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The easiest solution is to have an email program installed on your machine (such as Windows Live Mail) and configured to properly send email through your email account.

I have fallen into the maze of Outlook.com and Hotmail and Windows Live Mail. All I want to accomplish is to click on a Send Mail button on a web page and have any of my email systems open and work. I set Windows Live Mail and all the various default programs but no matter what I do, it opens and then fails to send with various error messages. The errors merely say it failed without any real information. I'd be happy to have any of the three email systems work, but none do. I have to copy the link and open Outlook.com or Hotmail and go from there. Is there some secret to getting a default system to open and work when clicking on a web page to send email?

In this excerpt from Answercast #63, I look at the difficulties involved in sending mail from "Send Email" links on websites when you are using a web-based email program.

A secret to "send email" buttons?

Yes, there is.

So what I see most people doing is... they're using some web-based email system (let's say you're using Gmail) and you click on a "Send Mail" link. What happens is Windows looks up the default program for handling mail on your PC. Now, you may have not said anything. It may just have whatever random default it had before.

Let's say that default is Windows Live Mail (the Windows Live Mail program that's installed on your PC). You're using Gmail; you never use Windows Live Mail, but when you use the "Send to:" link, Windows says, "Hey, the default email program is Windows Live Mail, so we'll fire that up and then try and send the message using that."

The problem is - you've never configured Windows Live Mail to actually be able to send using your Gmail account.

Setting it all up

The trick, of course, is you can!

There's absolutely nothing preventing you from configuring Windows Live Mail to use your Gmail account. You need to be a little bit careful so that Windows Live Mail doesn't immediately start downloading all of your Gmail, but you can at least configure it to send.

What's important is you end up creating an account in an email program that is for your email service, whatever it may be. I'm using Gmail as my example, but whatever email service you happen to use.

It doesn't really matter if the "receive" server is set correctly; what matters is that the SMTP settings are correct for your email service.

So what that means is (to continue my example):

  • I would configure Windows Live Mail to have an account configured, that is connected to my Gmail account.

  • In the Account Settings, I would make sure that the SMTP server settings are correct in order to be able to send mail through Gmail.

Then when you click on a Send Mail link on a website, your computer picks up Windows Live Mail. It does whatever the Send Mail instructed. When you hit Send, it now knows how to send the email through to your Gmail account.

Web-based emails run online

Unfortunately, with web-based systems like Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail, sometimes there are some hacks to make them actually work as the default mail account. Most often, they are not.

The problem is... the default mail program that Windows expects - it's a default mail program. In other words, it's expecting something like Outlook or Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird - any of those to be the default program installed on your PC.

A web-based email system like Gmail, like Hotmail, like Yahoo, these are not programs installed on your PC - which means there is no direct way to say, "Whenever I click a 'Send To,' I want you to use Hotmail," or "I want you to use Gmail."

Like I said, there are some hacks that sometimes work and that's great and fine. But the fundamental problem, and the easiest solution, is to go ahead and have an email program installed on your machine (as you apparently do with Windows Live Mail). Simply make sure that that email program is configured to properly send email through your email account via whatever ISP or email service provider you happen to be using.

Next from Answercast #63- Is it safe to stay logged in to Lastpass?

Article C5941 - October 21, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Doug Brace
October 21, 2012 6:38 PM

Through the magic if HTML5, Google Chrome, and Gmail, it is possible to click on "maillto:" links and have the Gmail web page open. It happens through the use and configuration of what Goofle calls "handlers." The same thing is possible with Google Calendar and "webcal:" links.

http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1382847

bedlamb
October 23, 2012 12:20 PM

Options vary in other browsers......
In Firefox, open 'options', then click on 'applications'.
On the list, find 'mailto'. To the right, click on the action (probably says 'windows mail' default)
In the menu that drops down, choose whichever you want. I use Gmail, because that's the service I use. You can click on 'use other' and configure it to use Hotmail, which you mentioned, but I can't help you further with that.
This only sets a browser option. Remember that your Windows setting is separate, so if you wanted to send a file without the browser, you'd need to set your default 'mailto' choice through your 'start menu options'.

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