Tell Windows that your browser mail is your default mail

red mailbox
Credit: Thinkstock

James Henry switched from the application Outlook to Outlook.com. Now when he clicks on an email address, his browser-based mail client doesn’t come up.

Windows knows, or should know, what program you use for reading and writing email. That way, when you click on an mailto link in a webpage, or tell an application such as LibreOffice to email a document, Windows takes you where you want to go.

This usually works just fine with a local email client—a mail program that came with Windows or that you installed onto your PC. But if you use a web-based email service, such as Gmail or Outlook.com, Windows won’t know where to send you when you need to send a message.

Here are three approaches for fixing this problem. You can use one of them or all three together.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Chrome

If you use Chrome, you can easily tell it where to go when you click a mailto link. But this only works with mailto links displayed in Chrome.

  1. Go to the site you use for mail (Gmail.com, Outlook.com, or so on).
  2. Click the double-diamond icon on right part of address bar.
  3. Select Allow.

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Firefox

As with Chrome above, this works only with mailto links displayed inside Firefox.

  1. Click the menu icon near the upper-right corner.
  2. Select Options.
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  3. Click the Applications tab on the left pane.
  4. Type mail in the Search field.
  5. Select mailto.
  6. Pull down the Action menu and make your selection.
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The universal solution

When you install Notably Good’s Affixa, the program sets itself up as Windows’ default mail client. But it’s not really a mail client; it simply redirects the mail client instructions to your chosen web-based client.

Affixa is free for personal use. But be sure to choose the desktop version. You don’t want to start a subscription. Click Download at the top of the page.

When you launch Affixa, what actually comes up is the Tray Application in the notification area. You’ll be asked if you want it to load every time you boot; I don’t think it’s necessary. If you don’t want the Attachment Basket feature, uncheck "Alert me when Affixa is not configured to start with Windows."

Then the Options window comes up. On the Accounts tab, click Add to select a service.

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So why did I give you Chrome and Firefox semi-solutions when Affixa is a complete one? Because Affixa is more difficult to set up, and once set up, it’s much slower than a browser-based solution. If you set your browser to recognize a default email site, you’ll save a few seconds by bypassing Affixa.

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