Which File Types Can You View Instantly in Gmail?

Colourful Paperclips in a cirlce

Asif-Ali/Getty Images

Sending and receiving ​attachments with Gmail is very easy and it is now possible to open a variety of files without the need to download them. From Word documents and spreadsheets to Adobe PDFs and even .psd files, you can view email attachments right there in your Gmail inbox.

Attachments in Gmail's 'Standard View' vs. 'Basic View'

By default, Gmail now opens in what Google calls 'Standard View.' This is an easy to navigate and intuitive program format that allows you to use your inbox with the greatest of ease.

Along with Standard View came the ability to open attachments using Google Docs Viewer, the same in-window pop-up used on Google Drive. This is convenient since you can view a variety of document types without opening them in a separate program or downloading them to your computer's hard drive.

If you would like to revert back to the older 'Basic View' for viewing your Gmail account, you can. Simply choose Load Basic HTML in the bottom of your screen while Gmail is opening. This is nice for slower connections.

When the switch was made from the Basic to Standard views, many Gmail users found that they enjoyed viewing attachments the old way. For some, this was a better fit with their daily workflow. With Basic View, you have the ability to 'View as HTML' a variety of supported file types that may be attached to your email.

In either viewing method, Google is supporting many of the most used and popular types of attachments.

If you have to share or view a file that is not on either of these lists, try to view it using both methods. That file type may have fallen through the cracks and may actually be supported by one of these views.

Attachments Supported in Google Docs Viewer

When using Standard View in Gmail, you will find that you can easily view almost any type of attachment you receive. Google Docs Viewer will allow you to view the following file types.

The viewer also gives you options to open many of these files without opening a program on your hard drive if you need to edit them. If the file type is not compatible with one of Google Drive's programs, it will have program suggestions under the Open With... menu.

Supported Basic File Types:

  • .zip, .rar, tar, gzip - Archive files
  • MP3, MPEG, WAV, .ogg - Audio format
  • .jpeg, .jpg, .png, . gif, .bmp - Image files
  • .txt - Text files
  • WebM, .MPEG4, .3GPP, .MOV, .AVI, .MPEGPS, .WMV, .FLV, .ogg - Video files

Supported Microsoft File Types:

  • .doc and .docx - Microsoft Word documents
  • .xls and .xlsx - Microsoft Excel spread sheets
  • .ppt and .pptx - Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
  • .xps - XML Paper Specification

Supported Adobe File Types:

  • .pdf - Adobe PDF documents
  • .dxf - Autodesk AutoCad
  • .ai - Illustrator
  • .psd - Photoshop
  • .eps, .ps - Postscript
  • .svg - Scalable Vector Graphics
  • .tif, .tiff - Tagged Image File Format (works best with RGB images)
  • .ttf - TrueType

Attachment Supported for Viewing as HTML in Basic View

You will find limitations to Gmail's Basic View when it comes to the ability to view attachments as HTML. However, the following file types are supported.

When reading an email in Basic View, you will receive the option to "View as HTML." This is extremely convenient and makes copying and pasting text easy, often without any formatting problems (though you should double check it).

  • .doc and .docx - Microsoft Word documents
  • .xls and .xlsx - Microsoft Excel spread sheets
  • .ppt and .pptx - Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
  • .sxw - OpenOffice 1 / StarOffice 6/7 documents
  • .sxc - OpenOffice 1 / StarOffice 6/7 spread sheets
  • .sxi - OpenOffice 1 / StarOffice 6/7 presentations
  • .sdw - StarWriter documents
  • .sdc - StarCalc spread sheets
  • .sdd - StarImpress presentation
  • .pdf - Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) documents
  • .zip and .rar - compressed files using the formats above