How to Preview Gmail Attachments Without Leaving the Message

Save yourself a step when reviewing attached content

What to Know

  • To preview, open the message with an attachment. Hover the mouse over the attachment thumbnail and then select the file name.
  • A large attachment may not preview in Gmail. You have to download it to view it.

This article explains how to preview Gmail attachments without leaving a message. Instructions apply to most current web browsers.

How to Preview Gmail Attachments

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

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

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

  1. Open the message that contains the attachment you want to preview.

    Gmail message with attachment
  2. Using the mouse pointer, hover over the attachment thumbnail, then select the attachment file name.

    Don't select any of the icons. If you do, you'll perform actions other than previewing the attachment.

    Gmail with the name of an attachment highlighted
  3. You can now view, read, watch, or listen to the attachment without downloading it.

    Large attachments may not preview in Gmail. If you can't preview an image, document, or video because of size, you'll need to download it.

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

    A previewed attachment in Gmail with the options highlighted
  5. If you have certain apps attached to your Google account, you can perform other functions. 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.

  6. To return to the message, select the arrow in the upper-left corner of the preview screen.

    An attachment preview in Gmail with the back arrow highlighted
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