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How to View Timestamps in Messages for macOS

Posted by Jim Tanous on February 28, 2017
messages mac timestamp

Unlike older versions of iChat for Mac, when you’re chatting with a friend via the Messages app, the date and timestamp for each message is hidden by default. This makes it awkward when you want to know exactly when a certain message was sent or received. Thankfully, the Messages for Mac timestamp information is still available. Here’s how to view timestamps in Messages for macOS.
First, just a reminder that this tip involves the Apple Messages app for macOS. If you’re interested in seeing timestamps in Messages for iOS, there’s a different process which we’ve discussed here.

View Timestamps in Messages for Mac

To view timestamps in the Messages app for macOS, first launch the app and open an active conversation with one or more of your contacts. As a starting point, the Messages app does provide timestamps at the top of new conversations or if a significant period of time has elapsed between messages with the same contact.
messages timestamp mac
Timestamps for each individual message, however, are not shown in the main interface. To see them, make sure that the Messages app is the foreground or active application and then hover your mouse or trackpad cursor over an individual message.
messages timestamp mac
After a moment or so, you’ll see a small box appear containing the exact date and time (based on your Mac’s local time) that the message was sent or received. This works with both iMessages and SMS text messages if you’ve configured the Mac’s Messages app to receive those. Once you’ve made note of the message’s timestamp, just move your cursor and the timestamp box will disappear.

An Imperfect Answer

While it’s easy to see the timestamp information for any message using the method above, this solution isn’t ideal for Mac owners as it requires the user to check each message individually. There is currently no universal setting to turn timestamps on for all messages, and even the iOS Messages app has a better solution: swiping right-to-left reveals the timestamps for all visible messages at once.
Apple may choose to bring permanently visible timestamps back to the Messages app, but until then at least it’s still possible to see this potentially important information on a per-message basis.

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