There should be an image here!Q: How do I make Gmail my default email program so that it comes up when I click on email addresses on a Web site? — Glenda

A: It’s really convenient to be able to click an email address on a Web page and have it open up a new message (or the ‘compose’ option) so you can jump right-in to create a message.

It’s equally as irritating to click on an address and have it open up a program that you don’t use like Outlook Express or Outlook when you want to use a Web-based service like Gmail or Yahoo.

If you use Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer, it’s no surprise that the only options you can choose are for Micorosoft’s email programs (Outlook and Outlook Express) or its Web-based services (Windows Live Mail or Hotmail).

There are some messy options for making Internet Explorer (and the Send To: option in Word) open Gmail or Yahoo Mail that I will discuss later, but let’s start with some easier options.

If you switch to a different browser like Mozilla’s Firefox or Google’s Chrome, it’s just a simple matter of changing the default mail setting to Gmail.

In Firefox, click on the Tools menu, then on Options, then on the Applications tab at the top.

In the Search box, type ‘mailto’ to bring up your options; click on the drop down box and select Gmail.

If you use more than one email program for different accounts, you can also set the option to ‘Always Ask.’

Oddly, if you use Google’s Chrome browser, having the ability to choose Google’s Gmail as you’re default mail system is not part of the basic browser. You must add a free ‘extension’ such as ‘Google Mail Checker Plus‘ to make Gmail the default mail program when you click on mail links.

In addition, Google Mail Checker Plus will allow you to see how many unread messages you have in your Gmail account as well as give you preview and management tools right from the toolbar icon it installs in Chrome.

As I said earlier, you can add a third party program to Internet Explorer to make Gmail the default, but I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to software, so I would only recommend going this next route if you really need to force Internet Explorer to use Gmail (or other Web mail systems) as your default mail program.

Affixa Basic is a free program that you can download and install to change how Windows itself handles the default email issue for ALL installed programs, so not only will it work when you click on an email address online, it will also interact with other Microsoft programs.

For instance, if you are in Microsoft Word and want to email a document from within Word (usually the Send To: or Send option depending upon which version you are using), once you install Affixa Basic, Gmail will become the default mail system that will be launched.

Equally, if you are in My Documents and want to email a file, you can simply right-click on the file and choose Send To, then Mail Recipient and Gmail will be launched (via a Web browser).

The reason why I would make this the last choice is that it requires configuration and is yet another program to examine when things get fowled up, so I highly recommend using the Firefox or Chrome options if at all possible instead.

If you decide to install Affixa Basic, make sure you turn on the option to ‘Launch your service after creating a draft message’ to make it work more seamlessly.

As I’ve written about in the past, there are significant advantages to migrating to a Web-based email system (like you’re no longer tied to a specific computer to get your precious messages and backup is no longer your problem).

So, if you decided to not try Web mail in the past because of this one inconvenience, you now have no reason not to give it a shot!

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show