How to Change the Default Email Program for Mailto: Links

Akshata Shanbhag 15-03-2016

If you don’t use the default mail client on your computer, you can easily make the mailto: links in your browser open in your regular email program. Here’s what you need to know.


Any time you click on an email-address-turned-link (also called a mailto: link) on any web page or in any desktop program on your computer, it opens a compose window in the default mail client that came with your operating system. That’s quite annoying when you use a third-party email client or even a webmail service.

Wouldn’t you prefer having mailto: links open up in the email program that you use instead? Well, that’s exactly how things will work if you set up your email program to be the default handler for mailto: links. We’ll show you how to do that.

Opening Mailto: Links in Webmail

If you prefer the webmail experience 7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients Is a web-based email client preferable to a desktop option? We looked at the different pros and cons and found an answer for you. Read More , depending on the browser and the webmail service that you use, let’s see how you can make those two work in harmony to handle mailto: links.

In Chrome

Sign into Gmail — this works only when you’re signed in — and look for the handler icon, which looks like a pair of grey overlapping diamond shapes, adjacent to the star icon in the address bar. Click on the handler icon and you’ll get a popup dialog where you’ll need to select the Allow option to ensure that Gmail opens all email links in future.



If you want Inbox instead of the old Google Mail to handle email links for you, click on the handler icon when you’re on to make the change.

Can’t see the handler icon in the address bar? You might have changed its default behavior in Chrome settings. That’s not a problem though. Go to Settings > Show advanced settings… and under Privacy > Content settings > Handlers, select the radio button next to Allow sites to ask to become default handlers for protocols (recommended) to get back the handler icon.


For other popular webmail clients that are not Gmail, the Chrome extension Mailto: offers the quickest way to set them as default handlers for mailto: links. It supports Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, FastMail, Zoho Mail, and AOL Mail right out of the box. If you use an email service that’s not part of this set, you can still configure that service using the add another service option.



In Firefox

Go to Firefox Options/Preferences > Applications and look for the mailto option under Content Type. The dropdown menu next to it is where you can specify which email program you want to use. It could be Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, or any other desktop email program such as Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook.

For linking to a desktop client, you’ll have to use the Use Other… option in the dropdown menu and navigate to your email program via Explorer (or via Finder, if you’re on a Mac).



The mailto dropdown menu has a couple of other useful options:

  • Always Ask – To specify an email program a mailto: link on a case by case basis.
  • Use Chrome – To have mailto: links from Firefox open in Chrome. Of course, you’ll just get a blank new tab in Chrome if you haven’t configured Chrome first to open mailto:links.

Can’t find your webmail service listed in the mailto dropdown menu? You need the MailtoWebmails [No Longer Available] add-on. It allows you to choose from various popular webmail services and configure any of them as the default handler for mailto: links in Firefox. If you can’t find the webmail you use in that list either, don’t worry. The add-on gives you the option to add it yourself.

In Safari and Opera

No matter which webmail service you use, if you’re on Safari or Opera, you’ll have to fall back on the Mailto extension that we discussed in the In Chrome section above. Here are the links to the extension’s Safari version and Opera version.

In Internet Explorer

Tweaking mailto: associations is not all smooth sailing in some cases, especially if you use a service that’s not Gmail.


On Internet Explorer, for example, you can use Gmail for mailto: links only if you have installed Google Toolbar. If you have, go to Toolbar Options > General > Web-browsing tools and check the box next to Use Gmail for “Mail To” Links to set up the mailto: association for Gmail.


Opening Mailto: Links in a Desktop Email Client

If you have ditched webmail for a desktop email client You Should Ditch Webmail for a Desktop Email Client If... A few years ago, webmail was all the rave. Wonder whether it's time to switch back to a desktop email client? Look no further. We show you the merits of a local mail service. Read More , it makes sense to use the latter as the default handler for email links that appear in any program or on any web page.

There’s nothing you need to configure if you have decided to stick with the mail client that came bundled with your operating system. But if you use a third-party email client like Thunderbird, you can set that as the systemwide default for everything to do with email. Here’s how you can do that on the top three desktop operating systems.

On Windows 7 through 10, first go to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Associations and click on Associate a file type or protocol with a program. Now scroll down to the Protocols section, look for the MAILTO row, and double-click on it.

You’ll then be able to select an email client of your choice (provided you have already installed it 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.


On OS X, open the Mail app and under Preferences > General, pick the email program that you want to set as the default using the Default email reader popup. Yes, you have to start with Mail even if you want to configure a different email application as the default The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client Need a desktop client for Gmail on your Mac? Here are the best we could find. Read More .

On Linux, you’ll need to ensure that your email program Email on Linux: 4 of the Best Email Clients Available Linux email clients still lag behind Windows and Mac, but the gap is closing. Here are some of the better ones I've found. Read More is set as the default application for handling email. The location of the default applications setting might vary based on the distro that you use. On Ubuntu, you’ll most likely find it under System Settings > Details > Default Applications. Look for the Mail dropdown menu and select your email program within it.

