Windows Desktop Applications Sending Mail (MAPI) via Webmail Like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL

Say you are in a Windows desktop application.  This means you are not in your web browser.  You’re not in Internet Explorer.  You’re not in Firefox.  You’re not in Opera.  You’re in some other program, and you want to send email from that application.

You might be in Microsoft Word and you click on File -> Send to Mail recipient.

Or you might be using the free Word-replacement program, LibreOffice. Or its cousin, Apache Open Office (formerly,  In Open Office it would look like this:OOO-mapi-gmail-0

Or, in Windows XP there was, and in Windows 7 there is, a context menu (ie, right-click) in Windows Explorer (aka “My Computer” in WXP or “Computer” in W7) with a menu option: ‘Send to -> mail recipient’.

Windows 7 Explorer even has an “E-mail” button that looks like this:020620win20exp-10472786

Or, you can do it from Windows Photo Viewer, or WinZip.

Any number of desktop programs may have an option to “send as email attachment”.

Or, consider Picasa.  Here’s Google’s instructions (Google makes Picasa) for how you email pictures from Picasa <>

You can email photos from Picasa in a few easy steps:

  1. Select the photos you’d like to email.
  2. Click the Email button.
  3. Select from the following email options:
    • Google Mail
      • Gmail: Gmail is ideal to use for sending pictures in Picasa. Attach up to 20 MB of photos in a single email. You can sign up for Gmail in a few easy steps. Learn more.
      • Google Account email: If you want to use a non-Gmail address to send photos, this option may be for you. You can associate any email address with a Google Account and use this address to send mail through Picasa. Learn more.
        Non-gmail Google Accounts have an attachment limit of ten items.

        [Of course, that means you have to sign up for a google account, and not everyone wants to to that! -Montgomery Minds]

    • Use your default email program: By setting your email program as the default on your computer, you can use this email provider in Picasa.

(FYI this blog post at “Gils Method” has nice, easy to read instructions for emailing pics from Picasa)

Now what did they mean by “setting your email program as the default”? If you follow their link to they will tell you how, on your computer, you can set an email program as default.

Trouble is, almost everyone nowadays has Webmail. But your Windows (any version) “default email program” has to be a program installed on your computer.  It can not be Webmail.  But everybody has Webmail.

So,  yes, this system is broken.  🙁 

Technical jargon: the method by which desktop (or laptop, but not web) computer programs do email with each other is called MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface).  Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora and M2 are all MAPI-compliant email programs that you install and run on your PC.  They are not Webmail.  They dont use your web browser.  But they can all server as your “windows desktop default email program”.

Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, and AOL Webmail, can not (well, not without some additional tricks).

Windows XP came with Outlook Express installed on your PC by default, and set as your “windows desktop default email program”, but Windows Vista? and 7 have no program installed by default.  In that case you get this error when you try to invoke any of the desktop email features described above:

There is no email program associated to perform the requested action. Please install an email program or, if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Programs control panel.

There are solutions, but note, the following solutions present security and privacy concerns.  See below.

The Gmail notifier, a separate program you download to your computer, may or may not have an option to install a small MAPI-compliant program that can serve as your “windows desktop default email program”.  It then does everything thru the Gmail Webmail interface (as if you were doing Gmail yourself normally).  There are both reports that it works and that it doesnt on the internet.  And this program has undergone many major revisions in the last few years, so YMMV.

Another option, a Gmail-only option, was proffered by a helpful chap on SuperUser

The open-source project Tvhgooglemapi might be a solution. Here is how it is described :

Tvhgooglemapi is a simple tool that pretends to be a real mail client to windows but really only uploads the mail to the drafts folder of gmail and then opens the draft in the default web-browser. For the user this is almost exactly the same as having the gmail web interface as the default mail-client for some windows applications (the only difference being that he has to login twice if he is not already logged in to gmail and doesn’t let the tool remember the password.)

Another option that supports more (but not all) webmail programs is explained by at PCWorld in an article entitled How Do I Make Web Mail My Default Email, Part 2:

[If] you’re using a Web-based mail service like Gmail or Hotmail…it seems you’re out of luck.

The solution is a little program called Affixa. It’s free, but you can get more features for an annual subscription of only ₤2 ($3.11 as I write this).

Affixa installs into Windows as your default mail program and supports Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Google Apps, Zimbra and the Outlook Web App [And according to their website as of 1/9/2014, Office 365 also -Montgomery Minds]. When you tell a program that you want to mail something, Affixa redirects your request to your Web-based mail service.

Here’s how another helpful chap at put it

You can integrate Gmail or even Yahoo email directly into Windows using the previously mentioned Affixa application, which registers itself as the default email application on your computer and handles file uploading to Gmail.

This is a full list of Affixa features(broken link). just go to the Affixa home page

Another commercial alternative is MAPI4Webmail (19.80 euros personal license as of 9/14/2013).  I did not explore this alternative.

Security Concern:

All these programs require you to enter sensitive information into them.  You have to trust these programs.  I can not vouch for them, one way or the other (at least, not yet).  Note how some more SuperUser chaps discussed it:

It would b really great if someone who knows this stuff could inspect/audit the code and download .exe’s for tvhgooglemapi to verify the program is legit and not just an email/password harvester or some such. – matt wilkie Sep 17 ’13 at 19:41


You could test the exe on VirusTotal, but in general it’s rare for an open-source project to be infected. For problems, you could try to file up an issue report, or try to get in touch with the developers (or become one). – harrymc Sep 17 ’13 at 20:05

Fernando Cassia described the concern this way:


 I did test this app with a new GMail account, not using my main one. I am not the author of this linked application and I have not audited its source code. If you are concerned about this, you might want to create a secondary GMail account just for this use, or enable two-step authentication. Use the app at your own risk.


Fernando Cassia also has a very good detailed explanation of all this MAPI desktop email programs vs Webmail stuff on his blog:

[T]he popular OpenOffice open source office suite … allows sending documents from the program interface using whatever e-mail client program is configured on your system, be it Mozilla’s Thunderbird, or Microsoft’s bundled Windows Mail, or the former Outlook Express, on Lotus Notes, or Eudora, you name it.
The problem comes, as one AOO (Apache Open Office) user recently pointed [out], when you expect apps that can fire your e-mail client to “work with GMail”. The problem is that GMail is not an application. GMail is a web site. You can have an application like Open Office call your default web browser, and even tell it to load GMail with a compose window opened, but you still can’t tell the browser to attach a given file to your new composed e-mail. At least not without some “glue code”.


Rob Weir [of AOO] explained: “there is an industry standard for accessing email: MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface).  OpenOffice works with any application that supports MAPI.   Most email clients support MAPI.  GMail does not.  That is their choice.  We can’t force them to support MAPI.  But we [AOO developers] are not writing custom support for every email client in existence.  We support the standard [MAPI].”


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