15 January 2010

Set Gmail as your default email client

A couple of days ago, logging into Gmail, I noticed a new tip in the upper right corner: New Gmail Tips, linking to the “Become a Gmail Ninja”-page. In the mean time it was replaced with the news of the default https access for Gmail. While the “ninja” page isn’t new, I want to elaborate a tip in the ‘master’ section:

9. Set Gmail as your default email client.
Instead of automatically opening other email clients when you click mailto links, you can set Gmail to be the default in your browser. If you use Firefox 3, just go to Tools, click Options, select the Applications tab, search for "mailto" and select "Use Gmail" from the list of actions. If you use Internet Explorer, you'll need to download and install Google Toolbar. In Toolbar, just click the wrench icon, go to the Search tab and select the "Use Gmail for 'Mail To' links" checkbox.

Gmail can be set as the default email client in at least two other browsers as well. In Google’s own Chrome, version 4, you can install the Send from Gmail (by Google) from the official extensions site. If you haven’t switched to version 4, there is also an user script written for the same purpose: GmailDefaultClient. You can find instructions how to install user scripts in Chrome here.Send from Gmail extension for Google Chrome

Like Firefox, Opera also has built-in support for using a webmail service as the default handler for the mailto: protocol. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ship with settings for the more popular webmail providers, like Gmail, Yahoo! or Hotmail, but this can be added fairly easy. You need to add the configuration in the file webmailproviders.ini located in the defaults directory of the Opera install directory. This article gives detailed instructions where to find the file on different operating systems (check the comments also!). Make sure Opera is no longer running, then open the file and add the following lines before [Yandex]:




Both versions work with Opera 10, the difference is the first opens only the ‘compose’ window like a popup, that closes automatically after you send the message, while the second loads the full Gmail interface, with sidebar and search, alongside ‘compose’.

After you save the file, open Opera and navigate to Tools ► Preferences… (or use Ctrl+F12) ► Advanced ► Programs, select the mailto protocol and click Edit…, select the second option “Use a Web mail service” and choose ‘Gmail’ from the drop-down list. Confirm and you’re done!Make Gmail default mail program in Opera

If you want to use Yahoo! or Hotmail instead, check out the longer article from Opera Browser Wiki, along with an “explanation” why Opera doesn’t include any of these webmail services by default.

A small draw-back of this tip is that this configuration file is located in the default installation folder of the browser, so each time Opera updates, the file gets overwritten with the default settings. It is best that you make a copy of the file and store it in another location on the hard drive, this way you can restore the settings quickly after an update.

An alternative solution for Opera is described here, along with a way to use a Google Apps account instead of regular Gmail.

I don’t know any way to make Safari use Gmail for mailing, especially on Windows. If you have some solution for this, please let me know!

Update: It seems Google made some changes to the Gmail code that broke the solution I presented for Opera, as some people pointed out on my Opera blog. As the Chrome extension continues to work, I examined the URL it generates and came up with an updated version, tested on Opera 10.51:


So replace the middle line in the configuration file mentioned above with this expression and all should be back to normal. This version is actually much cleaner then the previous one and closer to the internal syntax used by other providers shipped with the Opera browser. If Opera would support extensions, the users wouldn't have to do this ugly job of manually editing software configuration and maybe then it's market share would start growing...

Another update: after Opera 11.60 launched, there is a simpler method to do this, which I described in a new post.


  1. Hi, thanks for the solution, but the coder seems to fail again. I've tried all three variants, ad all I get is
    Bad Request
    Error 400
    Do you know how to fix it?

  2. Hi! I'm not sure I can, it still works for me (the last variant that is). I have the latest version of Opera, although that shouldn't make a difference.
    Have you checked the file again, maybe the browser has overwritten it somehow? The error message is the same I used to get with the older versions of the solution mentioned above.
    I have no other ideas, sorry!

  3. I have opera 10.62 and your code still not working, however I managed to find the one that woks for me, hope it help someone.

  4. Thanks, that last one (ID=8) worked for me, yay!

  5. hi, these don't work for me, but this does:


    (but the icon part does not load)

    1. Strange, the favicon loads just fine for me, both the standard, http:// version, and the secure https://