Internet Productivity

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps

Tina Sieber 18-06-2017

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…

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail Shortcut

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 to open all email links.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Chrome Protocol Handler

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).


How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Chrome Handlers 670x244

If 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 [No Longer Available]. The app will appear in your Chrome apps list. When you click it for the first time, you can choose to Allow offline mail.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail Offline 670x306


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.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail Accounts Settings 670x220


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.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail 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 How to Set Up Email Filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook Email filtering is your best tool in keeping your inbox neat and organized. Here's how to set up and use email filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook. Read More .

In fact, filters and labels combined give you near magical powers that can greatly reduce your daily email workload 4 Smart Gmail Filters That Help You Deal with Too Much Email Decluttering and organizing your Gmail inbox is a daily chore. There is a smarter way to do it. Create four basic types of filters in Gmail to sort your emails right automatically. Read More . 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 How to Set Up an Email Out of Office Responder Before You Go on a Trip Wouldn't you love to go on vacation knowing you don't have to check your email? If you can't rely on an assistant while you're away, turn to autoresponders in Gmail. Read More .

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. And speaking of all this organization, you should know how to create a group email in Gmail How to Create a Group Email in Gmail Learning how to create a group email in Gmail will make your life easier. Start on your Gmail contacts list with these tips. Read More too.

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.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts 670x439

Have trouble remembering shortcuts? Try our guide to learning keyboard shortcuts The Best Ways to Learn All the Keyboard Shortcuts You Will Ever Need There are many keyboard shortcuts you aren't using. We bring you all the right resources to teach you everything you need to know about keyboard shortcuts. Memorize keyboard shortcuts for instant productivity. Read More , 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.

How to Use Gmail Like a Desktop Email Client in 7 Simple Steps Gmail Desktop Notifications 670x120

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 4 Handy Mac Apps That Bring Gmail to Your Desktop Love Gmail and wish you could use it on your Mac desktop? These apps bring Gmail's familiar interface to your Mac. Read More .

Remember, you can use Gmail on your mobile too; see how you can master the new Gmail on mobile Master the New Mobile Gmail With These 10 Tips If the new Gmail design on iPhone or Android fazes you, then walk through these features to stay productive with your emails. Read More .

Image Credit: By 279photo Studio via

Originally written by Varun Kashyap on 22 March 2010.

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips, Gmail.

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  1. Michael
    May 28, 2020 at 9:32 am

    The multiple account part of Gmail is horrible. You can only read other mail using POP3, which is old inferior technology with random delays.

  2. Adams Brown
    October 9, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Nice article. With so many repair companies online it is hard to find real ones, talk to a real credit repairer if you need one bettercreditrecovery at gmail com or +1 206 400 9864..

  3. Fred Li
    December 13, 2018 at 2:39 am

    What's holding me back? My main concern is to be able to access and manage all my old emails stored locally in my PC archived by my old email client. If Gmail can tap into these archives of decades of old jewels without causing me pain, I will make the switch right away. Preserving the old folder structure is very important when doing this. But since Gmail uses labels, please don't ask me to label all my old emails from ground zero all over again.

  4. Bobby Caron
    December 3, 2018 at 5:35 am

    Great article! I've been using a customized version of Thunderbird I designed and it works great. But I'm using Gmail in Thunderbird anyway and the folder structure isn't optimal for organizing my client emails. I get very confused at times and lose emails which means losing money also. I love your article and the shortcut option is great. The one thing I am wondering is how to go about having new mail on top but organized by sender. This way when client emails come in they are grouped rather than random. I'll leave a link a below to my Thunderbird project as you may find it interesting. I'd appreciate any feedback you can provide regarding grouping email in Gmail.

    Thanks, Bobby C.
    Incloud Design

  5. Gretchen Dietz
    August 22, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Gmail will never replace Outlook until they give me a sort feature and not by using labels and such. All I want is to be able to sort by sender alphabetically so I can batch delete or batch save certain emails. To hover over and click on email is all well and good but I shouldn't have to do that for each sender. Plus when I do that, the only move option it gives me is to move to my in-box and the message is already in my in-box. I want to move it to a specific folder like account information or family or whatever and I can't do that unless I move one at a time. It's very inefficient and the reason I have way more e-mails in my in-box than I want. Why is Gmail so anti-sorting? It's such a basic function. Makes me out of sorts with Gmail!