Opening Mailto: Links on Android

When you click on a mailto: link in your browser on Android, you’ll get the Complete action using popup in which you’ll be able to select any installed email client of your choice as the default handler for mailto: links. Once you select it, tap on the Always button to finalize the change.


If the mailto: link takes you to an email app that’s already been configured as the default How to Remove, Change, and Set Default Apps in Android Here's everything you should know about setting and adjusting default apps on Android, including changing how links open. Read More , go to Settings > Apps, tap on the app that’s currently the default, and in its App Info section, tap on the Clear defaults button under Launch by default. Once you do this, you’ll be able to see the Complete action using popup for associating mailto: links with the email client that you prefer.

Remember, if there’s no alternative to the default email app installed on your Android device, mailto: links will take you directly to the default app.

A Word About Microsoft Edge and iOS

My search for a setting, app, or tweak that lets you change mailto: associations on Microsoft Edge and on iOS came up blank. If you had better luck with that, do let me know in the comments!

Associate Mailto: with Your Email Client

Setting up your favorite email client to handle mailto: links is a one-time tweak and doesn’t take much of an effort. Even if it looks like an insignificant change, you’re sure to appreciate the way it smooths out your workflow 3 Smart Chrome Extensions to Speed Up Your Workflow Chrome's minimalist and user-friendly interface is a big reason for its popularity, along with the excellent extensions available in the Web store. Here are three that will make browsing easier for you. Read More .

Have you set up your browser to open mailto: links in your usual webmail or desktop email client? Or are you used to blindly hitting the Close button on the new instances of the stock email app that open up every time you click on a mailto: link?

Related topics: Browser Extensions, Email Tips.

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  1. Mallory
    April 19, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you!!! This is exactly what I needed! Solved my problem!

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      April 20, 2018 at 2:42 am


  2. Rob
    December 7, 2017 at 12:14 am

    How do you add Chrome to one of your selectable options for a default desktop client? I regularly use chrome, and have it set as my in browser default, but the only options I see in the control panel (Control Panel\Programs\Default Programs\Set Associations) are Microsoft Outlook and IMB Lotus Notes/Domino (neither programs do I have access to)

    Thank you.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      December 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Rob, which version of Windows are you using?

      • Rob
        December 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm

        Windows 7

        • Akshata Shanbhag
          December 15, 2017 at 2:42 pm

          Rob, instead of looking for the missing Chrome app in the Set Associations section, I believe you can go to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Default Programs, select Chrome from the program list, and use the "Choose defaults for this program" option to connect it with to mailto: links.

        • Rob
          December 15, 2017 at 5:32 pm

          Well, I attempted the below solution, but in the default programs list, Chrome is not listed, even as I respond to this comment via Chrome browser.

          Any Ideas?

        • Akshata Shanbhag
          December 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm

          From what some users with a similar problem have reported across various forums, this could be due to a missing or incorrect registry entry linked to Chrome. Uninstalling and reinstalling Chrome seemed to fix the problem for them.

  3. Ken Danieli
    October 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    I'm looking for how to set Mailto: default in Edge.
    I'd like it to go to (gmail) in Edge

  4. rs
    March 20, 2017 at 8:52 am

    It gives me only two choices on Win7: Chrome, and Opera
    I have Maxthon, IE, and Firefox installed as how to select one of those? It gives me NO option to here.

    And even better: How do I get it to open in the same browers in which i click a MAILTO link? E.g. If I accidently click a MAILTO link in Maxthon, I need for the mailto link to open in Maxthon, not Opera or Chrome with their hundred+ tab session that then freezes, and at times blue-screens, my computer unless I close other programs beforehand.

    Plus, how do i disassociate the MAILTO link altogether.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      March 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      I think you can select only a desktop client from the Control Panel setting for MAILTO links (which is why I'm surprised you see Chrome and Opera as options). I'm not 100% sure about this though. I'll find out.

      For other browsers: You'll need to open those browsers one by one and associate mailto:links to an email app of your choice using either the in-built setting or an extension.

      For disassociating the mailto: links, you'll again have to tackle each browser individually and reverse the process (refer article for screenshots). That is switch from Allow to Denyfrom the handler icon menu in Chrome, reselect the Always ask option from the Content type menu for Firefox, and so on.

  5. Anonymous
    August 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for useful information

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 13, 2016 at 7:20 am

      You're welcome, Shashank :)

    May 6, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    For me Mailto isn't even showing up in the application menu! What do I do if it's not showing up?

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 7, 2016 at 3:41 am

      I'm assuming you mean in Firefox, but I'm not sure. On which device/browser is the mailto: option not showing up?