How to Open iPhone Email Attachments in Other Apps

Copy an attachment into a different app to edit or store it there

Paperclip on iPhone 5S
Apple Inc.
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When it comes to email attachments on the iPhone, the Mail app lets you open them, and that's about it. To edit an email attachment from your phone or to copy the file to a different app, you have to do a bit more than just tap it.

After following the directions below, and once the email attachment opens in a different app, you can do anything to the attachment that the third-party app supports. This might involve editing the photo, saving it to your cloud storage account, signing your name on the document, etc.

The steps and images shown below are relevant for iOS 12 devices, but the written directions should be applicable for older versions of iOS, too.

How to Choose Which App Opens the Attachment

Copying an attachment to an app other than Mail is as easy as "sharing" the attachment with the app you want to use.

  1. Tap the attachment located in the email. You might have to select Tap to download first.

  2. Select the share button, which is located at either the top or bottom of the screen depending on the attachment you've opened.

    Mail might preview the attachment if it knows how to read that particular file type, but if not, then tapping the attachment will immediately open the share menu, in which case you can skip down to the next step.

  3. Choose which app to copy the file to.

    Three iOS screens showing an attachment, the Share button, and Copy to Word option

    For example, the DOCX file in this image can open in Microsoft Word, and since that app is installed on this device, the Copy to Word option is available to show that you can transfer the attachment from the email into the Word app.

    To save the attachment to iCloud Drive, select Save to Files instead of any particular app.

    If this is an archive like a ZIP file that holds multiple files, you'll have to first open the ZIP attachment and then choose Preview Content to access each individual file, after which you can "share" any of those files with an external app to open them there.

    Select More next to the list of apps if you don't see the app you want to use listed there. On that screen is where you can choose which apps are in this open menu. If you're not seeing the app you want to use, it's either unable to open that file type or it's not yet installed on your iPhone.

  4. Wait while the app opens the email attachment.

Can't Pick the App You Want?

Not all apps on your device can open all file types. For example, you might have a 7Z file that holds a bunch of vacation photos, but you can't simply open the 7Z file on your phone and expect your average photo editor to know how to handle it.

If the apps you have installed on your phone aren't opening the email attachment, you need to do some research into what the format is and how to open it. It's possible that you'll need to open it on your computer first to run it through a file converter so that it ends up in a compatible format with an app on your iPhone.

However, there are lots of file opener apps on the App Store, so a quick search there should be enough to help. For example, in this case where we have photos stored in a 7Z archive, we can take advantage of the iZip iOS app.

Apps that can open a zip attachment on iOS

As you can see, iZip accepts the 7Z format, so that's why we see it listed here with other apps that can utilize the format, like Google Drive and MEGA.