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No New Mail Sound in Apple Mail

September 19, 2010

A shorter version of this article of mine was originally published in the August 2010 printed issue of Mac|Life Magazine:

I’m having a strange problem with Apple Mail. Sometimes when new email messages arrive, I get the new mail sound. But other times when new email messages arrive, Mail doesn’t make any sounds at all. Any ideas as to what’s going on here?

First, double-check that your Mail preferences are set to play a sound when new mail arrives (Mail>Preferences, General pane, “New messages sound”). Next, go into System Preferences>Sound and verify that the checkbox is checked for “Play user interface sound effects”.

If both of those are set correctly, then you’re likely experiencing a bug in Mail related to the IMAP IDLE command. If you’re checking your email from an IMAP server that supports the IDLE command, your emails are actually being pushed to Apple Mail in real time as soon as those messages arrive. But Apple Mail’s new mail sound doesn’t work with push email; it only works with emails that it pulls from the server. It pulls messages whenever you press the “Get Mail” button or whenever it automatically checks for new mail based on its schedule in Preferences.

Here are 3 options that will all give you your mail sound back in Apple Mail:

1. To get your sounds back, you could disable your push email altogether by going into each email account and unchecking the option to “use IDLE command” (Mail>Preferences, Accounts pane, Advanced tab).

2. You could also use DockStar, one of the most amazing Mail add-ons that I have found to date Dockstar lets you control incoming Mail sounds on an account-by-account basis. I use DockStar to REMOVE mail sounds from my lesser-priority email accounts, while still receiving mail sounds for my higher-priority email accounts. Be sure to turn OFF Mail’s normal preferences for handling sounds, and let DockStar handle it for you instead. DockStar does much more than that, too — it also lets you customize how your Mail’s dock icon looks when receiving email from different accounts. Simply brilliant!

3. Or, you can turn off the new mail sound in Mail’s preferences and hand off this responsibility to GrowlMail (free; growl.info). GrowlMail will pop up a visual indicator and an optional sound whenever new messages arrive in Mail, whether those messages were pushed or pulled.

If you want Growl to use the exact same “New Mail Sound” that Mail uses, you’ll need to make a copy of the “New Mail.aiff” file from Apple Mail (right-click on Apple Mail in the Finder, choose “Show Package Contents”, then open the Resources folder), and place a copy of that “New Mail.aiff” file into your ~/Library/Sounds folder.

GrowlMail will display a floating notification window when new Mail messages arrive, along with an optional sound of your choice


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