How to Preview Gmail Attachments Without Leaving the Message

Save yourself a step when reviewing attached content

Finger touching enter sign on keyboard
Peter Cade / Getty Images

When someone sends you an attachment in a Gmail message, you may want to download it to your own computer. But, you don't always have to. Instead, you can preview a variety of attached content without leaving the Gmail environment.

Gmail's Attachment Preview Function

You can preview most file attachments, including images, audio files, PDFs, video clips, and so on, without taking up space on your computer. This function is handy because there are many attachments you really don't need to save. For example, if someone sends you a Word document that they want you to read, you can just preview it right there, then reply to the email without ever downloading the file.

Email attachments are also easily integrated into Google Drive, so, if you don't want the attachment taking up space on your hard drive, you can save it directly to your Google account. This function allows you to delete the email but still revisit the attachment whenever and from wherever you want.

Some file types cannot be previewed in Gmail, including ISO and RAR files.

How to Preview Gmail Attachments

  1. Open the message with the attachment you want to preview.

    Gmail message with attachment screenshot
  2. Using your pointer, hover over the attachment thumbnail, and select the attachment file name.

    Don't select any of the icons; if you do, you'll be performing actions other than previewing the attachment.

    Gmail message with attachment selected - screenshot
  3. You can now look at, read, watch, or listen to the attachment without downloading it.

    Large attachments may not preview in Gmail. If you find that you cannot preview an image, document, or video because of size, you'll be required to download it.

    Gmail message attachment in preview mode - screenshot
  4. Several options appear on the upper part of the screen. You can open the document in Google Docs or another application; save to Google Drive; print; download; show details; or open in a new window. Select the appropriate icon to perform one of these actions.

    If you have certain apps attached to your Google account, you can perform other functions as well. For example, some apps enable you to split PDF files. You can preview a PDF attachment and select the app to extract pages out of it.

  5. To return to your message, select the arrow in the upper-left portion of the preview screen.