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Issue #793: October 2-8, 2022

Q: I’ve been reading your column since the very first issue back in 2007.  Congratulations on your recent anniversary.  Many times over the past 15 years, you have recommended webmail, usually Gmail, as the solution of choice for people’s e-mail.  So, I made the switch, and I really like how a single inbox, and even the folders that I set up follow me no matter what device or computer I use.  However, I think I’ve found a problem.

 Often, on the ‘Contact Us’ page on websites that I visit, there is a link to send them an e-mail.  When I click this, it always opens Outlook.  I end up copying the destination e-mail address that it loaded, then closing Outlook and going to my webmail to send it.  There must be an easier way to do this? 

 – Jane D.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: Greetings, Jane!  I don’t encounter many people who claim to have been readers since day one!  Thanks for being a continued reader, and thanks for your question.  There is indeed an easier way to do what you’re trying to do, and I know what it is, and am more than happy to share it with you.  I shared this with Spouse Peripheral, and she added a couple of other aspects to the question that I think will round this out to be beneficial and educational for everyone.

First of all, what you are describing are what are called “MailTo:” links.  These are a specialized HTML commands that link directly to an e-mail address.  The person who crafted the webpage can include other information, such as the contents of the Subject line, CC: and BCC: fields, and even text to go in the body of the e-mail.  When your browser encounters a MailTo link, it launches the system default e-mail client, initiates a new message, and fills all this in for you.  The problem you’re having is that your default e-mail client is Outlook, but you’d like it to be your webmail.

To the best of my knowledge, this only works in Chrome – the browser created by the same company that makes the Gmail service, so if you try this on other browsers, your mileage may vary.  So, to begin, open the Chrome web browser.  You don’t need to go to Gmail yet.  Click the three vertical dots in the upper right corner and choose “Settings”. In the left-hand navigation bar, select “Privacy and security”.  Click on “Site settings” (yes, I know this is really buried deep in Chrome’s settings).  Scroll down until you find “Additional permissions” and use the arrow to expand it.  Click on “Protocol handlers” and check “Sites can ask to handle protocols”.  Take note of the little double-diamond symbol between the button and text.  Now go up to Chrome’s main address bar, enter mail.google.com.  Look to the far-right side of the address bar, and you’ll find that double-diamond symbol I mentioned above.  Click it and you’ll get a box that says “Allow Gmail to open all e-mail links?” click “Allow” and then “Done”.

Now, Spouse Peripheral brought up a different kind of problem with “Contact Us” pages, and that’s when she enters information using a web form, and clicks “Send” and has no record of what she sent them.  In many cases there is a checkbox that says “Send me a copy of this e-mail” that takes care of the problem, but in cases where there’s not, my recommendation is to simply bypass the form altogether.  Locate their customer service e-mail address, either by simply reading it in the text on the page, or by hovering over the links and seeing what address their MailTo: link is going to use.  Then head over to your webmail and just compose a message that way.


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