Apple Mail - request read receipts via detours

A reader recently asked me whether and how one can request and receive a read receipt for a sent e-mail via Apple Mail. Since the topic should probably be of interest to even more readers, I wrote my own article on it. During the corresponding research, I noticed: The standard program for e-mails on the Mac does not have an option for read or even just receipt confirmations. Why? Because asking for such confirmations in your home country USA is impolite. Nevertheless, it seems to be possible to set it up - via the terminal, via iReceiptMail, but not via Secrets. There is also a complete alternative with the Thunderbird Mail Client.

Requesting and receiving a read receipt via Apple Mail is not that easy. Either you use commands in the terminal, the iReceiptMail app or another mail client.

Requesting and receiving a read receipt via Apple Mail is not that easy. Either you use commands in the terminal, the iReceiptMail app or another mail client.

Update: I use Mailbutler to expand Apple Mail

The possibilities mentioned in the article seem - apart from the use of the "Thunderbird" mail client - to no longer work properly in the current macOS. If you don't often need a read receipt or are willing to spend a bit of money on it, you may be satisfied with the solution that I've been using for a few months: Mail butler.

Mailbutler is a plug-in for Apple Mail, but it also works in the developer's cloud and is therefore paid for with a subscription. There is also a free version, but it is very limited and is enough to see if you want to use Mailbutler or not.

In addition to many other functions, Mailbutler also offers a read receipt for emails that are sent via Apple Mail. This works perfectly for me and shows me in the style of the WhatsApp tick whether a mail has already been received and read.

Sorry for the pixelation, but it has to be for personal data. But you can still see the ticks that Mailbutler fades in for every mail and shows whether it has been sent, received and read.

Sorry for the pixelation, but it has to be for personal data. But you can still see the ticks that Mailbutler fades in for every mail and shows whether it has been sent, received and read.

In contrast to iReceiptMail, the read receipt with Mailbutler works without a notification box that the recipient has to click off. I assume Mailbutler works with an invisible, embedded graphic in the mail and checks whether it has been called. That would also explain why the cloud service is mandatory at Mailbutler.

Why the Secrets Password Manager is nonsense

One looks for Request macOS Mail read receipt, you have a good chance of coming across guides and recommendations that suggest an app called "Secrets". But that just seems to me to be a free one 1Password-Alternative to be. Allegedly, after installing the Secrets App and restarting the Mac, a menu item should appear in the system settings via which the command Request read receipts to for read receipts for e-mails. But either this only applies to an old version of the app or to another software with the same name. In my test, the system settings entry didn't even show up.

Secrets is supposed to unlock a point in the Mac system settings that can be used to activate read receipts in macOS Mail. In the test, I either had the wrong software or the option no longer exists.

Secrets is supposed to unlock a point in the Mac system settings that can be used to activate read receipts in macOS Mail. In the test, I either had the wrong software or the option no longer exists.

I have "Secrets" here and there with other download sources besides that in some other manuals and forums Mac App Store found - e.g. on Google Drive and the like - but that didn't seem very trustworthy to me. That's why I haven't tried these offers. Especially with a sensitive topic such as e-mails, one should perhaps not dare to experiment without a corresponding necessity ... Therefore, it is possible that an identically named software or a corresponding plug-in for e-mail exists and works well. But I didn't want to take any chances for this post.

Terminal commands for mail reading receipts

Update 11.07.2019: I have received feedback from several readers that these terminal commands are no longer effective. I'm still leaving the instructions online, as there may be people with older macOS that they'll still work on.

The little detour over the wrong track led me to the English term mentioned above, with which I then searched further. I'm up to it these instructions encountered by LifeWire. This works entirely without an additional app or a mail plug-in for e-mail read receipts under macOS. If you are not comfortable using the terminal, I have an app alternative below. But first here are the translated step-by-step instructions for activating the read receipt request via macOS Mail from Apple (Attention: Not tested and therefore no guarantee of perfect functionality!):

  1. Opens the macOS Terminal
  2. Give first defaults read com.apple.mail UserHeaders and confirm with Enter
  3. If the command throws the error "The domain / default pair of (com.apple.mail, UserHeaders) does not exist", use this command by exchanging your name and email @ address with your data: defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders' {"Disposition-Notification-To" = "Name ";} '
  4. If the second command worked, repeat the first one
  5. Basically you are now done, unless the "defaults read" command only leads to a series of values ​​that start with the curly bracket {and end with the curly bracket}
  6. If so, mark the entire line including the brackets (for example "{Bcc =" bcc@example.com ";}") with cmd + C, but do not insert it yet
  7. Then type this command (but confirms not yet with Enter): defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders
  8. Write a space after the command and a single quotation mark ([Shift] + [#]), then insert the copied line via cmd + V and write another single quotation mark (do not confirm yet!)
  9. Now click in front of the closing} bracket and add "Disposition-Notification-To" = "Name "; a - again swap your name and email address with your correct data
  10. The complete command line then looks something like this: defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders' {Bcc = "bcc@example.com"; "Disposition-Notification-To" = "Heinz Tschabitscher ";} '
  11. Now confirm with Enter
  12. Ready

iReceiptMail - macOS Mail read receipt

iReceiptMail is a paid app for the Mac that you can use to request and display read receipts in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. There is a 7-day test version, and if the mail window in which the corresponding message is written is selected in the foreground - i.e. it is displayed as an active window - a read confirmation request can be added directly via the menu bar icon or the dock menu will be realized.

"Ask for read receipt" - it can be that easy. But unfortunately only with a paid program.

"Ask for read receipt" - it can be that easy. But unfortunately only with a paid program.

