How to change the default email program for mailto: links

How to change the default email program for mailto: links

Every time you click on a link (also called a mailto: link) from an e-mail address on a web page or in a desktop program on your computer, a composing window opens in the default e-mail client of your operating system . This is quite annoying if you use a third-party email client or even a webmail service.

Don’t want mailto: links to open in the email program you use instead? Well, this is exactly how things will work if you set up your e-mail program as the default handler for mailto: links. We show you how to do it.

Open Mailto: Links in Webmail

If you prefer the webmail experience, depending on the browser and webmail service you use, we’ll look at how you can get these two to work harmoniously to handle mailto: links.

In the chrome

Log in to Gmail – this only works if you are logged in – and look for the handler icon. It looks like a pair of gray overlapping diamond shapes next to the star icon in the address bar.

Click on the handler icon and you will get a popup dialog box where you need to select the Allow Option to make sure Gmail opens all email links in the future.

You can’t see the handler icon in the address bar? You may have changed the default behavior in Chrome’s settings. No problem.

Go to Settings> Security and Privacy> Website Settingsexpand Additional Permissions and select from Log Handler. Select the option field next to Sites may ask to handle logs. If you have accidentally blocked a website from processing logs, you can remove it here.

In Firefox

Go to Settings> Privacy& Safetyscroll down to Applicationsand search under content type for the mailto Possibility. In the dropdown menu next to it you can specify which email program you want to use. It could be Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or another desktop email program like z Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook.

To link to a desktop client, you’ll need to use the Use Other… option in the drop-down menu and navigate to your email program via Explorer (or Finder if you’re using a Mac).

The mailto Dropdown menu has a few other useful options:

  • Always ask – To specify the email program that opens a mailto: link, case by case.
  • Use Gmail – To open mailto: links from Firefox in Chrome. Of course, if you haven’t configured Chrome to open mailto:links first, you’ll just get a blank new tab in Chrome.
  • Others use.. – Specify an external program to launch Firefox.

To open mailto: links in other webmail clients, search for Firefox add-ons for an appropriate solution.

In Safari and Opera

No matter what webmail service you use, if you use Safari or Opera, you’ll need to resort to an extension. You can use Mailto for Safari and Gmail Compose for Opera.

In Microsoft Edge

Edge is based on Chromium, so it works similarly to Chrome. To open mailto: links in Gmail, open Gmail, click the handler icon in the URL bar and select from Allow. You can do the same for other webmail clients that offer a handler, including Yahoo and Outlook.com.

If you can’t see the handler icon, you can find it in Settings> Cookies and website permissions> Log handlers.

Opening Mailto: links in a desktop email client

If you’ve abandoned webmail for a desktop email client, it makes sense to use the latter as the default handler for email links that appear in any program or web page.

You don’t have to configure anything if you’ve decided to stick with the email client that came with your operating system. However, if you use a third-party email client like Thunderbird, you can set that as the system-wide default for anything related to email. Here’s how to do it on the three main desktop operating systems.

Under Windows 7 to 10first go to Control Panel> Programs> Default Apps> Set associations and click Assign a file type or protocol to a program. Now scroll down to Logs section, search for the MAILTO line and double click on it.

You can then select an email client of your choice (assuming you already have it installed on your computer) from the popup that appears. You’ll also find an option to get an email app from the Windows Store and immediately associate it with mailto: links from the popup.

Under Windows 11, you can follow the instructions above, which will take you to the Settings app. So it’s best to start in the settings app right away.

Open the Settings app (press Windows key + I) and go to Apps> Default apps. At Set a default for a file type or link type, search for "mailto", which will show the mail log. Click on it and then select the desired program from the list.

Under macOSopen the mail app and under Settings> Generalselect the email program you want to set as default using Default email reader Show up. Yes, you have to start with Mail, even if you want to configure another email app as default.

In Linuxyou have to make sure that your mail app is set as the default app for processing emails. The location of the default application setting can vary depending on the distribution you use.

On Ubuntu you will most likely find it under system settings> Details> Default apps. look for the Mail dropdown menu and select your email client in it.

Open mailto: links on Android

By default, mailto: links on Android will open in Gmail. To change your default email app, open Settingsgo to Apps& Notifications> Default appschoose Mail app, and choose another email app. You can also delete the default settings in the respective app.

Remember, if there is no alternative to the default email app installed on your Android device, run mailto: left directly to the default app, which is usually Gmail.

A word about iOS

My search for a setting, app or tweak that lets you change mailto: links on iOS came up empty. If you had more luck with this, let me know in the comments!

Link Mailto: to your email client

Setting up your favorite email client to handle mailto: links is a one-time tweak and doesn’t require much effort. Even if it looks like an insignificant change, you will surely appreciate the way it smooths your workflow.

We all know the classic Windows email apps that everyone likes to use. So how about some you’ve never heard of before?

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About the author

Tine Sieber
(839 published articles)

While pursuing her doctorate, Tina began writing about consumer technology in 2006 and never stopped. Now also an editor and SEO, you can find them on Twitter or wandering on a nearby path.

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