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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 5 of the Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime 5 of the Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime You need a desktop email client to handle your incoming mail? We show you the best desktop email clients you can get for free. Read More 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 How to Read Google Mail on Your Desktop How to Read Google Mail on Your Desktop Email is a critical feature of the working day. If you're using Gmail, you might wonder how you can get it out of the browser and onto your desktop. Here are your options. Read More , 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.

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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.

Here’s how to change the How to Change the Default Email Program for Mailto: Links How to Change the Default Email Program for Mailto: Links 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. Read More mailto: association in other browsers.

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 How to Import & Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail How to Import & Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail It is not uncommon to have several email accounts, but checking multiple accounts in different places is tedious. Hence, many people revert to a desktop email client like Thunderbird or Outlook to manage all their... Read More . 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 Rediscover Gmail Labels and Finally Tame Your Inbox Rediscover Gmail Labels and Finally Tame Your Inbox There are plenty of tricks to deal with email overload, but there's one right under your nose that you might not be using: good old Gmail labels. Read More .

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 How to Set Up Email Filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook 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 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 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 4 Ways To Creatively Use Canned Responses For Email Productivity 4 Ways To Creatively Use Canned Responses For Email Productivity If you're effective, you're doing something right. That's why you should use email filters and schedule mail time. One trick is to prepare canned responses for emails you frequently write. Read More 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 Windows Shortcuts 101 - The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide Windows Shortcuts 101 - The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide With so many shortcuts built into Windows and its software, it might seem impossible to learn them all. Here's the ultimate guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts. Read More , then you just cannot ignore Gmail.

There is hardly anything that you cannot achieve via keyboard shortcuts inside Gmail 5 Shift Key Shortcuts That Every Gmail User Should Know 5 Shift Key Shortcuts That Every Gmail User Should Know Gmail might have a productivity-boosting interface, but you can boost it even further with these simple but essential keyboard shortcuts. Read More . 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 The Best Ways to Learn All the Keyboard Shortcuts You Will Ever Need 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.

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 5 Ways to Improve Your Gmail Security in Under 5 Minutes 5 Ways to Improve Your Gmail Security in Under 5 Minutes Email security is always important, but using Gmail can lead us into a false sense of security. If you use Gmail, these vital tips will save you from the inevitable headaches and grief later. Read More .

Are you ready to switch to Gmail full time? If not, what’s holding you back? Which features of your desktop email client can you not do without? Share with us in the comments!

Image Credit: By 279photo Studio via Shutterstock.com

Originally written by Varun Kashyap on 22 March 2010.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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 .....

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

    Can anyone tell me if GMAIL is PCI Compliant?

  6. 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.

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

    How do I file and record my emails?

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

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

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

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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