Email App Rules vs. Server Side Rules

There has been a long standing debate about how to use and setup Email Rules. Initially, people just setup Rules in whatever Email App they were using. Then, there was a push to use Server Side Email Rules. Many corporations have their people setup Server Side Rules. There are advantages to using Server Side Rules, but there are disadvantages as well. I want to explain my journey using Server Side Rules vs. Email App Rules.

Server Side Rules

If your Email is an iCloud account, you can use Apple’s Server Side Rules by signing into your iCloud account and setting them up. I have done an article on setting up and using Server Side Rules if you wish to know how to do it in iCloud. Server Side Rules have the advantage of being in place wherever you are getting your Email. They will work for any account they are setup on your Mac or iOS Device. You could say they are kind of universal in nature. I primarily needed to use Server Side Rules when I was using the Spark Email App. It does not have in-App rules capability. You can setup a Filter Folder for certain things which kinda works, but I was fairly underwhelmed by its functionality. It was convenient to have those Server Side Rules in effect when using Spark on my iPad or iPhone. However, there is one major drawback to using Server Side Rules in iCloud. The rules capability is extremely limiting! There are only a few rules available. If that is all you need, then Server Side Rules might work just fine for you. But, if you want more robust rules capabilities, you may end up using Email App Rules.

Email App Rules

I switched from Spark to Airmail because I it is a more robust, full-featured Email App. Yes, it costs a whopping $9 a year subscription, but I get lots of Email and I need Airmails feature set. Airmail rules are in the Window Menu:

Airmail Rules Window

You click the “Plus Symbol” and then create the rule you need. Here are the rules choices in the Airmail App:

Airmail Rule Choices

Look at the Rules Command choices! There are tons of them, a great deal of different things you can use.

Here is the Rules area of the macOS Mail App:

Mail Rules Area

The Mail App Rules are found in the Preferences area. You click on the “Add Rule” button which presents these Rule choices:

Mail Rules

They are similar to the Airmail choices, maybe not quite as robust. 

Here is the bottomline in all this. If you only need very basic Email Rules, then you might be fine logging into your iCloud account and setting them up. If you need more power and sophistication in Email Rules, then you would be better off using the Rules capabilities of your favorite Email App. You could experiment with both of them. 

Now, I have setup some Serve Side Rules using ISP Email. It is convoluted and only works fairly well, not great. In fact, using Email from your ISP only works fairly well. If you are doing that, I urge you to use iCloud or Gmail Email which works great and has much better Spam filtering. Or, you can purchase Email from a third party like Fastmail

One more thing, if you use Gmail, you can go into your Email account online and setup what they call Filters. But, their Filters capability is still pretty limited.


Because I need some fairly sophisticated Email Rules, I setup in-App Rules in my Airmail App. Don’t get me wrong, the Spark Email App is excellent. It just does not have all the bells and whistles that I like. And of course, I have not used the Apple Mail App for years, but its Rules capabilities are still pretty good.