Making Google Apps For Business Behave Like a Mail Client

So, I mentioned that I've moved to a new PC and, for the first time in years, I didn't install a dedicated Mail client/app. Instead I'm using direct web access to Google Apps For Business (posh name for paid-for Gmail).

The one thing I never liked about using Email in a browser is that I constantly close and re-open the browser. Thus, in effect, closing my email client, which I then have to remember to re-open.

Now though I've made it seem like a real app. You can do this using Chrome's "application shortcuts". Here's how.

First I setup a CNAME record in my DNS so that mail.mydomain.com points to Gmail. Then I visited the new URL in Chrome and, from the Options menu I chose Tools -> "Create application shortcuts...." which brings up this option dialog:


When I clicked Create it added a shortcut to my Taskbar, as below.


As you can see it looks just like a real application. It even tells me how many unreads there are.

The app runs in a chrome-less version of Chrome, as below:


I can now open and close my actual Chrome browser as many times as I like and my "mail client" stays open.

Did you notice the custom logo being used? Here's how.

You can also configure notifications to make it even more like a true mail client experience, where new email alerts appear on the bottom right of your screen.


All in all it makes for a nice experience. Now if only I could shake the un-nerving sense that I could lose all my mail at any point...


    • avatar
    • Timothy Briley
    • Wed 3 Apr 2013 03:30 PM

    "Now if only I could shake the un-nerving sense that I could lose all my mail at any point..."

    Backup early, backup often.

    Have an alternate email address ready.

    • avatar
    • Danny
    • Wed 3 Apr 2013 04:19 PM

    Two options at a guess...sign up for another email service and either forward or POP3 your email there. Outlook.com looks useful. Alternatively, and I know that you don't want to install an email client, but use something like Thunderbird to keep a copy of your email locally - either using POP3 or IMAP. That is what I do anyway.

    1. Seconded on the Thunderbird backup. Works well with Gmail POP3 and I run a backup every month or so by just firing it up and telling it to get mail till it says there are no more messages on the server. Sort of a maintenance task I'd rather not have to do but it helps with that nagging feeling.

    • avatar
    • Lee
    • Thu 4 Apr 2013 07:34 AM

    Application shortcuts in Chrome are very handy, been using them in the way you describe for a while now.

    It's a shame and annoying there is nothing similar in Chrome for the Mac for some reason: https://productforums.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/chrome/nfaA5_Hmtms

    • avatar
    • Darryn Sullivan
    • Sat 6 Apr 2013 09:14 AM

    IE 10 let's you make app shortcuts also. I use it on my Win 7 boxes for OWA

  1. I think with the amount of redundant backups that Google has, your mail is perfectly safe. :)

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Written by Jake Howlett on Wed 3 Apr 2013

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