How to use iCloud aliases to send and receive email


Sometimes it’s useful to have an email address that’s not your primary one. You might want to sign up with a service or use it to subscribe to an email list, and not trust that it won’t be reused and deluged with unwanted mail you can’t unsubscribe from.

Apple lets you set up to three additional email-only identities with iCloud.com, called aliases. That lets you preserve your primary iCloud.com address for whatever purpose you like while having these three alternative identities that you can use to filter email and even delete if you want to abandon the address altogether—not an option with your primary iCloud.com address, which is often the account name for your Apple ID.

I wrote in April 2019 about setting up aliases, which is handled only at iCloud.com. (In brief: Log in, click the Mail icon, click the gear icon, select Preferences, click Accounts, and click Add an Alias.)

The Accounts tab lets you manage aliases by selecting it in the list at left. You can opt to disable an alias, which keeps it associated with your account, but it stops receiving email and cannot be used as a “from” address to send messages. You can also delete it, which frees up a slot if you had three aliases allotted. (You may be unable to reclaim it later if you delete it, so take care in making that decision.)

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iCloud.com aliases are a powerful tool for filtering mail and creating effectively disposable addresses.

Incoming email is tagged in the From line with the alias, which lets you use filtering in any email program or rules at iCloud.com or in email apps to decide what happens to a message based on the alias to which it’s addressed. (I offer instructions on creating such a filter in this 2019 column.)

If you want to send a message from an iCloud.com alias, you may have to enable it wherever you want to use it—iCloud.com syncs to Mail, but Mail can’t choose which addresses may be used for sending. iOS and iPadOS don’t appear to sync these changes with iCloud.com or macOS. Here’s where to find the settings:

  • At iCloud.com, in mail preferences, click the Composing tab and then check the box next to any address you want to enable sending from. You can also choose which is the default sending address for iCloud.com. Click Done.

  • In macOS, launch Mail and choose Mail > Preferences > Accounts and then click the iCloud entry. From the Email Address list, you can select your default send from address, but select Edit Email Addresses and iCloud is opened to the settings in the previous bullet point.

  • In iOS and iPadOS, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > your iCloud account > iCloud > Mail, which is found at the very bottom. Turn on and off individual addresses in the Allow Sending From list. You can pick the default address by tapping the address next to the Email field, even though it’s grayed out and looks like it can’t be selected from.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader John.

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