gmail default email client

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.

After the Snowden affair, you may have concerns about email privacy. If so, our how to protect your privacy guide will interest you.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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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.

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21 thoughts on “How To Make Gmail Your Default Email Client in 2020”

  1. When I click on the Handlers setting, the only option I have is to ‘Allow sites to ask to become default handlers for protocols’ – I can either turn this option on or off. That’s all I see.

    1. - Chief Editor

      Best thing you can do is skip that step and fire ahead with the next one.

    2. We have the same issue in our organisation: On some Chrome browsers, the only option under Handlers is “Allow sites to ask to become default handlers…”.

      This is broken.

  2. I think there is confusion with Handlers option, having set Chrome as your default Email in default programmes, just check that the handlers is on (there is no other options apart from on/off ) the illustration seems to imply you should see an email set up. This is actually a separate screen not part of the handlers option. Now that you have done the first two steps open Gmail as normal and you will see the diamond shape, when you click on the diamond shape you can then choose gmail as your default email. I tried it earlier today as I was having problems with Outlook and after following the steps it worked for me.

  3. My allow handlers setting was already on, but I’m not seeing the double diamond in gmail to click on. Thoughts?

    1. The double diamond appears on the URL bar, far right, after opening gmail

      1. No it doesn’t. And now it refuses to come up in the “Send to Mail Recipient” context menu item.

  4. All well and good, yet the convenience of a true “default e-mail client” should extend beyond in-browser handling of mailto: links. From a Microsoft perspective, one element missing from this discussion is integration of useful native Windows & Office features, such as the File Explorer context-menu function, “Send To -> Mail recipient” and the various “Send as Attachment/PDF” options in the Office suite apps.

    To enable this functionality, you need a resident Windows MAPI client that works directly with Gmail. I’ve found that Affixa (free version) works for this; another currently maintained option is called MAPI for Gmail. Various open-source efforts exist but are dated & not reliably maintained to keep pace with the constant changes Google and Microsoft impose on us.

    (I have no interest in/association with any of the proprietary software mentioned, except as a casual user)

    1. Thank you Adam! This is what I was needing as what my program is doing is an MAPI call.

  5. Excellent, thank you for these instructions! Once I checked the handlers setting, I opened a new Chrome tab and navigated to a fresh The double diamond appeared and I clicked on it. Now my mailto: links open up a tab to compose my email in Gmail.

  6. I noticed that for me, in Chrome, after enabling Handlers, the “gray diamonds” icon (in the far right of the URL address bar) only showed up in my personal Gmail account tab. My separate Google Business account (also using the Gmail client in a second Chrome tab) did NOT reveal these diamonds, and as such, I cannot set my business (Gmail) address as the default mail handler. This may be due to our company’s system admin settings.

  7. I also can’t see the diamonds in my Chrome browser URL bar. Anything else to check? My handler is enabled.

  8. Same here, no grey diamonds in the address bar. I, too, use G Suite Business Email, not an @gmail address. However the path is still I think with G Suite’s increasing popularity, an easy way to default to the browser based email client should be a walk in the park, not pain in the a***.

  9. Very helpful. Had to interpret some steps but definitely put me on the right track to resolve and issue I otherwise would not have figured out on my own.

  10. The MacOS instructions assume you have the email app preconfigured. I don’t want to use the app. Hence wanting to change the default to Gmail. Opening the mail app you are forced to log in to a mail service before preferences become un-greyed out.

  11. I’ve got my mailto links opening in Gmail, but not in a new tab/window. How can I change it so that a new window is opened?

  12. “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.”
    I don’t have any options other than Mail or Look for an app in the Microsoft store…

    1. - Chief Editor

      That’s because Gmail doesn’t have a desktop app.

  13. Done everything suggested, but still no gray diamond and Word says no email client is associated with Word. Any suggestions?

  14. To those still having trouble, I wanted to note that the gray diamonds only appear in my “primary” gmail (which I believe is defined as the first one you logged into when you last organized all your accounts). This happens to be my work email, so I am not able to make mailto links open in my personal email address. Perhaps this is why some people aren’t seeing the gray diamonds? Do you have other gmail addresses?

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