How-To Geek

How to Set Up Firefox to Use Google Apps for Opening Everything

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Google offers a pretty comprehensive set of online applications which many of you probably take advantage of. Here is how to easily configure Firefox to use Google’s online offerings for email, RSS, PDF and office documents as your default in-browser viewer without the need for a pesky toolbar.

Gmail for Email

Firefox has the native ability to use Gmail for email. Open the Options dialog and go to the Applications tab and for the content type “mailto”, select “Use Gmail”.


Now whenever you click on a mailto email link, assuming you are logged into Gmail, a new message will be created in Gmail.



Additionally, the “Send Link” context menu command will create a new Gmail message with the current page title set as the email subject and a link to the page in the message body.



Google Reader for RSS

Like Gmail, Firefox has the native ability to use Google Reader as the default RSS reader. In the Applications tab for the content type “Web Feed”, select “Use Google”.


Once set, whenever you click on an RSS feed link, you will be presented with the option to choose whether you want to add the fees subscription to your Google homepage or Google Reader.


Google Apps for PDF and Office Documents

Unfortunately, Firefox does not natively allow you to configure Google Apps as your default viewer for PDF, DOC, XLXS, etc. files. Before covering how to configure this, you may be asking why you would want to use Google Apps when you have a PDF reader and/or MS Office/OpenOffice installed on your machine. The short answer: security.

As you may know, office files (PDF’s especially) are a popular vehicle for distributing malware. By opening these types of files you encounter on the web inside of Google Apps instead of on your local machine, you virtually eliminate the security risk.

So with the ‘why’ answered, we now move on to the ‘how’ which is essentially handled by the add-on, gViewer. Simply install this add-on and then restart Firefox.


Edit the options for gViewer.


Configure gViewer to use the respective file formats you want to open using Google Apps.


Now whenever you open one of the respective file types in your browser, you will see an information bar appear for a few seconds at the top. If you click the “Choose another application” button, you can open the document in your system’s default viewer, otherwise the document will be opened in Google Apps.


For example, clicking a PDF link on the IRS website opens the document in Google Apps. From here, if I am signed in to my Google account, I can easily add this document to my library of Google Docs.


It is important to remember that while Google Apps will open the vast majority of documents with no issue, it is not a complete replacement for local system viewers. If you are trying to open a PDF or Word document which utilizes complex functionality, these may not open successfully in their Google Apps equivalent.


Download gViewer Firefox Add-on

Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

  • Published 04/20/11

Comments (16)

  1. hopbest

    “”Now whenever you click on a mailto email link, assuming you are logged into Gmail, a new message will be created in Gmail. “”

    Ques:- After setting mailto to gmail where to click on the mailto email link ?

  2. Jason Faulkner

    @hopbest – after making the setting change, anytime you come to a clickable email link in FF (which uses the HTML standard “mailto” tag), it will open a new Gmail message to the specified recipient.

  3. Anomaly

    What skin is that you’re using on FF4?

  4. Jason Faulkner

    @Anomaly – no theme, the screenshots were taken with Aero enabled and my background is the NASA Spacescapes theme (

  5. Anomaly


    Hmm, I also have Aero enabled but only the title bar area takes on the back ground color. All your toolbars seem to do it. Why is that?

  6. Jason Faulkner

    @Anomaly – I’m not sure. I don’t have anything special on my installation… it is an out of the box install of FF4 with some of the elements just rearranged via standard customization.

  7. joseantonio

    @Anomaly- here at htg have this article about FF4 customization:

  8. Anomaly

    @joseantonio- I have read that article before but it doesn’t explain what I was asking Jason about.

  9. TJ Fadness

    @Anomaly – He achieves this effect by having his tabs *not* on top. Just right click on somewhere other than the tab bar/bookmarks bar/address bar and uncheck “Tabs on Top” to get his effect, and if their position annoys you I’m sure you could find a theme somewhere that gets that for you.

    As for his smaller buttons, right click in the correct spot again and go to Customize, then check the box that asks if you want to use smaller icons on the bottom.

  10. Anomaly

    @TJ Fadness- That was it. Tabs on top changes the way Aero works on FF4.

  11. sVen

    @hopbest … Additionally, right-click on any blank area, and in the context menu, you will see “send link”.

  12. JC

    just got a question. downloaded and installed gViewer on my firefox and enabled all the file extensions in the options. how come everytime i open pdf documents it still opens using adobe reader? is there something that I might have missed? something in options? thanks!

  13. Jason Faulkner

    @JC – Try this: under Options > Applications > PDF Files, change it to Always Ask and then restart Firefox.

  14. JC

    Hi, I checked under Options > Applications > PDF Files and found that my settings is set to Always Ask, but I still can’t open pdf documents using google apps, it still opens using adobe. is there any other settings that I might have missed? thanks.

  15. Jason Faulkner

    @JC – One thing I noticed is if a PDF is generated via a javascript link (most banks generate statements this way), FF will download the PDF in your default reader.
    However, if a PDF is linked to directly (i.e. a restaurant menu), it will open in Google Docs like the article points out.

  16. imran

    i am good ,man

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