Reset Apple Mail App Fonts

How to reset Font & Colors Settings in Apple Mail

A few weeks ago, I changed the default font settings in Apple Mail (Mail > Preferences > Fonts & Colors) to experiment with a different look. After changing the font around a bit, I realized that it’s not possible to restore the default font, San Francisco (referred to as “System Font”). After digging through some configuration files, I found out how to restore the default font without resetting the Mail app in its entirety.

The following steps may require an administrator account. This method has only been tested on macOS Catalina.

Update 11/8/21: A few comments have pointed out a slightly easier method than detailed below that doesn’t require installing additional software. However, I’m unsure of what other settings may also be reset as a result. If you only wish to reset fonts, see the next method further down.

  1. Quit Mail if it is open
  2. In Finder, in the menu bar, select Go > Go to Folder…
  3. Type or paste ~/Library/Containers/ then press Go
  4. Delete (or alternatively, move it to another location to serve as a backup)
  5. Reopen Apple Mail – most settings, including fonts, should be reset to their defaults

Feel free to ask questions below.

Original Instructions (requires Xcode)

  1. Quit Mail if it is open
  2. Download Xcode from the Mac App Store (you can delete it after)
  3. In Finder, in the menu bar, select Go > Go to Folder…
  4. Type or paste ~/Library/Containers/ then press Go
  5. Create a copy of and rename it to (this will serve as a backup)
  6. Move to a directory that you have full permissions to such as your Desktop
  7. Open (with Xcode)
  8. Use Command + F to find all instances of the word “font”
  9. Hover over each row containing “font” and press the minus (-) button to delete it
  10. If you delete something else by mistake, use Command + Z to undo
  11. Save the file, then move it back to its original location (if you closed the window, repeat steps 1-3)

All the erased lines should be recreated by macOS with their default values and the “System Font” option should be restored. If something goes wrong, repeat steps 1-3, delete, and rename to


Baptiste March 30, 2021 Reply

You saved my life !! Thank you very much.

KP August 4, 2021 Reply

Thank you!

Alexander October 28, 2021 Reply

You can just delete the file and open mail again and all the fonts and other settings will be reseted

GT November 8, 2021 Reply

I got as far as moving the . plist file to the Desktop, then opened just to see what would happen and it just re-creates a fresh .plist file with the default fonts. I’m not sure what other settings get stored there, but this did the trick for me without having to edit using Xcode.

Kristin December 6, 2022 Reply

Thank you! Amazing!!

Ben July 21, 2023 Reply

Use the following command in terminal for macOS Big Sur and newer:

defaults delete -app Mail MessageListFont

Julien September 29, 2023 Reply

Just go to the collection “Recently Used” and you’ll find the System Fonts option 🙂

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