Changing Mac OS X’s Default E-Mail Application

It doesn’t have to be Mail.

By default, Mac OS X is pre-configured with Mail, Apple’s e-mail application, set as the default e-mail client. That means clicking a link to an e-mail address or accessing your e-mail program from within another application will automatically launch Mail.

But you can easily change it to an e-mail client you prefer. Here’s how:

  1. Open Mail.
  2. Choose Mail > Preferences to open the preferences window.
  3. General Mail PreferencesIf necessary, click the General button in the preferences window’s toolbar to display General options.
  4. Choose the mail client you prefer from the Default email reader pop-up menu. If the application is not listed by name, you can choose Select from the menu and use the dialog that appears to locate and select the e-mail client you want. (Obviously, the application must be installed on your computer to select it.)
  5. Click the window’s close button to dismiss it.
  6. Choose Mail > Quit Mail to quit Mail.

Changes take affect as soon as you quit Mail.

Note that the preferences window shown here is for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. These steps also work in Tiger, although the preferences window may look different.

Chapter and Page References

Product ImageMac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide includes more information about related topics:

  • Connecting to the Internet, Chapter 18
  • Mac OS X’s Internet Applications, page 419
  • Using Mail, pages 421-435

Clearing Out Previous Mail Recipients

A little housekeeping in Apple Mail.

If you use Mail, you know that it looks up addressees and displays a menu of possible matches as you type. So if you type in John, it’ll look up all the people with those characters in their name or e-mail address.

If you’re sharp, you’ve probably realized that the people who appear on this list aren’t just the people in your Address Book file. They’re also people who you have sent messages to in the past: previous recipients.

Over time, your list of previous mail recipients gets long and awkward. When you attempt to enter an address, unwanted — or perhaps even invalid — addressees appear. Fortunately, you can clear out these old addresses using the Previous Recipients window.

Previous RecipientsTo display the Previous Recipients window, choose Window > Previous Recipients. As you can see, it lists all people you have sent e-mail messages to. Names preceded with a tiny Address Book icon are people in your Address Book file. You can sort the list by any column; just click it.

To remove a recipient, select his or her entry and click the Remove from List button. The entry disappears. Keep in mind that if you remove an entry with an Address Book icon, you do not remove that entry from your Address Book — just from this list.

To add recipient to your Address Book file, select his or her entry and click Add to Address Book. The entry is created in your Address Book and a tiny Address Book icon appears next to the name in the Previous Recipients list.

Page References

Product ImageMac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide includes more information about related topics:

  • Creating Messages (including addressing messages), page 425
  • Replying to messages, page 430
  • Adding Address Book Cards, pages 241-242
  • Editing Contact Cards, page 243

How to Create a Gravatar

A few easy steps can get your custom image on gravatar-enabled blogs.

I originally wrote this article in April 2006 when I enabled my site for Gravatars. When I revised the site a few months ago, I temporarily removed Gravatar support. I’m now re-enabling it. In the meantime, Gravatar was bought out by Automattic, makers of WordPress. It seems to me that if you have a WordPress blog or comment on them, having a Gravatar and supporting the Gravatar feature would be a good idea.

That said, I reviewed this article and updated it as necessary to provide current information. Why not create your own Gravatar and see it appear on the Web sites you participate in?

If you read a lot of blogs, you’re probably already familiar with gravatars — custom images that represent certain commenters. These images are a kind of personal logo that identifies them and says something about their personality.

Here’s how gravatars work. A commenter creates an image suitable for a gravatar and uploads it to his account on The gravatar is rated using pretty much the same ratings as the movie industry: G, PG, R, and X. These ratings are used by bloggers to set limits on the kinds of gravatars that appear on their sites — a gravatar with a G rating will appear everywhere while a gravatar with an X rating may not appear on many blogs at all.

Meanwhile, a blogger (like me) sets up her blog to enable it for gravatars. Then, when a commenter submits a comment, the blog’s gravatar plugin takes the commenter’s e-mail address (submitted in the comment form) and attempts to find a match at If it finds a match, it displays the corresponding image. (The e-mail address is not used anywhere in the underlying page code.) If there’s no image on file, the plugin either displays nothing or displays a default image chosen by the blogger.