  6. Peter Forint
    June 6, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Correct me please if I'm wrong, but it appears that Gmail is only half an IMAP mail reader of other accounts. It allows me to send email through another organization's outgoing SMTP server, but does not allow me to read messages on another organization's incoming mail server. That is a huge limitation in trying to use Gmail like a desktop client. It's a showstopper for me.

  7. Aidan Torrence
    May 28, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Super helpful, thanks.

  8. s jeremias
    May 18, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    having the ability to use SEND TO when you right click on windows desktop and have GMAIL an option

  9. Feodor
    April 19, 2018 at 3:43 pm


    I'm actually note a noob, and know a lot life-hacks for Chrome, BUT this easy thing I DID OVERSEA FOR YEARS

    And you know, that was the think I needed so much, didn't imagine it exists.

    I even downloaded 3 other browsers made on chromium to have the ability to sort browser windows in the windows taskbar

    But now from your article I know I NEED ONLY CHROME. You had to see my face I understood it!

    I'm happy and amazed like a child now!

    Thanks a lot!

  10. Ricardo
    January 11, 2018 at 11:08 am

    How can I massively label historical mail files into labelled mails?

    • Tina Sieber
      January 21, 2018 at 3:00 am

      Not sure what you mean, Ricardo.

    • Andrew
      February 17, 2018 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Ricardo,
      You can use search within gmail to search for the particular emails you want to tag.
      Then select all (click the tick box above the top of the list). You can also untick any that you don't want to tag.
      Then click on the label tool (if adding more than one label) or the folder tool (if you want to remove the emails from the inbox), and select which label(s) you want to add.
      Hope that helps.

      • Tina Sieber
        February 21, 2018 at 2:06 am

        Thank you, Andrew! Now it makes sense.

  11. M
    October 20, 2017 at 12:44 am

    I used this article and the other one linked to it "How to Import and Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail." When I set my work email to go through Gmail I lost notifications for my work emails. I assume this is because the work emails "Skip the inbox" and so cannot have notifications. Is there a way to fix this so I get the notifications back? I want the work emails to be separated from all the others but losing notifications is a deal breaker.

  12. Gobshite
    August 26, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I will be activating desktop notifications thanks

  13. CyFire
    August 20, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Gmails outlook connector sucks (read less secure app). But Chrome sucks even more. Why would I want such a memory pig on my computer. With all the background processes running and googles propensity for gathering ALL the information it can... I wouldn't trust Chrome on my computer.

  14. Abodmey
    July 11, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Gmail is really sucks at business environment. No integration between emails, calendar and contacts. Also there is no way to send a task to contacts. On the other hand we were get used to write meeting notes by one note which is integrated with calendar, contact email and other needed information well so we keep all detail about the meeting and follow up easily.

    I believe that Google can do it better, but Microsoft Outlook is powerful email client.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 16, 2017 at 2:47 am

      OneNote is awesome and integration with Outlook is also pretty good.

      Gmail does have calendar and contacts integrated. And you can install extensions to send tasks to contacts. There are probably extensions for better calendar, notes, and contacts integration too. What specifically are you missing in the default Gmail setup?

  15. Eddie G.
    June 28, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Sorry, no. Gmail is great for personal use, on the web, but in a business atmosphere? It's not ready....still too young. Thunderbird......Evolution......and other clients are better suited for a desktop. And while you can't pull emails from your phone using Thunderbird or Evolution its still the better of the options. If you need access to your Gmail from your phone?...then by all means set it up....but for an office environment....and within a corporate setting GMail using a web interface or even a created desktop icon will never be as god as a dedicated email / calendaring / messaging client.

  16. Frank J
    June 27, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Kiwi for Gmail. Search it. Its great.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 27, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Gmail desktop client. The free version is limited to one account and no G Suite integration. Else it looks good.

  17. David Faulkner
    June 25, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    This is all good, but I still need to save and file emails in Windows folders sometimes to go with certain work projects. Without this, I'll continue to use Outlook.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 26, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      How do you do this in Outlook?

      You can print Emails to PDF and save them in your Windows folders. Just click the little print icon while looking at an email in Gmail. It will convert that email into a printable format and open your printer menu. Choose a PDF printer and save to a folder.

      To bulk-print emails in Gmail, you'll need an extension, like Gmail Print All Pro for Chrome.

      • David Faulkner
        June 26, 2017 at 10:29 pm


        Thanks for the tip about printing to PDF - why hadn't I thought of that? :)

        To save an email in Outlook, double-click it to open it, then File-Save As.

