Set Up a Gmail Account Using the Mac's Mail Application

Access Your Gmail Account Without Using a Web Browser

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Google’s Gmail is a popular and free web-based email service that has a lot going for it. Its basic requirements are an Internet connection and a supported browser such as Safari. With just about all of the popular browsers being on the supported list, Gmail is a natural choice for many, especially those of us who travel a great deal and never know where we'll have the opportunity to connect and grab our messages.

I don’t mind Gmail’s web-based interface when I’m mobile. I can use any computing device, even a computer at the business I'm visiting, or one in a library or coffee shop. But when it comes to using Gmail at home or on my MacBook, I don’t use a web browser for access. Instead, I use Apple’s Mail client (included with OS X), where I've set up Gmail as just another email address to check. Using a single application, in this case Mail, lets you keep all of your email messages organized in one app.

Gmail and Apple Mail

The concept of creating a Gmail account in Apple Mail is simple enough. Gmail makes use of mostly standard mail protocols, and Apple Mail supports the same methods of communicating with the Gmail servers. You should be able to add a Gmail account the same way as you'd add any POP or IMAP account you're currently using.

For the most part, this easy way of creating a Gmail account holds up, although over the years, Apple and Google have seemed to try to make the job a bit difficult.

Some users point to Google using private protocols in addition to the standard ones, ensuring that Gmail is best used with Google’s own browser, and others point to Apple, saying that it's not keeping up with the direction email is heading.

For the most part, those minor annoyances have been worked out.

Most versions of OS X even have an automated system to create Gmail accounts for you.

You can create a Gmail account either directly in Mail, or from System Preferences. The System Preferences option is a handy way to keep all of your social media, as well as your email accounts, together, so you can easily make changes that are automatically reflected in any OS X app that makes use of them. For this reason, we're going to use the preference pane method to create our Gmail account. By the way, the two methods, Mail and System Preferences, are nearly identical to perform, and end up creating the same data in both Mail and System Preferences. The Gmail account will make use of IMAP, since Google recommends IMAP over POP.

Setting Up Gmail in OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite, or OS X Mavericks

The processes of setting up a Google account in OS X El Capitan and OS X Yosemite are extremely similar, so similar that we combined them; just be sure to follow the correct call-out in the instructions.

  1. Launch System Preferences, by clicking its icon in the Dock, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Select the Internet Accounts preference pane.
  3. In the Internet Accounts pane, you'll find a list of email and social media account types that OS X knows how to work with. Select the Google icon in the right-hand pane.
  1. A sheet will open for you to enter your Google account information.

    In OS X El Capitan:

    • Enter your Google account name (email address), and then click the Next button.
    • Enter your Google account password, and then click the Next button.

    In OS X Yosemite and OS X Mavericks:

    • Enter your Google account name (email address) and password, and then click Set Up.
  2. The drop-down sheet will change to display a list of apps on your Mac that can make use of your Google account. Place a checkmark next to Mail (as well as any other app you wish to allow to use your Google account information), and then click Done.

Your Google email account will automatically be set up in Mail.

Setting Up Gmail in OS X Mountain Lion and OS X Lion

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking on its Dock icon, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Select the Mail, Contacts & Calendars preference pane.
  3. In the Mail, Contacts & Calendars preference pane, select Gmail from the right-hand pane.
  4. Enter your Gmail email address and password, and then click Set Up.
  5. The drop-down sheet will then display a list of apps on your Mac that can make use of your Gmail account. Place a checkmark next to Mail (as well as any other app you wish to allow to use your Gmail account information), and then click Add Accounts.

If You Use Older Versions of OS X

If you're using a version of OS X older than Lion, you can still set up Mail to access your Gmail account, you just need to do so from within the Mail app, instead of from System Preferences.

  1. Launch Mail, and then from Mail's File menu, select Add Account.
  2. The Add Account guide will appear.
  3. Enter your Gmail email address and password.
  4. Mail will recognize the Gmail address and offer to automatically set up the account.
  5. Place a checkmark in the ‘Automatically set up the account’ box.
  6. Click the Create button.

That’s all there is to it; Mail is ready to grab your Gmail.

Manually Set Up Mail for a Gmail Account

Very old versions of Mail (2.x and earlier) didn't have an automated method for setting up a Gmail account.

You can still create a Gmail account in Mail, but you'll need to set up the account manually, just as you would any other IMAP-based email account. Here are the settings and information you'll need:

  • Account type: Select IMAP.
  • Email address: gmailusername@gmail.com
  • Password: Enter your Gmail password.
  • User name: Your Gmail address without the @gmail.com
  • Incoming Mail Server: imap.gmail.com
  • Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP): smtp.gmail.com

Once you supply the above information, Mail should be able to access your Gmail account.