When you click a mailto link on the web, you’ll be directed to your operating system’s default email application. That could be Mail on a Mac or Mail on Windows 10. You don’t need to stick with those, though. You can escape the clutches of Microsoft or Apple and fly into Google’s open arms. It promises not to be evil, after all.
Evil or not, it has a reliable, well-developed web application. If you prefer using it to the one built in to your OS, you’ll need to set your system up to make the switch. Figuring out how to do that isn’t easy, though, which is why we’ve put together this guide on how to make Gmail your default email client.
These tips vary, depending on your OS and browser, so keep reading to find what you need. Many of the OS tips open a browser that is configured to default to Gmail, so if you’re only interested in opening web-based mailto links, skip to the browser guides.
Besides being the most secure browsers, Chrome and Firefox are best for Gmail. Our solutions for Edge and Safari are not ideal, but, then again, neither are they. Fortunately, there are good options for all the operating systems we looked at.
Linux users need to install an application, but we doubt that will trouble them too much.
Setting Gmail as the Default Email Client on Windows 8 and 10
To make Windows use Gmail by default, you first set your browser of choice as the default email application. You then set it to use Gmail, using the relevant guide.
Press Windows + S to bring up the search window. Then type “control panel” and press return.
When the control panel appears, type “default” into the search box. Choose “default programs.” Then, on the next screen, click “set your default programs.”
A settings screen will appear, showing your default applications for various functions, including your default map, music, photo, video and browser apps, as well as your default email program. For some good photo applications, read our best photo management software article.
Since Gmail doesn’t have a desktop app, you’ll need to access it via a browser, so select your browser as your default for email.
Now that you’ve chosen a browser to open links with, you’ll need to make sure it handles mailto links correctly, so check the guides below for your browser of choice.
If you want to change the default Gmail handler on Mac, you’ll have to open the default “Mail” application and adjust its settings.
Open the “Mail” menu, then select “preferences”.
On the “general” tab, change “default email reader” to use your browser of choice. Read the browser-specific guides below to finish setting up.
Linux Mint (and Others)
Linux users who want to use Gmail, or other webmail, can use the desktop-webmail package. It also works for Hotmail, Yahoo and Zoho.
To install it, type “sudo apt-get install desktop-webmail” in the command line.
Once you’ve configured Gmail, you can set yourself up with a virtual private network to make sure nobody is snooping on your connection. Check out our helpful list of the best VPN services for Linux for suggestions.
Guides For Browsers
If the guide for your OS points you to a browser for the last step, look for it below and follow the instructions. Don’t forget, you can switch browsers if the instructions for yours don’t suit you. Safari users, in particular, might need to do so.
To set Gmail as your default email handler in Chrome, open the settings via the three dots icon at the top right. Find the “privacy and security” section by scrolling down and clicking “advanced.” Click “content settings,“ then hit “handlers” and make sure the “allow sites to ask to become default handlers for protocols” option is selected. It will be colored, not gray, if it is.
Open Gmail like normal. In the URL bar, there should be a gray diamond at the top right. Click it to make Gmail your default. After you do so, it will load automatically when you click “mailto” links.
On Firefox, the first time you click a mailto link, you’ll be given the chance to select your application of choice. The selection dialogue has a checkbox that lets you set it as the default on subsequent occasions.
If you’ve already picked a default and want to change it, open the Firefox options page via its drop-down menu. With “general” selected, scroll down until you see the “applications” section. Have a look in there for the mailto content type, then select “use Gmail” from the list of options.
Things are tricky for Safari users. There is a plugin that worked on older versions of the browser available here, but it hasn’t been updated for the latest release. You can try pestering the developers to update it on github. Since it is open source, you can even try updating it yourself. Failing those, though, your best option is to switch browsers.
Edge uses your Windows default application to open mailto links. That means if you configure Windows to open Gmail in another browser, Edge will open that browser when you click the links. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to open Gmail automatically in Edge itself.
If you’ve followed these instructions to the letter you should be good to go. Be mindful, though. Operating systems update themselves from time to time and have a sneaky habit of overwriting your settings. What works now might not work next week.
Sign up for our newsletter
to get the latest on new releases and more.
We hope you were able to follow our guide successfully. Let us know how you did in the comments below. If you ran into problems or have any more tips for getting the best out of your email, we’d love to hear about them. Thanks for reading.