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How to Open Email Attachments in Android Mail App

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path by rating it at the end.

Introduction

Many times, important documents are sent via email as an attachment, rather than a link or as the text of an email itself. This guide will help you understand how to identify an attachment in the Mac Mail program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
GMail Attachments

1 Opening Attachments in GMail

Most of the time, you will want to just open the attachment directly. If you wish to save the attachment, expand the section below for more detailed instructions.

Your Android tablet or phone is capable of a great deal, but it does not have access to the same programs as your desktop or laptop computer.

You will be limited on the kinds of attachments you can open on your device.
GmailOpening an Attachment
  1. Select a message with an attachment, then select the file shown in the message itself.
    Android Gmail with message highlighted, arrow indicating opening the message, and attachment in the message highlighted.
  2. The attachment will open automatically using the preview app, or another you may have on your Android device for that specific file type.
    Preview showing attachment open.
GmailSaving an Attachment
  1. Select a message with an attachment, then select the Download File icon below the attachment.
    Opening a message, with download icon highlighted for attachment.
    The file will be saved to the "Downloads" section on your Android device.

2 Common Attachment Problems

There are two common problems people encounter when it comes, and both tend to be simple human error. Understanding these problems can help when working with the sender to resolve them quickly.

Message References A Non-Existent Attachment

People often send messages quickly, without thinking, and while they meant to attach a file, forgot to, but still refer to it in the email. It can be confusing what's going on because of this. Gmail makes it fairly easy to recognize, if you know what you're looking for.

Email referencing attachment that doesn't show up

In the above image, the text says there's an attachment, but it doesn't appear. That's because the sender didn't attach anything in the first place; a simple human error. You can tell because there's no file blocks below the message.

The best solution is to reply to the mail, and let the sender know they accidently forgot to include the attachment, and to ask them to re-send it.

No Program to Open Attachment

Another common issue is people will send you a message in a format or type that you cannot open, because your computer lacks the program to do so.

Unable to preview file error.

If you open an attachment, and see a message stating you're unable to preview the file, it means you don't have the exact app needed to look at the contents of that file. It is possible to search the Internet, the Play Store, and other places to attempt to determine exactly what kind of file it is, then figure out some program that will allow you to open it. The problem is that is a lot of guess-work on your part often times, and, again, usually can be solved much more simply by speaking with the person who sent you the message in the first place.

While it used to be true that you'd need to do the 'leg work' on this, that's really not the case anymore. Most document programs can easily create a PDF, or Portable Document Format of the file, that can be opened easily on your Android device directly. Most image programs can export, or save the file in an easier format for everyone to understand, such as PNG or JPG. All of these options are a lot easier than spending hours trying to figure out what you've been sent, but they rely on you talking to the person who sent you the document.

Reply to the message, and let the sender know they sent the document in a format you can't use. Ask them to export it in a more-accessible format; this is quick and easy for the vast majority of software out there.

If they're unable to save the file and re-send it in a different format, the sender will know what program they used to make the file in the first place, and tell you so you can download or purchase the appropriate program.

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Many times, important documents are sent via email as an attachment, rather than a link or as the text of an email itself. This guide will help you understand how to identify an attachment in the Mac Mail program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
GMail Attachments

Most of the time, you will want to just open the attachment directly. If you wish to save the attachment, expand the section below for more detailed instructions.

Your Android tablet or phone is capable of a great deal, but it does not have access to the same programs as your desktop or laptop computer.

You will be limited on the kinds of attachments you can open on your device.
GmailOpening an Attachment
  1. Select a message with an attachment, then select the file shown in the message itself.
    Android Gmail with message highlighted, arrow indicating opening the message, and attachment in the message highlighted.
  2. The attachment will open automatically using the preview app, or another you may have on your Android device for that specific file type.
    Preview showing attachment open.
GmailSaving an Attachment
  1. Select a message with an attachment, then select the Download File icon below the attachment.
    Opening a message, with download icon highlighted for attachment.
    The file will be saved to the "Downloads" section on your Android device.

There are two common problems people encounter when it comes, and both tend to be simple human error. Understanding these problems can help when working with the sender to resolve them quickly.

Message References A Non-Existent Attachment

People often send messages quickly, without thinking, and while they meant to attach a file, forgot to, but still refer to it in the email. It can be confusing what's going on because of this. Gmail makes it fairly easy to recognize, if you know what you're looking for.

Email referencing attachment that doesn't show up

In the above image, the text says there's an attachment, but it doesn't appear. That's because the sender didn't attach anything in the first place; a simple human error. You can tell because there's no file blocks below the message.

The best solution is to reply to the mail, and let the sender know they accidently forgot to include the attachment, and to ask them to re-send it.

No Program to Open Attachment

Another common issue is people will send you a message in a format or type that you cannot open, because your computer lacks the program to do so.

Unable to preview file error.

If you open an attachment, and see a message stating you're unable to preview the file, it means you don't have the exact app needed to look at the contents of that file. It is possible to search the Internet, the Play Store, and other places to attempt to determine exactly what kind of file it is, then figure out some program that will allow you to open it. The problem is that is a lot of guess-work on your part often times, and, again, usually can be solved much more simply by speaking with the person who sent you the message in the first place.

While it used to be true that you'd need to do the 'leg work' on this, that's really not the case anymore. Most document programs can easily create a PDF, or Portable Document Format of the file, that can be opened easily on your Android device directly. Most image programs can export, or save the file in an easier format for everyone to understand, such as PNG or JPG. All of these options are a lot easier than spending hours trying to figure out what you've been sent, but they rely on you talking to the person who sent you the document.

Reply to the message, and let the sender know they sent the document in a format you can't use. Ask them to export it in a more-accessible format; this is quick and easy for the vast majority of software out there.

If they're unable to save the file and re-send it in a different format, the sender will know what program they used to make the file in the first place, and tell you so you can download or purchase the appropriate program.