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How to Open Email Attachments in iPhone Mail App

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
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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 iOS Mail program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
iOS Mail Attachments

1 Opening Attachments in iOS Mail

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.

iOS MailOpening an Attachment
  1. An email message with an attachment will show a paperclip icon on the message list, next to the subject.
    Attachments paperclip
    iOS Mail showing message with attachment, paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select a message with an attachment, then select the file where it says Tap to Download in the message itself.
    iOS Mail message with attachment highlighted.
  3. The attachment will open showing you the contents.
    Preview showing PDF document.
iOS MailSaving an Attachment
  1. An email message with an attachment will show a paperclip icon on the first line, next to the subject.
    Attachments paperclip
    iOS Mail showing message with attachment, paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select a message with an attachment, then tap and hold where it says Tap to Download in the message itself.
    iOS Mail message with attachment highlighted.
  3. A share drawer will open, select Save to Files. The file will be saved to your iCloud account.
    Share drawer with Save to Files highlighted.
    iOS does not offer traditional places to save files. You can only save to iCloud or other file services online.

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. Mail makes it fairly easy to recognize, if you know what you're looking for.

Attachment Missing in iOS mail.

In the above image, 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 device lacks the program to do so.

Attachment opening share window.

If you open an attachment, and see the file share drawer, 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 App 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 by iOS 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 iOS Mail program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
iOS Mail 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.

iOS MailOpening an Attachment
  1. An email message with an attachment will show a paperclip icon on the message list, next to the subject.
    Attachments paperclip
    iOS Mail showing message with attachment, paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select a message with an attachment, then select the file where it says Tap to Download in the message itself.
    iOS Mail message with attachment highlighted.
  3. The attachment will open showing you the contents.
    Preview showing PDF document.
iOS MailSaving an Attachment
  1. An email message with an attachment will show a paperclip icon on the first line, next to the subject.
    Attachments paperclip
    iOS Mail showing message with attachment, paperclip highlighted.
  2. Select a message with an attachment, then tap and hold where it says Tap to Download in the message itself.
    iOS Mail message with attachment highlighted.
  3. A share drawer will open, select Save to Files. The file will be saved to your iCloud account.
    Share drawer with Save to Files highlighted.
    iOS does not offer traditional places to save files. You can only save to iCloud or other file services online.

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. Mail makes it fairly easy to recognize, if you know what you're looking for.

Attachment Missing in iOS mail.

In the above image, 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 device lacks the program to do so.

Attachment opening share window.

If you open an attachment, and see the file share drawer, 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 App 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 by iOS 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.