If you frequently participate in blogs by leaving comments for blog posts, you should consider creating a gravatar. Its easy and its free. Here’s how.

  1. Go to’s Signup Page.
    Sign Up at
  2. Enter your e-mail address in the box and click Signup. A message appears, telling you that an e-mail message has been sent to your account.
  3. Check your e-mail. You should find a message from Gravatar with the subject “Welcome to Gravatar.”
  4. Click the URL link in the e-mail message. Your browser opens and displays a message confirming that you have successfully activated your account.
    Enter a Password
  5. Enter a password for your account in each of the boxes that appear and click Set Password.
  6. If you want to receive a Gravatar newsletter, click the button in the next screen. Otherwise, click No Thanks.
  7. Use your favorite graphics application to create an image suitable for use as a gravatar. For best results, it should be 80×80 pixels in size and not include a border. (Keep in mind that it might be displayed at smaller sizes.)
  8. Save the image as a JPG, GIF, or PNG image with an Internet-friendly name (no spaces or weird characters).
  9. Use your Web browser to open your My Gravatars page on (You may need to log in to your account.)
    Your Gravatars
  10. Click the add a new one link.
  11. In the next screen, click My computer’s hard drive.
  12. In the next screen, click the Browse button. Then use the standard dialog that appears to locate, select and open the image file you created for your gravatar. The pathname appears in the File box.
    Upload gravatar
  13. Click the Next button. The file is uploaded and appears in the rating screen.
    Rate Your Gravatar
  14. Click the appropriate button to apply a rating to the Gravatar. Don’t lie; this is important. And remember that for maximum exposure, it’s good to create a gravatar rated G or PG.
  15. Your newly created Gravatar appears in the My Gravatars screen. Click it to select it for your e-mail address. When prompted, click the Confirm button. Here’s what it might look like when you’re finished:
    Selected Gravatar

You can repeat steps 10 through 14 to add additional images. You can then change your gravatar by simply selecting one of the new images. As you’ll see your gravatar changes globally wherever it’s used when you change it.

From that point on, your gravatar should appear whenever you post a comment to a gravatar-enabled blog — like this one.

Do you have a gravatar now? Show it off by entering a brief comment on this post.

Fixing Post By E-Mail In WordPress 2.2

And some other information you might find useful.

I finally upgraded my personal blog to the latest version of WordPress, which is version 2.2.2 (as I write this). In addition to breaking a handful of my plugins — not a big deal, since I was able to replace just about all of them with newer, better versions — it also broke WordPress’s post by e-mail feature, which we discuss on pages 64-66 of our WordPress book.

The Post by E-Mail Feature and How It Broke

If you’re not familiar with this feature, you might want to be. It’s pretty cool. It enables you to send an e-mail message to a special account you set up for WordPress to check. When WordPress finds a message there, it automatically posts the content of the message to your blog, using a predefined category that you choose. The message subject becomes the post title.

In WordPress 2.2, WordPress simply stopped seeing and importing the body of the message. As a result, you’d wind up with properly titled but otherwise empty post.

The Fix

Some research on uncovered a post which explained the problem and offered patch code for the class-pop3.php file. This file, which resides in the wp-includes folder of a WordPress server installation, is responsible for processing posts by e-mail.

I manually replaced the bad code with the new code in my file and tested the results. It worked fine.

Rather than fiddling around with code like I did, you can simply download the revised file here. UnZip it and use it to replace your current class-pop3.php file. (If you’re smart, you’ll save a copy of your current file — perhaps by renaming it right in the folder in which it resides — before replacing it.)

This file definitely works on my WordPress 2.2.2 setup. It might not work with earlier or later versions of WordPress or on your setup if it has been heavily modified, so try it at your own risk.

A Neat Trick

While I was researching the problem, I picked up a neat trick in the WordPress Codex.

If you use post by e-mail, you probably know that your e-mail messages won’t be posted unless WordPress checks for mail. As we wrote in our book (on page 66), there are at least two ways to do this: manually by opening a specific Web browser page or automatically using a plugin.

