Mac OS Lion: How To Ungroup Conversations in Mail 5

September 7th, 2011 by Tony de Jesus

Mail iconMail (aka or Apple Mail) is the e-mail program included with Mac OS X operating system. The version 5 was introduced with Mac OS X v10.7 Lion. This version features, among other things, a redesigned iPad-like fullscreen User Interface and a more powerful search engine. It also groups messages from the same conversation and displays them in a streamlined feed, like in Mail on iOS 4. However, this feature can sometimes be confusing, especially when we were already accustomed to the old interface. In this post I’ll show you how to turn off this option.

Below is a screenshot of the grouping message feature.

Grouped Mail Conversations(Click to see a larger image)

In order to disable this feature, just go to “View” on the top and uncheck the “Organize by Conversation” option.

screenshot showing how to ungroup conversations in mail

Very easy, right? What do you think about this feature? Do you think that it is confusing? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.




  1. rob

    it’s a great concept, but often undependable. i often search for messages by keywords that i know were contained within the email, and i am forced to scroll through each thread to try to find the specific email.

  2. sam

    Great idea, but it really isn’t that efficient. I prefer the former method.

  3. Conversation feature really sucks.. Thanks for showing me how to turn it off

  4. I absolutely HATE it. It is very confusing, and you miss important messages because they are “grouped” with others back up the line, sometimes many days away, instead of having them simply in chronological order. Thank you for the tip to eliminate this nonsense.

  5. Xiao Xiong

    I don’t like the grouping. I can’t think of a time when I want to have all the responses to one email grouped together in one place. I suppose it would be helpful if you’re the type of person who leaves 100 emails in his inbox.

  6. Mindy

    I can see that sometimes it is useful, but most of the time it is awful. I have missed some important emails because they were buried in a past group. I have had the same experiences with searching for keywords and not finding the emails I KNOW are there that rob mentioned above. And even for people whole leave lots of emails in their box (me), it is NOT helpful.

  7. Thank you, Tony! This was driving me crazy. And as a new Mac user I was hoping I could find a way to turn this feature off! You helped!

  8. Niyati

    Thank you for this tip! This feature is really inconvenient and ends up hiding messages when you are searching chronologically.

  9. marta


  10. MB

    Thank you for sharing this. I spent a lot of time hunting through preferences to shut this off, to no avail of course.

    It was very frustrating to have to hunt for emails that I just received because Apple has decided to group them in a way that implies they know better than I what I want.

  11. Jacob

    I too am not a fan of this feature, and am not terribly impressed with Lion… Thanks for the tip!

  12. Hector

    It’s a bit confusing at first so I thought I would try it and see if it felt more comfortable after a few weeks. It didn’t. I appreciate the thought, though. While the grouping is nice, receiving multiple messages quickly from multiple individuals makes it too complex to easily track your most recent messages since they scatter according to sender. Arranging by date and time received with the old interface seems more practical. This also helps me when moving them off mobile me to my Mac.

  13. CM

    Thanks so much for this info–I too have missed some important responses because of this grouping feature. Thank goodness there is a way to turn it off!

  14. Zoe

    Thank you thank you thank you. I too tried to wrap my head around it, truly gave it a good go. But it is just NOT efficient.

  15. PS

    Thanks!! I don’t know why Apple developers had this absurd grouping idea.
    Why to set this as default? Hours of anger about missed (buried) mail replies.
    It was super annoying. THANKS!!

  16. Caroline

    Thanks! I was missing emails because of this group feature – someone would reply before I saw the original email. So glad I can turn it off!

  17. OMG! Thank you so much. I have missed so many important messages and could not figure out why. If there is going to be a change that can potentially cause issues this important Apple needs to have warning or explanation. This is my work and if I miss emails then I look less credible. This has the potential of me loosing clients because I work hard to give quick responses.

    Thank you so much for the quick and easy tip. You saved me before I missed anymore emails.

