombarded by hundreds of email notifications a day. Instead, I see a push notification, immediately recognize that it is a VIP, and can gauge the urgency of the communication.

This feature is also available on the Mac, though by default, it is not fully transparent. Adding VIPs to your VIP list is a relatively simple process. Start by selecting an email from a recipient that you would like to add to your VIP list. Place your mouse over the recipient’s name or email address and either click the star that appears next to their name or click the drop-down arrow that appears to the right of their name and click Add to VIPs.

Now that we have some folks in our VIPs list, next we want to set up notifications so that you receive only notification sent from VIPs. By doing this, you reduce the amount of visual distraction on screen significantly, depending on your mail volume, and see only the emails from people that are important.

Setting up VIP notifications

To set up VIP notifications:

  1. Open the System Preferences by going to the Apple icon in the Menu bar and selecting System Preference.
  2. Once open, navigate to the Notifications pane and select Mail from the left hand column.
  3. Select either Banners or Alerts and check or uncheck any of the options that you would like to use. I highly recommend using alerts as apposed to Banners for VIP so that each one sticks around until you acknowledge it, insuring that you will have seen the notification.
  4. Close System Preferences and open up Mail.
  5. Open Mail preferences from the Mail menu bar item and click on General.
  6. Change the setting for New message notifications to VIPs and close the window. You may be prompted to save; do so, and you’re done.

Now you will only receive VIP notifications from Mail.