Changing default mail client on macOS without signing in to the Mail app

April 13, 2023

The things we have to do sometimes… 🙈

Maybe you use another mail client than the Mail app on macOS, and you want to make it the default, so that when you click mailto: links, it actually opens the app you want.

Apple documents how to do that in change the default email app:

  1. Open the Mail app.
  2. From the menu bar, choose Mail > Settings.
  3. Click General.
  4. Choose an email app from the Default email reader menu.

That’s great, except it doesn’t work. If you never used the Mail app, which you probably didn’t if you use another mail client, you can’t access the settings! You’re greeted with this screen:

A dialog prompting you to set up a mail account

And the settings are greyed out!

Greyed out settings menu

What to do then? There’s a number of solutions:

But my favorite, that doesn’t require any third-party app, consists in selecting Other Mail Account, putting garbage in the fields, and let it fail a few times until it works!

Mail account settings

This will obviously fail, and prompt you for more information:

Advanced account settings

Just keep hitting the Sign In button until it gives up and lets you through! You now have access to the settings menu.

Active settings menu

From there, you can set your Default email reader to your favorite app.

Default email reader settings

Using Gmail inside Firefox as default email reader on macOS

In my case, I selected the Firefox app in the previous step, because I want to use Gmail inside Firefox as my default email reader.

With that, the next time you open a mailto: link from anywhere on your system, it’s going to open Firefox, and Firefox will then need to know you want to use Gmail for this. Normally it’ll prompt you the first time, but you can also configure it in the Applications settings:

Firefox settings

I hope this helps!

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