But there is another way to automate the process and it’s pretty easy for WordPress novices who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and modify a template file. Simply include the following code in your theme’s footer.php file:

This forces WordPress to check for mail every time someone loads any page on your site.

The drawback to this is that if your site is very busy, your server will be checking pretty often for e-mail messages. But it seems to me that you could include the same code on another template page that’s used less often, perhaps category.php (if present) or archive.php or page.php.

Hopefully, you’ll find this information useful. As usual, comments are welcome. Use the Comments link or form below to share your thoughts with me and other visitors.

Mail Stop Working? Here’s a Fix.

What to do if your ISP blocks Port 25.

A few months ago, I was suddenly unable to send e-mail from my computer. And I hadn’t changed a thing.

The problem wasn’t just my desktop computer. It was also my laptop and my husband’s laptop. The computers could receive e-mail. And they could access the Web. They just couldn’t send e-mail using Mail (on my Macs) or Outlook (on my husband’s PCs).

What did all of these computer have in common? They were all accessing the Internet through the same connection with the same ISP.

Information from Our ISP

A phone call cleared matters up. Our ISP had decided to block Port 25 on its server. It did this to prevent its customers from using their accounts to send massive amounts of spam. (Don’t ask me to explain how a port change can prevent this. I don’t know, mostly because I don’t need to know.) Since our e-mail client software used 25 to access the SMTP servers for our various e-mail accounts, we could no longer send mail.

Of course, if we were using the e-mail accounts provided with our Internet access on our ISP’s server, this would not have been a problem. That’s probably why they didn’t contact us to let us know we might have a problem. Either that or they simply don’t have our e-mail addresses — which is far more likely. So we learned about the ISP configuration change by it causing a problem.

Our ISP made three suggestions for a fix:

  • Use the e-mail account on the ISP’s server that came with our account. Obviously, this was not acceptable. I already have a half-dozen active e-mail accounts; what makes these people think I want to add another?
  • Use the Webmail access that might be part of our e-mail accounts on other servers. Again, this was asking for a lot. If you’ve ever been forced to use a Web-based e-mail client when you regularly use a mail application like Mail or Outlook, you know what I mean.
  • Change the port for the outgoing mail server in our mail applications. This was the answer we needed. And with a little experimentation, I found the right solution.

Making Changes in Mail

Here are the step-by step instructions if you’re using Mail on a Mac. If you’re not a Mail user, you should be able to translate these instructions for your own e-mail application — even if that app is on a Windows PC.

  1. Open Mail.
  2. Choose Mail > Preferences to open the Preferences dialog.
  3. Click the Accounts button at the top of the window to access account settings. Make sure the Account Information pane is displayed as shown here. (I told you I had a lot of e-mail addresses.)
    Editing an account
  4. Select the e-mail account you want to modify.
  5. SMTP settingsClick the Server Settings button near the bottom of the pane to display a dialog sheet of SMTP server settings (shown here).
  6. Change the Server Port value as follows:
    • For a POP server, enter 80.
    • For an IMAP server (including a .Mac account), enter 587.

    Do not change any other setting in the dialog!

  7. Click OK to save the setting and close the dialog sheet.
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 for each account you need to change. (It’ll likely be all of them.) When prompted to save changes in an account, be sure to click Save.
  9. When you are finished making changes, click the Close button in the Accounts (Preferences) window to dismiss it. Be sure to click Save if prompted to save changes for the last account you changed.

Although I’m not sure if it’s necessary, restarting Mail might be a good idea. Quit it and start it again. It should work from that point forward.

Of course, these instructions assume that there are no other changes to the system and the other settings were working and are correct. If you can’t get this to solve your problem, get on the phone with your ISP’s technical support team. (Please don’t ask me to troubleshoot your Internet connection issues!)

Oh, and please don’t attempt to hack into my server with the settings you see in the images here. I’ve modified them so they simply won’t work, even if you did manage to guess my password.

Bonus Tip

Ever have the same problem sending e-mail from your laptop when using someone else’s WiFi service, like in a hotel or cafe? It’s likely the same issue: a lockdown of port 25 on that ISP’s system. Following these steps can get around it.