However, I don't know whether the app is up to date. The developer and download page says:

iReceiptMail is fully compatible with OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra and supports Apple Mail versions 6 to 11. The user interface is now available in English, Italian and Spanish.

With the one-week trial version, you can try out the compatibility with macOS High Sierra or macOS Mojave.

A tip at this point from my reader Walter: With him you not only had to restart Apple Mail, but also the entire Mac for the plug-in to work.

Alternative: Use another mail client such as Thunderbird

If you want to request and receive a read receipt with Apple Mail, you have to take a few detours. Either via a paid app or via handicrafts in the terminal. However, if you have no problems stepping out of the Apple cosmos and instead of using mail, perhaps using a program that can handle requesting read receipts without individual modifications, then the Thunderbird Client for Mac could be something for you. Thunderbird comes from Mozilla, the same developers as the Firefox web browser. Information and the free download can be found with this link.

Activate the read receipt request for e-mails on the Apple Mac? This is much easier in alternative clients.

Activate the read receipt request for e-mails on the Apple Mac? This is much easier in alternative clients.

Incidentally, Microsoft Outlook for Mac is not an alternative, as this app does not support read confirmation requests either.

Conclusion: Request read receipts with macOS Mail

If you really want to request a read receipt via macOS mail, then you can not avoid the terminal or a paid app. At least that's what my research so far shows. If you know another solution, please leave a comment! For the future, it can be said with great certainty that a simple solution in the settings of Mail or in the system preferences of the Mac will not be implemented. If you are looking for a simple solution and do not necessarily depend on the standard software of the operating system, you can also use Thunderbird.

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12 comments

  1. Manual says:

    Secrets refers to an old PrefPane that is no longer updated.

    https://code.google.com/archive/p/blacktree-secrets/wikis/Help.wiki

  2. thoby says:

    hello,
    the command defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders ‚{" Disposition-Notification-To "=" Name "; } '
    does nothing at all, except for a blinking cursor. All commands that are then entered also have no effect, as long as you press ctrl C. Then comes the standard terminal line. even if said commands are executed via sudo, or a sudo -i is issued beforehand.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Thoby! Thank you for your hint. I think it doesn't work anymore because macOS has changed. I will note it in the article. I am currently using Mailbutler to get some features in Apple Mail that are otherwise not included. A read receipt for sent mails is also included. Maybe this is something for you (despite the costs)?

      • thoby says:

        In the meantime I have found out that a typing error crept into the command when it was transferred from the English.
        defaults write com.apple.mail UserHeaders ‚{" Disposition-Notification-To "=" Name "; } '
        this is where the error is between UserHeaders and {.
        because there it says, but it should be a '. There are no errors with the 'entered, but there is still no read confirmation.

        • Sir Apfelot says:

          Hello Thoby! Thank you for your hint. I now know what went wrong. WordPress has always corrected the quotes at the top with the quotes below, if they were at the beginning of a word. With code snippets this is of course botch ...

  3. r. cadre says:

    I had the predecessor of MailButler, which no longer worked from a certain version on macOS. But suddenly the completely overpriced version of MailButler with functions that a normal user does not need.
    Unfortunately, the Berlin company has not yet been able to condescend to offer a light version. Many users are also simply suspicious of the subscription model. This is good for the developer, but bad for the customer who gets lost.

    Unfortunately there are no alternatives in the open source area.
    Unfortunately, the terminal variant excludes the optional use of read confirmations. One solution would be a script ...

    Maybe there is someone who can make something like this?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      I've been using Mailbutler for months and I think it's pretty good. Sure, you don't need all that business nonsense and I think 10 EUR / month is also a lot, but it has a few good functions that you can also use as an individual. I'll treat the plugin to an article. And yes: Subscription hurts, but if you want to keep a German development team going, you won't get very far with a one-time fee of 5 EUR. Mailbutler is also updated frequently for the price and looks great. If they added a good spam filter they would get 5 stars from me. : D

  4. R. Squad says:

    € 120 a year for a few functions is excessive. German team back and forth. I don't want to cross-finance all the functions that I don't need. I only use 2: time-shifted sending and read receipt.
    As you have correctly noticed, the offer is aimed at business customers. But I don't even need something like that in the office. Is interesting for marketing.
    As I said - not attractively priced. :-(

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      I can understand this attitude 100%. 120 EUR is a lot of money. You have to decide for yourself whether the thing is worth the money. But regardless of the price, the tool is already very well made.

  5. R. Squad says:

    Compare times: The previous tool SendLater was less than 10 euros lifetime - it ran for 1 year for me. Only to be sent later. This became MailButler. They were functions that the world doesn't need.

    The price model is absolutely excessive. It was neglected to take the old clientele with them. With such dubious behavior, why should I throw money down the throat of a software company for gimmicks?
    When I compare with Adobe CC and MS, I feel ripped off here. It's NOT about 10 € / month, it's about an adequate price-performance ratio.
    Private users are not the target group.
    Yes, the tool is well made, but the pricing model is dead or dead.
    In my world that's dubious.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      As I said, I understand that. But you can't say that Porsche is dubious just because they are perhaps expensive compared to other brands. The guys at Mailbutler are just lucky that there is no competition. Otherwise they would certainly lose a lot of customers. When I see the 10 EUR compared to the 40 or 50 EUR that you pay for the Creative Cloud with all the programs, it is simply disproportionate. But unfortunately there is nothing else that would compete with Mailbutler ...

  6. R. Squad says:

    You get to the point. It is the monopoly that is being shamelessly exploited here and that annoys me.

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