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How to Set Your Preferred Email Client in macOS Catalina

collection of mac mail app icons

Catalina Quick Tip

When you click a link for an email address, your Mac opens the app you’ve set for that kind of link. Mail is the default email app, and it works just fine for me.

However, if you install other email apps, you might want to set them to open when you click an email link or web link. To set a default email app:

  • Open the Mail app.
    If you haven’t already set up an email account in Mail preferences or Internet preferences, follow the onscreen instructions to set one up.
  • From the Mail menu, choose Preferences.
  • Click General.
  • Choose your email app from the ”Default email reader” pop-up menu. 

If you haven’t installed a new email app on your Mac, only “Mail.app” will show up.

A bit of trivia: a couple of years ago, you could also reset your default web browser from the Mail app. That feature seems to have disappeared with macOS Catalina.

These instructions apply, for the most part, to other versions of macOS besides Catalina. However, I’m using Catalina on a 16-inch MacBook Pro for this tutorial.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Contributing Author
Dennis has over 40 years of journalism experience and has written hundreds of articles. For the past 20-plus years, he's been an online journalist, covering mainly Apple Inc. He's written for MacCentral, MacWorld, MacMinute, Macsimum News, Apple Daily Report, and is now contributing editor at Apple World Today.
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11 Comments

  • Another good tip. Here is a question: Can I set certain emails on my business account (MacBook) on a different server to forward to my personal account on my Mac Book Pro.

    I have many questions and don’t seem to have the right resources to get them resolved. But the tips from OWC always are helpful.

  • Typical sleazy tactic. Customers need to actually set up a mail account using Apple’s intrusive (and terrible) mail client before they are allowed to set a different client as the default?

    For this reason and others, Apple Mail is blocked from running on Macs that I manage (thank you, JAMF).

    If you need to change the default without being forced to waste your valuable time, just paste this into a terminal window and hit enter. You will first need to replace org.company.mailclient with the bundle identifier of your preferred mail client.

    /usr/bin/python2.7 <<EOF
    import LaunchServices;
    result = LaunchServices.LSSetDefaultHandlerForURLScheme(
    “mailto”,
    “org.company.mailclient”)
    print(“Result: %d (%s)” % (
    result,
    “Success” if result == 0 else “Error”))
    EOF

    • I’ll confirm that. I tried it under Catalina, following the simple enough steps, and Preferences now show MS Outlook as the default email reader. But the emails in my folders still open with Mail, when I click them.

      • I have someone experiencing that same issue.

        Added exchange account to Mail App > Set the default to Outlook
        Removed exchange account from Mail and quit the application
        Saved mail files open with Mail application, tested with a restart as well as just quitting both Mail and Outlook

        Added exchange account to Mail App > Set the default to Outlook
        Left exchange account Mail and quit the application
        Saved mail files open with Mail application, tested with a restart as well as just quitting both Mail and Outlook

        In Finder, if I right-click on the file and select Open With and then choose Outlook (adding the check box for Always Use), it will attach the message to an Outlook mail message but the attachment opens in Mail.

  • I use Yahoo Mail and Protonmail and neither shows up in Applications so I cannot choose either for default email client. Is there a way to do that?

  • Setting the default Browser has not disappeared from Cataliina. It is in “System Preferences > General > Default web browser:”, where it has been since at least Sierra.

      • Here is the article text to which I referred:

        “A bit of trivia: a couple of years ago, you could also reset your default web browser from the Mail app. That feature seems to have disappeared with macOS Catalina.”