How to Highlight Text in Yellow Using Apple Mail

I have been looking for a very long time how to get Apple Mail to highlight text in yellow when composing new email messages.  After searching forums and looking all over the web, I had practically resigned myself that it could not be done.  When I was poking around in Apple Mail, though, I noticed that it had a feature to apply styles to a text selection, so I thought there must be a way to add new styles.  Here is how I managed to add a new “Highlighted Yellow” style that you can use in your e-mail messages.  It’s a little convoluted, but, hey, it works.

[5/3/2016] These instructions have been confirmed to work in OS X Mavericks (OS X 10.9) and OS X El Capitan (OS X 10.11).
[5/31/2012] These instructions do not apply to OS X Lion (OS X 10.7).  There is a bug in OS X Lion that does not persist custom styles as documented at this blog article.

Creating the new Highlight Style

  1. Obtain some highlighted text in a method of your choosing.  I composed an email in MS Outlook on Windows, highlighted some text and then sent that email to one of my accounts in Apple Mail.  You can also simply copy this highlighted yellow text by dragging over it with your mouse and copying to your clipboard.
  2. I copied the text out of that email (or the highlighted text above in step 1) and then pasted it into a new document in TextEdit.

    Highlighted text in TextEdit

  3. I then highlighted the text with my cursor, right clicked and selected   “Font | Styles…”

    Choose “Font | Styles…”

  4.  In the pop-up, click ‘Add to Favorites’, and then give your style a name.  I didn’t check either option to include the font or ruler.

    Add to Favorites

    Name the new style

  5. Click ‘Add’.  Your new style for highlighting is now saved and can be used in Apple Mail by the following steps.

Using the style in Apple Mail

  1. When you are composing a message in Apple Mail, using your cursor simply highlight the text whose background you want to highlight.  Then right click with the mouse and select “Font | Styles…”

    Select Text and Choose “Font | Styles …”

  2. Ensure the “Favorite Styles” option is selected and then choose your new “Highlighted Yellow” (or whatever you named it) style from the drop down list.

    Choose the Style to highlight your text

  3. Click “Apply” and voila!
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148 comments on “How to Highlight Text in Yellow Using Apple Mail
  1. Jason says:

    brilliant! well done – works for me.

  2. Monna says:

    I’ve tried this about five times now step by step to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and it absolutely will NOT save it in the favorites. II can’t figure out why it won’t work for me. Please help!! This is something I use all the time and it’s been driving me crazy not to have this feature in iMail. Thanks.

    • jrmihalick says:

      Hi Monna. Did you use TextEdit to save the style? One of the mistakes that I made initially was to try to save the style within Apple Mail. I could not get a style to save in Apple Mail. Once I saved the new style in TextEdit, Apple Mail also then had the style available for use.

      • Monna says:

        Hi. Yes, I did use TextEdit.. I’ve tried everything I can think of . . . it just doesn’t seem to want to save it. I name it, say “Add it to my Favorites” go back to Mail and do what you said and it hasn’t been added.

        • jrmihalick says:

          The only thing that I can figure is maybe a difference in version Apple Mail. I am running Mac OS X Snow Leapord version 10.6.8 and Apple Mail version 4.5. TextEdit version 1.6.

          • Monna says:

            Possibly, but seems crazy!! I’m running OSX Lion 10.7.3, Mail 5.2 and TextEdit 1.7. Thank you for your help . . I was prematurely excited!! 🙂

          • jrmihalick says:

            I will be upgrading to Lion in about a month and I will check it out again then. In the meantime, maybe someone else will try this on Lion and report back to us.

      • Ed says:

        Tried this trick in Lion (works wonders in Snow Leopard) and have unfortunately run into the same problem as Monna. It saves the style in TextEdit’s favorites, but it doesn’t seem to want to carry over to Mail…

    • jrmihalick says:

      It appears that this is a known problem in OS X Lion as discussed here:

      If you know what you are doing, you can try modifying your ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist file and adding the necessary entry yourself. Once I upgrade to Lion, I will post a solution if what I have in mind works.

      • Monna says:

        Thanks, that would be great!! I look forward to a post soon, as I’m not sure what you suggested is something I can do without detailed instructions.