  18. Theresa

    Absolutely hate this, and appreciate your solving this problem for me. Like Stacey above I have missed a number of important messages and if I didn’t have a PC at work to discover them I probably would never have seen them at all. Thanks again for this tip.

  19. Janis

    Thank you! This issue was driving me nuts and actually made it more difficult for me to respond to the people I serve.

  20. Mike

    Thanks for the TIP! Very dumb idea

  21. marco

    Thanks, it was driving me mad!! It took me a while to figure out how to get my traditional email look back.. in settings switch to Classic mail layout but then still all was grouped together. I don’t understand why they did this.. really sucks!

  22. abravar

    top info, thanks

  23. Jesus Canelon

    It is very confusing

  24. Kat

    I cannot express how much time I have wasted, how many messages I have lost, and what a disaster this has been for me on a personal and professional level. WHAT POSSESSED THEM to do this? Sure, make it an option for the 12 people in the world who would find it helpful, but don’t make it the default, for goodness sake.

  25. Flowerdew

    Thank goodness I found this tip – new mail system was frustrating – kept missing important emails and trying to retrieve past messages was a huge time waster!

    Tony, THANK YOU.

  26. Ellen


    This feature was driving me crazy. I could never find the important mail in the string. I am a long time user and it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Such an easy fix though. I guess that shows what an old dog I am. :)

  27. Thanks a million! This was driving me nuts!

  28. Wayne

    For months I couldn’t understand why some emails in my inbox disappeared when I deleted emails I didn’t realize were in the same group or conversation of emails I didn’t want to delete. Many important emails lost because of this. THANK YOU for solving this issue for me!

  29. Thanks for the tip… I’ve somehow deleted whole email strings because of this new feature, and as others have said, having an entire conversation in the pane on the right means you have to be really careful when you’re responding to a particular message. Unlike other updated functions Apple has given us, it’s nice to know we can disable this one!

  30. Barbara Mende

    Very confusing. And you have to disable it in every individual mailbox, which means I can’t search for old messages without running into it. Is there a way to disable it globally? Thanks!

  31. deb

    Thank you!!! I also hate that “feature”. Sometimes it groups in a message I haven’t read and I totally miss it!

  32. Lena

    Tony–this is so helpful! It is lovely to see my inbox back to normal and not grouped in such a stupid way that only results in frustration and a lot of wasted time!

    Thanks very much :)

  33. Edward Goldstein

    What were they thinking?

    Thanks for showing the solution.


  34. Kathy

    Lord! It’s very confusing. I just thought someone asked me a question I answered earlier today and it was an email from a month ago. Thanks so much for posting the solution.

  35. Scott

    That “feature” is completely ridiculous. It drove me mental and I’m thrilled that it’s now deactivated. Thanks Tony…you saved me from punching my MAC.

  36. Thank you very much for this quick fix. I noticed that grouping conversations spreads like a virus. After gmail grouped messages, I stopped using it, just to have to deal with this useless feature in yahoo mail after their update. Today I upgraded to snow leopard and I could not believe that Apple would do the same thing. Luckily there is a choice, and I’m very grateful you pointed me to it.

  37. Monica

    Thank you, thank you! I thought I checked everything possible (mostly in preferences) and couldn’t figure out how to disable this crazy grouping. I agree with all of the above. To have this feature by default is insane. I could never find my emails, even got in trouble by not answering emails I couldn’t find. I’m sure there are purposes for this feature, but you should be able to enable it when you needed it. Most of us are used to look for mail by date/time.

    Also, the ability to enable/disable this feature should be in preferences, which is the first place people look. Phew.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  38. Peter

    Great feature IF it would work, but the grouping is not reliable. Important fact: ‘Organize by Conversation’ can be switched on or of for each Mailbox individually (highlight the mailbox, then switch the feature on or off). I like it on for my inbox, but off for mailboxes that collect mails I may have to reference later. Search function references an entire conversation threat/group, so the search works better if this function is switched off.

  39. Mike

    I hate the “feature” and thanks for telling how to turn that junk setting OFF. :)


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