Configure Apple Mail to Prevent Duplicate Drafts with Gmail Accounts

Several years ago, I wrote a tip for The Mac Observer about an issue facing many Mac owners who use a Gmail account with the built-in Apple Mail app. The Apple Mail app and Gmail handle draft messages differently. This means that some users would see multiple copies of their draft messages in their search results, cluttering things up and making it harder to find an email you’re looking for.
Draft messages are important, but you certainly don’t need dozens of copies of each email, especially after you’ve sent the final message. My original tip showed how to configure the Apple Mail app to prevent these auto-saved draft messages from being created in your Gmail account, but the Mail interface has changed quite a bit since then.
Thankfully, a reader recently emailed me to remind us that the original instructions are no longer valid in the most recent versions of Apple Mail. So if you’re running the latest version of macOS (which is 10.13 High Sierra as of the date of this article), read below for updated instructions on preventing duplicate drafts with Gmail in the Apple Mail app.

Configure Apple Mail to Prevent Duplicate Drafts with Gmail Accounts

Configure Gmail Draft Settings in Apple Mail

First, launch the Apple Mail app and head to Mail > Preferences from the menu bar at the top-left of the screen. In the Preferences window that appears, click on the Accounts tab at top.
Next, select your Gmail account from the list of email accounts on the left. If you have multiple Gmail accounts, you will need to make this change separately for each one.
apple mail gmail options
With your Gmail account selected, click Mailbox Behaviors on the right side of the window. Next, click the dropdown menu for the Drafts Mailbox option.
apple mail gmail local drafts
By default, this is configured to store your draft messages on the server, and this is what likely causes your duplicate draft messages to appear in your Mail search results (there may be other causes but this is often the culprit). If you use this drop-down menu to select the Drafts folder under On My Mac, this will instead store draft messages locally on your Mac, and not on Gmail’s servers.
With the option changed, simply close the Preferences window and return to the Mail app. From now on, your draft messages will be automatically saved on your Mac, while the final sent email will be uploaded and synced with Gmail.

Factors to Consider

The steps above should solve your multiple drafts issue with your Gmail account in Apple Mail. The downside, however, is that these draft messages will only be stored locally on your Mac. This means that you won’t be able to start writing an email in Apple Mail on your Mac, save it, and the continue working on it from the Gmail app on your iPhone, for example.
This also means that if your Mac crashes or you lose your MacBook, for example, you may lose all of your in-progress draft emails as well. Most people don’t spend days or weeks composing draft emails, so this shouldn’t be too big of an issue. But if you’re one of those people who use the draft feature to plan out detailed emails over a long period of time, you may want to ignore this tip and keep storing your draft emails on the Gmail server. This will give you a cloud-based backup of your draft emails at the expense of having to keep dealing with those annoying duplicate drafts in your search results.

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