  3. taoyun says:

    Hmm. The highlighting doesn’t seem to work on incoming mail…

    • jrmihalick says:

      It’s working for me. You are viewing the mail as HTML, I assume. Do you have any particulars on which email clients you are using? Apple Mail to both send and receive? I will send you an email with highlighted text from my gmail account. Let me know if it comes through correctly.

  4. Monna says:

    Yes, using HTML, and using Apple Mail for both sending and receiving. From what I understand, this is something that worked with versions before OSX 10.7.4 but no longer works.

  5. Me In LA says:

    Awesome! Working in Mail, but I can’t say what version…
    Thanks a ton – very creative solution.


  6. Marc says:

    This method DOES work in Lion but, strangely enough, you need to copy-paste from Microsoft Word! (even Pages did not work…)

  7. DPL says:

    @ Marc: Can you explain by steps how to do it through MS Word?



  8. Suzanne says:

    Excellent – problem solved! Thanks very much

  9. Tim says:

    In OSX 10.7.4 just find some highlighted text (or if you have Word on your mac, just copy and paste into your email. Then under STYLE> COPY STYLE>highlight what you want to highlight and choose PASTE STYLE. Simple to do yet still too bad one seemingly cannot store this STYLE. At least this is a workaround.

    • DPL says:


      What do you mean, “Then under STYLE> COPY STYLE>highlight what you want to highlight and choose PASTE STYLE”? I copied and pasted some yellow highlighted text from Word into Mail as you suggested. It showed up in Mail without the yellow highlight. Copy/Paste style in Mail didn’t do anything. Am I not understanding what you’re saying?



  10. koala says:

    Thanks a lot. That works.

  11. AL says:

    Hi Jason, that was great help indeed. Well done!! thank you and best regards. AL
    note: it works under OSX 10.8.1

  12. AB says:

    Solution at the top works for me in Snow Leopard, excellent, thank you.

  13. qays says:

    FYI, this solution does work in Mountain Lion. I’m running 10.8.2 and Mail is Version 6.2 (1499). Thank you soooo much for coming up with this….a very creative and simple fix. A simpler fix would be if Apple would build a highlighting tool into mail!

  14. James R. King says:

    This worked VERY well (a little klugey) – but much better that a lot of other ideas I’ve read out here. THANKS for sharing it.

    C’mon Apple . . . this is such a basic basic thing; a highlighter . . .

  15. Ann Bagala says:

    Thanks, this worked for me!

  16. Nancy says:

    Many thanks! Brilliant and easy to follow.

  17. Heather says:

    You are awesome! Can’t understand why they don’t have a simple text highlight option. Thanks very much!

  18. Jacques says:

    THANK YOU! This has bugged me for SO LONG. It worked exactly as you described, in 10.8.2.

  19. Amik says:

    10.8.2 here, and it works nicely indeed. Thanks for this little trick, I like using it occasionally….

  20. Serge says:

    Perfect! Thanks. I hope Apple will add this option soon…

  21. Susan says:

    Did you ever figure out how to do this for the OS x 10.7?

  22. Lion says:

    Great tip! Thank you

  23. Liz says:

    i love it when things work. You are awesome. Thanks for posting. After a little effort I got it to work for my iMAC OS X version 10.6.8.

  24. OMG! Thank you so much for posting this solution!!!!

  25. francesco says:

    When you receive an email with highlighted text, how do you remove it?

  26. Dar says:

    Thank you for this great tip and the way you presented it so clear. Perfectly!

  27. Tony says:

    Excellent many thanks!

  28. PK says:

    Worked wonderfully well for me in Mountain Lion OS. Thanks a lot


  29. DA says:

    Brilliant. I have been trying to do this for ages, and finally a solution. Thank you, thank you…

  30. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for doing this. I have switched a client to Mac and I was mortified when she asked where the highlight was! Now she has it!!

  31. gray699 says:

    I so appreciate the time and effort you put into describing this process. Very helpful indeed!

  32. new2mac says:

    Not having this ability was annoying. Thanks a lot. Really helpful.

  33. Collignon Bertrand says:

    Works for me too. Thanks a lot, was really annoyed by not being able to do it before.

