Apple Mail doesn’t offer an easy way to customize the reply string in your emails. But with a little bit of courage and some careful editing, it is possible to modify the way that Apple Mail introduces quoted material in replies.
Look carefully at the following three screenshots:
The format of each reply is only slightly different, but for people who care about these things, having the wrong format is intensely annoying.
Still interested? Some hints on how to edit the string follow the jump.
The format of the reply string is buried away in a file deep inside the System folder.
In OS X 10.4 Tiger, you will find it here in the System folder of your hard drive:
In OS X 10.3 Panther, the file has a different name but you will find it in the same place:
- Navigate through the folder tree to the file, or search for it in Finder.
- Make a backup. Dragging the file out of the Finder window into the Desktop will make a copy that you can put back if something goes wrong.
- Check Step 2. Did you actually make a backup? Really?
- Open the file with a text editor. I use Text Wrangler, which is excellent and free. (If you insist of doing things the old fashioned way with vi in the Terminal window, you can find the commands in this post on Whirlpool).
- The file consists of a heap of strings in the form “A” =”B” listed one after the other in alphabetical order, which control the various messages Mail displays. Each one has a comment enclosed in the /* …. */ marks on the line above which tell you what it does. That interesting in itself, and you could easily get distracted reading all the comments. But we want the string that starts “REPLY_ATTRIBUTION” about four-fifths of the way down the file. Find it.
- The value for it probably reads
“On %1$@, at %2$@, %3$@ wrote:\n\n”
This will translate as “On [a particular date], at [a particular time], [a particular person or email address] wrote:” followed by two carriage returns. It produces the format in the third screenshot above.
- Now you can edit it. Removing one of the carriage returns from the end of the string – “\n” – will produce the format in the second screenshot. Some people like to add a carriage return in the front of the string – “\nOn %1$@, at %2$@, %3$@ wrote:\n\n” so that there is an extra blank line between the cursor and the quoted reply as in the first screenshot. I do this. It saves me a keystroke in every email I reply to.
- When you are done adding or subtracting to the string, save it. Because the file belongs to the System and not to you, the user, you will be asked to authenticate with the administrator’s password.
- You will need to reboot. Then the new format should be there for you in every reply. Easy.
Of course, you are not restricted to adding and subtracting carriage returns. You can edit everything that you can see except, sadly, the variables (“%1$@”, etc) themselves. You could get really creative for some one-off special event, like this:
If something goes wrong (as it did for me the first time I tried this and deleted the wrong thing by accident), just replace the file you have edited with the backup from the Desktop, and start again.
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