Mail rules, signatures and smart mailbox sync in OS 10.8

First posted on the 20th July, 2012 – IT
Last modified on the 31st October, 2013, at 10:01 pm

In my attempt to create a workaround for the lost sync features of MobileMe in iCloud I found out that syncing is now done by Mail.app and OS 10.8!

On my new MacBookPro I did a clean install and entered only my iCloud login and pass during the install process. Thus when first launched Mail had only one account and proceeded to downloaded all my mail stored on iCloud. As expected other accounts, rules and smart mailboxes were not synced. A bit of digging around in:

~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/

showed some interesting file names:


MessageRules.plist
RulesActiveState.plist
SyncedRules.plist
UnsyncedRules.plist
SmartMailboxesLocalProperties.plist
SyncedSmartMailboxes.plist

When I first looked into these they were unpopulated. So the idea was to use Unison to sync these files from my old laptop, which I had upgraded to 10.8 i.e. no clean install.

But what are SyncedRules.plist and SyncedSmartMailboxes.plist for?

The plan was to add a smart mailbox on the clean install, then sync with the updated install and see what happened. Well what happened was as soon as I crated a new smart mailbox all my old smart mailboxes magically appeared! Then when I checked my oldlaptop the mailbox I had just created on my new laptop was now there too. I then tried the same thing for rules and signatures and the same thing happened! (signatures are a bit messed up though)

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that although iCloud might not sync rules and smart mailBoxes, Mail.app and OS 10.8 Mountain Lion does!

The question I now have is why has this not been discussed in all those presentations and reviews? Is this an NDA issue? What is surprising is that this is most definitely a real feature to promote, especially to ole MobileMe customers that lost functionality.

Update: In 10.9 Mavericks syncing of rules and smart mail boxes is enabled in the iCloud system preference pane under Document and Data. I assume this is also what happened in 10.8 and there is even a knowledge base document from apple here.