  34. Rahul says:

    Thanks a lot for the tip. Works in Mountain Lion. How do I make a keyboard short-cut to this style?

  35. Surely Apple will fix this but until then, this works great. It also made me aware of how to do several other uses for Styles. Thanks.

  36. Karen says:

    Excellent; thank you so much!

  37. Macher says:

    Really helpful! Been looking for this for ages. Thx much.

  38. The most brilliant (albeit hassle plagued) highlighting solution I’ve found. Thanks so much for going to this trouble and providing this solution.

  39. Bee Gilbert says:

    How about EVERYONE tell Apple… we don’t have to go through this silly exercise ….? Hello Apple? Anybody home?

  40. erinparker75 says:

    thank you for this!!!!!!!!!! ridiculous that as advanced as apple is they don’t have this simple function on mac mail. you’re a genius!!!!

  41. Brendon says:

    Firstly, thank you so much. when I looked at the first post of date was 2012 so I thought Mavericks should have this fixed/added then apparently it is not added as a feature yet or styles is the feature to be used with so many hassle copying some highlight from my colleague’s email then used TEXTEDIT cause I made same mistake using and it never added style.. haha 😀

    Thank you so much and apple should reward you!!

  42. jrparfitt says:

    I was so glad to find this solution. I didn’t read all 56 comments above. But I will share my story. I copied an address from a nursing home to email to a friend who wanted to send a card there. The address showed up with a tan highlight or background. I tried to find a highlight button so I could turn OFF highlighting. After following your directions to make a highlighted font, I was able to highlight the whole email. My son was impressed, but I wanted NO highlight. So I selected all the text, right-clicked on it, chose FONT, then STYLES, and clicked DEFAULT. All the highlighting went away. 🙂

    So that is how to get rid of highlighting if you want to.


  43. Not says:

    Thanks! Works perfectly in Mavericks.

  44. Ron says:

    Great solution – thank you!

  45. aakash says:


  46. GUY says:

    ACE! You are a star!

  47. gbeardsell says:

    Works fine and quick. Looking for this trick for a while. Never had time to go to the end. Now did and I wish I had done this before. THANKS.

  48. says:

    This method works perfectly in 10.9.2 Mavericks. Love it!

  49. David says:

    You’re a Genius! Thanks a lot.

  50. nico66 says:

    Thanks it worked- by copying your highlighted text- not by using copying highlighted text from MS Word into Text edit. For some reason Text edit ‘refused’ the highlighted copy (also refused Open office.)

  51. Michael Bodack says:

    You are a genius. I have been thinking of how to solve this for years and finally had a moment to look into this and found your instructions. Worked great. Thank you so much.

  52. aw718 says:

    Works perfectly on 10.9.4 Mavericks; just about to try it on Yosemite

  53. aw718 says:

    Sigh; doesn’t work in Yosemite!

  54. quad4b says:

    Awesome! Works in Mavericks. After all these years I finally googled this. Thanks for your excellent instructions Jason.

  55. Tom says:

    Great solution! Thank you

  56. Carmen Farmer says:

    Bless your heart! I didn’t think simple things would be so complicated in Mac, but it’s still better than the overly developed functions in Windows.

  57. Pinya Patel says:

    Simply Brilliant…come on Apple how can you not have highlighting as a native option in Apple mail??? Jeez

  58. Hristo says:

    Just a quick note – TextEdit in Mavericks (may be in some previous OSes too) has two colour pickers next to the font size combo box. The first one is the font colour, the second one is for the background colour. Therefore, it is possible to create a random highlighted text without copying it from some other place. Unfortunately, Mail is still missing the background colour picker in its format toolbar.

  59. Cris says:

    Snow Leopard 10.6.8
    I was able to go all the way to highlighting part of a message, however the highlight does not carryover when I send it. Checking the sent box I find the highlight on the sent message also went away. Both received and sent messages lost the highlight. What am I doing wrong?

  60. fb66 says:

    your are a legend. Perfect

  61. Ashish says:

    Fantastic ,,,

  62. Peter says:

    Very nice. I just wish I could forward my work mail to Gmail but at least I can highlight text now!

  63. Ed says:

    Great stuff !!! Thanks. Strange it is not an inbuilt function within Mail…

  64. dpzmicro says:

    Brilliant ! Great work..Thanks a ton.

