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How to Open Email Attachments in Microsoft Outlook

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 Microsoft Outlook program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
Outlook logo

1 Opening Attachments in Outlook

Outlook accepts a wide variety of different file types, but blocks potentially unsafe attachments (including .bat, .exe, .vbs, and .js files) that can contain viruses. Even with Outlook attachment protection, be careful in opening any attachment, especially if it’s from someone that you don’t know or trust. When in doubt, confirm the authenticity of the attachment with the sender. Also, keep your computer antivirus software up to date.

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.

Outlook iconOpening an Attachment
  1. In your message pane, an email message with an attachment has a paperclip symbol next to it.
    Attachment Paperclip.
  2. Select a message with an attachment.
    A message with the attachment
  3. Double-click the attachment and it will open automatically using the appropriate program on your computer. You can then view, edit, or print the document.
    Clicking the icon
Outlook iconSaving an Attachment
  1. In your message pane, an email message with an attachment has a paperclip symbol next to it.
    Attachment Paperclip.
  2. Using your right mouse button, right click on the attachment and select Save as.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    The save menu
  3. Save the file where you prefer, so you can access it at a later time.
    Saving an attachment.

2 Common Attachment Problems

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

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.

How do you want to open this file message with Windows Mail in the background.

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 Microsoft 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 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 the Microsoft Outlook program, how to open them, and some common issues you may encounter when working with attachments.
Outlook logo

Outlook accepts a wide variety of different file types, but blocks potentially unsafe attachments (including .bat, .exe, .vbs, and .js files) that can contain viruses. Even with Outlook attachment protection, be careful in opening any attachment, especially if it’s from someone that you don’t know or trust. When in doubt, confirm the authenticity of the attachment with the sender. Also, keep your computer antivirus software up to date.

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.

Outlook iconOpening an Attachment
  1. In your message pane, an email message with an attachment has a paperclip symbol next to it.
    Attachment Paperclip.
  2. Select a message with an attachment.
    A message with the attachment
  3. Double-click the attachment and it will open automatically using the appropriate program on your computer. You can then view, edit, or print the document.
    Clicking the icon
Outlook iconSaving an Attachment
  1. In your message pane, an email message with an attachment has a paperclip symbol next to it.
    Attachment Paperclip.
  2. Using your right mouse button, right click on the attachment and select Save as.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    The save menu
  3. Save the file where you prefer, so you can access it at a later time.
    Saving an attachment.

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

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.

How do you want to open this file message with Windows Mail in the background.

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 Microsoft 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 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.