How to Change the Default Mail App Client in Mac OS X

May 6, 2014 - 7 Comments

How to change the Default Mail Client App in Mac OS X

The default email client in Mac OS X is the simply named “Mail” app, and it’s a pretty good mail application, but what if you’d rather use something else, like ThunderBird, Sparrow, pine, or a browser and web mail client like Gmail? That’s when you’ll want to change the default mail app to something else, and it’s super easy to do on any Mac.

Note that by changing the default mail app you will change what app launches when you try to send emails from anywhere in OS X, whether it’s from another Mac app or a link on the web.

Changing the Default Mail Client to Another App in OS X

Many third party email clients on the Mac will ask you if you want to set them as the default mail app, but regardless you can always set it yourself using the following actions:

  1. Open the “Mail” application in OS X – yes open the Mail app even if you’re wanting to use another mail client
  2. Pull down the “Mail” menu and choose “Preferences”
  3. Go to the “General” tab
  4. Look for “Default email reader” and click on the menu to pull down other mail app options – if the mail app you want to use is not shown in this list choose “Select” to browse the /Applications/ folder and select one manually

Change the Default Mail Client in Mac OS X to another app or service

Everyones available mail clients will likely be different, depending on what apps are installed on their Mac. In this screenshot example, the possible email reader apps to select are: Google Chrome (for Gmail), Mail.app (the default in OS X), iTerm (for pine, the command line mail client), and Sparrow Lite (a third party mail app).

Other default mail client options in Mac OS X

Choosing the “Select” option will bring up a Finder Open window viewer to locate applications stored elsewhere in OS X, whether it’s the Applications folder or somewhere else. If you’re going to download a third party email client like ThunderBird, remember to throw it into the /Applications/ folder before selecting it through the Mail’s default selection procedure.

Note that if you want to use a webmail app within a browser (to be perfectly clear, that means a mail service like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or Hotmail loaded in the web browser and not in a mail client application) as your Macs default mail client you’ll need to use a variety of tweaks to launch the browser directly. For example, setting Gmail as the default for Chrome and other web browsers is just a matter of using a javascript or browser extension, and is completed in a moment.

Admittedly, it’s a little weird to use Mail to change the email client away from that app in OS X, but it’s actually similar to setting the default web browser on the Mac too, which is done through Safari even if you don’t want to use that as the browser. It’s just the way Apple does it, for now anyway. In case you think this may be confusing, you can complete the entire process in under 20 seconds, as demonstrated in this quick walkthrough video:

Mail app is a great email client but if it’s not for you, there are plenty of options out there. Happy emailing! Thanks to Mark for the question and tip idea!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

7 Comments

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  1. Bo West says:

    I was aware that you can change the default in Mail Prefs, but you said that it changes what app launches throughout OSX.

    “Note that by changing the default mail app you will change what app launches when you try to send emails from anywhere in OS X, whether it’s from another Mac app or a link on the web.”

    I have changed the prefs to Postbox.app, yet if I want to send an email with a photo in iPhoto, Mail still launches. Same is true for some other Apple programs that allow you to email directly.

    Anyway to get them to launch Postbox?

  2. arlo says:

    Possible to do via terminal? stupid mail wants me to setup an email account, just to change this preference. annoying

  3. Albert says:

    What about Yahoo mail?

  4. Neil says:

    Thanks for this. What would really be handy is for when I click on a hidden “mailto” link is for the computer to ask me what I want to do. I cannot count how many times in the past I have been caught by accidentally clicking the hidden link and now my mail app fires up and for the next five minutes it syncs several past emails (I normally use web mail). This is very frustrating especially when this happens when I least expect it.

    Do you have any suggestions for this?

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