Gmail is one of the most popular email providers in the world, helped by the fact that it was one of the first services to sync up neatly with various cloud services. It probably plays a central role in your computing life, so having it accessible as a desktop app would be super-handy.
While there is no separate Gmail desktop app as such, there’s a neat trick that lets you open an instance of Gmail as its own window, without the surrounding Chrome interface. Combined with Gmail’s recently-added offline mode, this effectively lets you create your own Gmail app.
The following instructions will show you this neat trick.
Note: In late 2018, Google made a small UI change for Chrome that rendered our original method obsolete. This guide shows an updated method that works in the latest versions of Chrome
First, Enable Gmail Offline
First, you should enable Gmail’s new native offline mode. You don’t have to do this, but if you want Gmail to function as a desktop app that you can use without Internet, and which then syncs up with your online account, it’s highly recommended.
Go to your Gmail inbox, click the Settings cog icon at the top right, then under the General tab, click “Offline.”
Check the “Enable offline mail” box. This will open up several more options for you on the page.
Here you’ll see how much storage space your offline mail will take up. You can also choose whether you want it to store mail up to seven, thirty, or ninety days old and whether to download attachments to your PC.
In the “Security” box we recommend selecting the “Keep offline data on my computer” option if you’re a home user and confident no one else can access your inbox. This will make the desktop app more seamless, with all your emails accessible as soon as you turn your PC on, instead of waiting for your entire inbox to sync each time.
Once you’re done, click “Save Changes.”
Create Gmail Desktop App
So your Gmail inbox is now syncing offline, but you still need to open your Chrome browser to access it. The next step is to turn Gmail into a regular desktop app.
To do this, simply open Gmail in Chrome, then click “the three-dotted menu icon at the top right -> More tools -> Create shortcut.”
Call the shortcut Gmail, then click Create and the Gmail shortcut will appear on your desktop.
Next, in the Chrome address bar, type chrome://apps to take you to a page showing your Google apps as well as any shortcuts you created. Right-click the Gmail shortcut you created then select “Open as window”. From now on, the Gmail shortcut on your desktop will open in its own window rather than within the Chrome browser.
From the desktop, you can copy and move the shortcut as you please. Right-click it and click “Pin to Start” or “Pin to taskbar” to pin the shortcut to the Start menu or taskbar respectively, or copy it and put it in any folder you want.
And that’s it. You’ve beaten the system, and created a fully-functional Gmail desktop app where one didn’t exist before.
What we’ve done above turns Gmail – complete with its lovely new interface – into a desktop app. If you’re not married to the Gmail UI, however, remember that you can sync Gmail up with excellent desktop email apps like Thunderbird, Mailbird, and even Windows’ own Mail app to achieve the same effect.
Another thing worth noting is that our method of creating a desktop Gmail app can be applied to all G Suite apps, including Docs and Drive.
This article was first published in January 2009 and was updated in December 2018.