How to View Exact Timestamps in Messages App on macOS

Key Takeaways:

  • Timestamps for individual messages in the Messages app on macOS are hidden by default
  • You can easily view the exact date and time a message was sent or received by hovering over the message with your mouse cursor
  • There is currently no built-in setting to permanently display timestamps next to all messages
  • Some third-party apps and plugins offer the ability to always show timestamps in Messages on Mac

Why Timestamps Matter in Messages

When you’re having a conversation with someone over iMessage or SMS text on your Mac, it can be helpful to know exactly when a particular message was sent or received. This information is especially useful if you need to reference a specific detail from the chat later on, or if you’re trying to keep track of the timeline of a discussion.

Unfortunately, the Messages app on macOS doesn’t display timestamps next to each individual message by default. Instead, you’ll only see timestamps at the beginning of a new conversation or if a significant amount of time has passed between messages.

How to Quickly Check Message Timestamps

While there’s no setting to permanently enable timestamps for every single message, Apple has made it easy to quickly check when a message was sent or received in the Messages app on Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Messages app on your Mac
  2. Navigate to the conversation you want to view timestamps for
  3. Hover your mouse cursor over any message in the chat
  4. After a second or two, a small popup will appear showing the exact date and time the message was sent or received

The timestamp displayed will be based on your Mac’s local time settings. Once you’ve noted the timestamp, simply move your cursor away from the message and the popup will disappear.

Limitations of the Hover Method

Being able to quickly view timestamps by hovering over messages is certainly convenient, but it’s not a perfect solution for everyone. Some drawbacks of this method include:

  • You can only view one timestamp at a time, rather than seeing timestamps for all visible messages at once
  • If you need to reference multiple timestamps, you’ll have to hover over each relevant message individually
  • The hover popup can be easy to accidentally dismiss if you move your cursor too much

Third-Party Apps and Plugins

For Mac users who want a more robust solution for viewing message timestamps, there are some third-party apps and plugins that can help. Here are a few options to consider:

App/Plugin NameDescriptionPrice
Timestamps for iMessageAdds permanent timestamps next to each message in the Messages appFree
ChatTimestampsDisplays exact message times in the menu bar and a customizable hotkey$0.99
TimeMatorMenubar app that shows the timestamp of the last message sent or receivedFree

Keep in mind that these apps and plugins are not officially supported by Apple, so use them at your own risk. Be sure to do your research and read reviews before installing anything.


While the lack of always-visible timestamps in the Messages app on macOS can be frustrating, the built-in hover method makes it quick and easy to check when an individual message was sent or received. And for those who need a more permanent solution, there are some third-party options available.

Hopefully in the future, Apple will add a native setting to enable timestamps for all messages in the Mac Messages app, similar to what’s available on iOS. But for now, these workarounds can help you stay on top of your conversations and keep track of important details.


Can I enable timestamps for all messages by default?

Unfortunately, there is currently no built-in setting in the Messages app on macOS to permanently display timestamps next to every message. The only way to view exact message times is by hovering over each individual message with your mouse cursor.

Do I need to be connected to the internet to view message timestamps?

No, you do not need an active internet connection to view timestamps for messages that have already been sent or received. The timestamp data is stored locally on your Mac along with the message content itself.

Are timestamps displayed in my local time zone?

Yes, the timestamps shown when you hover over a message in the Mac Messages app will be displayed in your local time zone, based on your computer’s date and time settings.

Can I view timestamps for messages I’ve sent or received on my iPhone or iPad?

Yes, you can view exact message timestamps on iOS devices as well. In the Messages app on iPhone or iPad, simply swipe left on a conversation and hold to reveal timestamps next to each individual message.