        • Tina Sieber
          June 26, 2017 at 10:32 pm

          Glad I could help.

          I'm not sure there's an easier way to do this in Outlook. I asked because I thought maybe you had a hack to share.

        • Michell Feitosa
          September 11, 2017 at 11:57 pm

          I normally just drag an important email from Outlook and drop to my folders ( mac user). The good think is when I click on the email in the folder it opens Outlook and you can see the email as if you have search it on Outlook itself.

        • Tina Sieber
          September 12, 2017 at 6:50 pm

          Well, this sounds like you're creating a shortcut that links to the email in Outlook. If you deleted the email in Outlook, however, I'm sure that folder link would not longer work because the email it's referring to would be gone.

          Do try this with an unimportant email! Drag an unimportant email into a folder, as you do, then delete it (also remove it from the trash), and see what happens when you try to open it from your folder link.

        • M P
          January 14, 2018 at 5:51 am

          Outlook email is saved as a stand-alone file, just drag-and-drop in any windows folder (generally project folder).

          You can take saved email (.msg file) to another computer, and can be opened by someone else in their own Outlook client.

          More, if you want to attach an email (.msg) file inside another Outlook email, you can just drag-and-drop, just like any other file.

          Even more, I can open multiple emails outside Outlook container, as individual files, so handy while preparing reports etc.

          Oh I miss these features so much, can't do these in web-based email like Gmail.

  18. Ginger
    May 8, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Gmail is awful for business. Labels are the most assenine thing I've ever had to use. If I want to move/store sent items and put them in the sub label, they're still in my sent label. Stupid. The control and organization features are sub par compared to outlook.

  19. Ginger
    May 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I will try your tips to use a desktop app. We have gmail at work and it totally sucks. The control, user friendliness and organization features of gmail are horrible, frustrating and kindergarten compared to outlook. Who ever made gmail sucks donkey balls.

  20. Wayne
    September 19, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I agree, Gmail is great but there seems to be no way around my emails arriving on the recipients' system in horrible Times New Roman font. I've Googled and there seems to be no real fix for this.

    • Sydney
      December 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Gmail Notifier Pro changes all of that!

    • Sydney Sheldon
      December 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      GmailNotifier handles all of that

  21. SirJeff
    July 26, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Opera Mail also has filters instead of folders, and I believe it was around long before Gmail :) Opera Mail used to be built into the Opera Browser ( version 12.8 was the last build :( ) and as of today I still use Opera Mail. I have around 11 email accounts ( mostly for work ) and they are all IMap. So I will never loose email and I can view all accounts online (view my phone). Gmail is ok but needs a better layout and support for more than 5 email accounts. Plus I don't trust the "cloud" (storing stuff on the interwebs). It's only a matter of time before the unspeakable happens .....

  22. Martin Lindelauf
    July 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Can anyone tell me if GMAIL is PCI Compliant?

  23. Rosalind
    May 21, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I hate the web interface. It looks messy and because it groups conversations by subject and not sender my emails in gmail are a complete mess. If I want to see what is going on with one person I need to use Outlook which completely slows my Mac to a crawl when open. I'm am definitely not a fan but use it as it keeps all my mails in one place and I can access them from all my devices.

  24. John Williams
    March 5, 2015 at 3:25 am

    How do I file and record my emails?

  25. Tony
    May 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I always prefer web-based programs as I can access it from anywhere.

  26. ari
    March 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I prefer web-based programs anytime. Thanks for this informative article.

  27. crescentdave
    March 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I use Thunderbird as my desktop email client for Gmail. It's beyond easy to configure and is far superior in terms of overall options.

  28. Gotit
    March 27, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Seems like it might work for me, but it looks like I need 2 icons on my desktop to utilize the offline feature. One of the icons launches the real connection to gmail and the other launches the offline "connection" to the local db. And unless I did something wrong, I need to use the offline "icon/connection" to create emails and save them. Then once I have a connection I need to again use the offline "icon/connection" to get the saved emails to send, right?

  29. Mohammad Koubeissi
    March 23, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I use MailPlane on OSX to use my Gmail account. Great way to have access to my account on my desktop.

  30. Julianntrott
    March 23, 2010 at 12:29 am

    I prefere for security reason not having a desktop client.
    Your post is nice for debutant, but I like the animation (even if I don't like for productivity reasons - sic - being notified). I will make a post about it on my blog