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How to Open Email Attachments in Browser Webmail

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 your webmail, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
Webmail Attachments
Each and every webmail provider is different. This guide will focus on two providers, Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook.com.

There are common features to almost all webmail providers, and this guide will help you identify them.

1 Opening Attachments in Webmail

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.

WebmailOpening an Attachment
  1. Look for the attachment to be represented by a paperclip or small message tile near the message itself in your list of email.
    Gmail
    Gmail message list with attachment tile highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message list with paperclip highlighted.
  2. Open the attachment in the message by clicking on the tile for the attachment in the message itself.
    Gmail
    Gmail message open with attachment highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message pane with attachment highlighted.
  3. The attachment will open either using a program on your computer, or in the built-in file viewer.
    Gmail
    Gmail showing file open.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook showing file open.
WebmailSaving an Attachment
  1. Look for the attachment to be represented by a paperclip or small message tile near the message itself in your list of email.
    Gmail
    Gmail message list with attachment tile highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message list with paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select the download arrow for the file.
    Gmail
    Gmail attachment download arrow highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com attachment with download arrow highlighted.
  3. Save the file where you prefer, so you can access it at a later time.

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. Most webmail providers will not show a file tile or paperclip if there's not an attachment.

Gmail
Gmail message without attachment highlighting where file tile would be located.
Outlook.com
Outlook.com message without attachment highlighting where paperclip and file tile would be.

In the above images, ther 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 paperclip icon next to the mail message on the left, and there's no file blocks above the message on the right.

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.

Gmail
Gmail no preview available.
Outlook.com
Outlook.com prompting to save file.

If you open an attachment, and see a box asking how you want to open a file, it means you don't have the exact program needed to look at the contents of that file. It is possible to search the Internet, the built-in Store for your device, 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 by Windows 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 your webmail, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
Webmail Attachments
Each and every webmail provider is different. This guide will focus on two providers, Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook.com.

There are common features to almost all webmail providers, and this guide will help you identify them.

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.

WebmailOpening an Attachment
  1. Look for the attachment to be represented by a paperclip or small message tile near the message itself in your list of email.
    Gmail
    Gmail message list with attachment tile highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message list with paperclip highlighted.
  2. Open the attachment in the message by clicking on the tile for the attachment in the message itself.
    Gmail
    Gmail message open with attachment highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message pane with attachment highlighted.
  3. The attachment will open either using a program on your computer, or in the built-in file viewer.
    Gmail
    Gmail showing file open.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook showing file open.
WebmailSaving an Attachment
  1. Look for the attachment to be represented by a paperclip or small message tile near the message itself in your list of email.
    Gmail
    Gmail message list with attachment tile highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com message list with paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select the download arrow for the file.
    Gmail
    Gmail attachment download arrow highlighted.
    Outlook.com
    Outlook.com attachment with download arrow highlighted.
  3. Save the file where you prefer, so you can access it at a later time.

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. Most webmail providers will not show a file tile or paperclip if there's not an attachment.

Gmail
Gmail message without attachment highlighting where file tile would be located.
Outlook.com
Outlook.com message without attachment highlighting where paperclip and file tile would be.

In the above images, ther 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 paperclip icon next to the mail message on the left, and there's no file blocks above the message on the right.

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.

Gmail
Gmail no preview available.
Outlook.com
Outlook.com prompting to save file.

If you open an attachment, and see a box asking how you want to open a file, it means you don't have the exact program needed to look at the contents of that file. It is possible to search the Internet, the built-in Store for your device, 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 by Windows 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.