Would you ditch your default desktop email client, if Gmail had more desktop-like features?
Gmail is the leading webmail client, but desktop email clients remain a thing. They’re appealing because you can store your emails locally and access them anytime. What if Gmail could be more like a desktop client, while not dropping any of its killer features?
Let us show you how you can set up Gmail to behave more like a desktop email client.
1. Create a Desktop Application Shortcut
Old school Windows users will appreciate Chrome’s ability to create application shortcuts. Open Gmail in your Chrome browser, open the Chrome menu (three vertical dots) and go to More tools > Add to desktop…
This will create a Gmail desktop shortcut, which you can now pin to the Taskbar or the Windows 10 Start Menu. Just right-click the shortcut and choose the respective option from the menu. If you checked Open as window, the Gmail browser window opened through this shortcut will look like a bit like a Windows app because it won’t show browser toolbars.
2. Make Gmail Handle Mailto Links
When you click on an email address hyperlink, it will open your default desktop email client, with the address field already filled in. This type of hyperlink starts with mailto:, rather than http://, telling your computer to open an email client, rather than a website. But you can associate the Mailto link with Gmail.
In Chrome, open Gmail and click the Protocol Handler Icon in the address bar. Select Allow, to Allow mail.google.com to open all email links.
If you can’t see the icon, click the Chrome menu icon (three vertical dots) and go to Settings > Advanced > Content Settings (under Privacy and Security). Click Handlers and make sure this setting is enabled to Allow sites to ask to become default handlers for protocols (recommended).
If mail.google.com isn’t yet listed under mailto, you should see the icon in the address bar in your Gmail tab now. Otherwise, remove the application that is currently listed under mailto, so you can associate Mailto links with Gmail.
3. Enable Offline Support
Gmail offers offline support through its Chrome app. Under Gmail Settings > Offline in the web client, you’ll find a link to the Gmail Offline app. The app will appear in your Chrome apps list. When you click it for the first time, you can choose to Allow offline mail.
Once enabled and after all your messages have been downloaded, you will be able to view your email through the Gmail Chrome app, even when you’re offline. You will be able to compose new messages, which will be sent the next time you are online. The app behaves just like a desktop email client.
4. Configure Multiple Accounts
If your main reason to use a desktop email client is that it allows you to manage multiple email accounts and inboxes, then you’re in for a treat. Gmail has built-in support to access external email accounts. This is specially useful in situations where you would like to access your work email or other accounts inside Gmail.
To configure multiple accounts, go to Gmail Settings > Accounts and Import. Here you can configure Send mail as and Check mail from other accounts, which allows you to add multiple accounts.
The settings you enter here in are just the same as you would enter in any email client. With this much effort, you will be able to check different accounts for new mail and using any configured email address.
5. Use Filters and Labels
Folders, as they are commonly known in various email clients, are another desktop client stronghold. They let you sort your email for easy access and an organized inbox. Gmail does this one better: instead of folders, you get labels.
To manage labels, head to Gmail Settings > Labels. You can also click the label icon when you’re viewing an email and check existing labels or click Create new at the bottom to add a label. You’ll see a Manage labels shortcut at the bottom of the list of labels.
Labels are similar to folders, only better. You can have a message with more than one label. You can quickly jump to a label or use it with a filter to automate tasks.
In fact, filters and labels combined give you near magical powers that can greatly reduce your daily email workload. You can automatically sort incoming mail into labels (which can function as folders if you want), archive emails automatically, delete them if you want, or set up a vacation responder.
You can even create custom replies called canned responses that Gmail will mail to the sender if their message fulfills certain criteria mentioned in the filter. How awesome is that?
6. Enable keyboard shortcuts
If you like the ease of use and speed you gain by using keyboard shortcuts, then you just cannot ignore Gmail.
There is hardly anything that you cannot achieve via keyboard shortcuts inside Gmail. Select conversations, apply labels, navigate forward and back, star, delete, archive, etc. You name it and it can most certainly be accomplished by a keyboard shortcut or two.
You can enable keyboard shortcuts under Gmail Settings > General > Keyboard shortcuts. You can get a quick overview of all the shortcuts by typing ? in Gmail or visiting the Keyboard shortcuts for Gmail site.
Have trouble remembering shortcuts? Try our guide to learning keyboard shortcuts, which shows you more tricks like the one above.
7. Get Notifications
Almost every desktop email client offers notification when a new mail arrives. So does Gmail.
Head to Gmail Settings > General > Desktop Notifications and enable your preferred setting. You can choose between receiving notifications for new mail or important mail. The default is off.
Did you know you could build a Gmail notification light using a Raspberry Pi?
Do You Still Need a Desktop Email Client?
Surely, looking at all the features that Gmail has to offer, it’s hard to dismiss it as a desktop email client replacement. The only thing holding you back might be slow internet or security and privacy concerns. In which case, you might as well stick with a desktop email client.
And if you’re a Mac user, here are some handy apps that bring Gmail to your desktop.
Image Credit: By 279photo Studio via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Varun Kashyap on 22 March 2010.