  65. Matt says:

    Thanks for this… Can confirm working in Yosemite. In fact, in TextEdit, the highlight button is part of the formatting toolbar buttons, but not in Mail… 🙁

  66. Mark T says:

    Agreed, this works in Yosemite.

    Howver, in case other people are stumbling across this – you must quit and restart Apple Mail after adding the style through TextEdit otherwise it’s not detected and looks like it hasn’t worked!

  67. I still wish it were as simple as a one-click button, but I’ll take it. Thank you so much! 🙂

  68. Mr Yaz says:

    Thanks a ton for this!

  69. Dominic Romani says:

    Yes this worked just great

  70. Peter King says:

    Excellent! Works a treat on Yosemite. Thank you very much.

  71. Dave Z. says:

    Just set it up in Yosemite. I now have three highlight colors to choose from. Thanks for your efforts. Much appreciated. I needed to be able to do this for when I work from home. And this is an embarassment for Apple.

  72. emmettsc says:

    This is awesome! Thank you! It works!

  73. John Armstrong says:

    I’ve been looking for a way to do this in Apple Mail for a long time, too. Thanks for your post – works like a charm! (OS X Yosemite 10.10.2)

  74. Gaby says:

    Well done! It works as well. I wonder why Apple haven’t included this feature in their updates…

  75. Michal says:

    Works like a charm, thanks!

  76. A Foster says:

    Thanks so much for this! Apple should so sort this out, as doing it this way is fiddly but I REALLY appreciate you putting the info out there, as it had baffled me for ages, and I know its going to be such a useful feature. Thank you! : )

  77. theepoet2013 says:

    I second what A Foster said on March 1st.

  78. Chuck O'Shea says:

    I’m sure your tired of getting all the thanks for your diligence in find out how to do this but thanks again.

  79. SKA says:

    Thank you!!! I have been changing the color of text in Mail for a long time b/c of the lack of a highlighting tool. Tonight, I thought, “There must be a way..” and there was! I would have never figured it out. Directions at the very top of this worked perfectly.

  80. KMW says:

    I’m sorry, but I am having issues with this. I enter text in Word, highlight it, paste it into EditText but it does not carry over the font and highlighting I used in Word. I am stunned Apple doesn’t have the highlight tool as an option in Mail and find this frustrating, but I’m determined to make it work! Any help is much appreciated. I am using Maverick 10.9.5. Thank you!

  81. Jason says:

    Hi KMW, did you try to copy the highlighted text in this article and pasting into Text Edit instead of copying from Microsoft Word?

  82. Mia says:

    Thank you, Jason! It made my day! I’m not technologically savvy, but played around a bit, and got it. Brilliant indeed! Yes, KMW, copy and paste into Text Edit from the article itself, as per the instructions.

  83. Joe says:

    Works great – thank you!

  84. Michael Ollis says:

    Hi – I am using 10.7.5 and nothing works. I am a big Mac fan an have been for many years but to not be able to highlight in an email is apalling. When are Apple going to sort this.
    None of the above works for me – please help if you can

  85. Bonnie says:

    Thank You! As a novice computer user, I was able to make this technique work with Yosemite 10.10.3. Can’t believe Apple hasn’t made this easier. Frustrating.

  86. Sue@ says:

    I have Yosemite, I’ve followed the directions, but I don’t get any drop-down list when I right click for Font>Styles… Nothing shows up, so I can’t “select Favorites.” Could I be doing something wrong? [Yosemite, TextEdit 1.10]

    • Jason says:

      Hi Sue. Does right clicking work for you in other applications? Such as Safari or MS Word or MS Excel?

      • Sue@ says:

        Hi, right clicking works everywhere else, but I found a partial solution! I repaired permissions, and now I get the drop-down menu!! So I’ve started the process, but haven’t gotten it to work in MAIL yet. Just started this, so I’m hoping it will work for me. But having that drop-down menu show up was a big deal. 🙂

        • Sue@ says:

          Replying to my own post… IT WORKED! Apparently I needed to “repair permissions” for my TextEdit styles to show up. I’ve now followed the steps above, and got some highlighted text in an email message! YAY!

  87. Aileen says:

    Thanks to this. But anyone knows whether we can customise this as a button??

  88. Walker says:

    worked great for me…thanks!

  89. John says:

    Awesome….works for me on OS X EI Capitan

  90. Chris says:

    This is a perfect solution (workaround)!!! It is utterly ridiculous that Apple Mail does not include a formatting button to highlight text!! Ridiculous!

  91. Francesco says:

    Thank you very much!

  92. Andrew says:

    Well done! Thanks a bunch for the tip and the thorough walkthrough. Really appreciated.

  93. Gregg says:

    You sir, YOU ROCK!!!!! Thank you!!!!

  94. Scott Phree says:

    This is genius.

  95. Mario says:

    Thanks from me too ! I managed at my second attempt 🙂

  96. steve J says:

    You’re the best!

  97. Peter Rundle says:

    Hi Jason. I have really been annoyed about not being able to highlight in Mail. Your instruction has done the trick for me, so thank you very much for doing the research and posting it 🙂

  98. Sam says:

    Thank you so much.

  99. Michele says:

    I’m unable to get this to work on Yosemite. I copy yellow highlighted text into TextEdit and then highlight and right click and select Fonts/Styles. I believe I’m supposed to see a pop up box so I can save to my favourites but the pop up box doesn’t come up. Comes up for other things but not Styles. Thoughts?

    • Jason says:

      Hi Michele. When you right click and select Font | Styles…, you don’t see a pop-up like this one? Did you try shutting down and restarting TextEdit and trying again?

      Font Styles pop up dialog

      • Michele says:

        Hi Jason. I tried it again tonight and it worked. Thank you. I was at the apple store for some training yesterday and 3 of the folks that worked at the genius bar said there was no way this could be done and suggested I buy Outlook for Mac. Crazy.

  100. Just followed your instructions, and your solution works like a charm on my iMac running El Capitan. THANK YOU!

  101. Vikki says:

    I see I am late to the game since your solution was posted in 2012, but I certainly am glad I found you and your solution. Thank goodness for brainiacs like you who generously help those of us less “gifted” in computer smarts. Thank you so much!

  102. HI! Did you ever find a solution for OS 10.7.5? It looks like it was May 2012 when you were saying you were going to upgrade to Lion so I’m wondering if you were ever able to? So far none of the solutions work on my lousy 10.7.5… Thank you so much!

  103. JOse says:

    Awesome! Thanks

  104. Terri Marcovecchio says:

    Yay! It worked for me! Thank you, Jason, for a great demo on how to do this. I was going crazy trying to figure it out!

  105. Otto says:

    Jason, I am able to use this solution to highlight text in an open composition in Mail, but the highlights do not carry through to my recipients. I don’t even see them when later viewing my own messages in Sent mail. Any clue why that might be?

    Thanks so much for figuring this out in the first place, and for following the conversation here for years, answering people’s questions!

  106. Jim says:

    Thanks – a faff but this works! I have El Capitan

  107. Tried this in Sierra and it doesn’t seem to work. Right clicking selected text doesn’t show the Styles options itself. Curious if anybody could get it to work on Sierra yet.

  108. Ivy Main says:

    After being frustrated for years by the lack of a highlight option in Mail, I finally did a search to find an answer and came across your blog. It worked; problem solved. Thank you for taking the time to share this with the rest of us. You make the world a better place.

  109. Yameen says:

    Thanks, worked well for me.

  110. Doty says:

    I got it to work in Sierra. I copied the highlighted text from this webpage, pasted into TextEdit and followed this tutorial without any glitches. Thank you so much! I’ve wanted this simple feature for years!!!

  111. Rob Casey says:

    GREAT!! Still works!

  112. sacha says:

    Thank you!!! You just ended my nightmare that I couldn’t do this.

  113. AdamM says:

    This worked very easily!!!! Thank you for posting such clear direction.

  114. marcO lOpez says:

    Yes, I do it… thanks a lot!!

  115. Super – Works very well. Thanks for the help!

  116. Anita says:

    Apparently, (even five years later!) your “solution” continues to be used successfully by many grateful Mac users, including me!
    Thank you so much for sharing it!!!

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