Where Attachments Opened from Mac OS X Mail Are Stored

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You can find and open the folder where OS X Mail stores attachments as it downloads them for opening.

Are Changes Made to Files Opened from Mac OS X Mail Lost?

When you open an attached file from Apple's Mac OS X Mail, the appropriate application pops up, ready for viewing or editing even.

If you do edit the file and faithfully save it, where are the changes you made? The email still contains the original attachment, and opening it again brings up the unedited document.

Fortunately, your changes are not lost.

Where Attachments Opened from Mac OS X Mail Are Stored

When you open an attachment from Mac OS X Mail, a copy is placed in the "Mail Downloads" folder by default. To find that folder's common location:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Press Command-Shift-G.
    • ​You can also select Go | Go to Folder… from the menu.
  3. Type "~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Mail Downloads/" (not including the quotation marks).
  4. Click Go.

Files you have opened in Mail will be in randomly named sub-folders. You can arrange them by creation date, for example, to find the most recently opened file fast:

  1. Click the Perform tasks with the selected items gear icon in the Finder window's toolbar.
  2. Select Arrange By | Date Created from the menu that has appeared.

To return to a view that is not sorted, you can select Arrange By | None from the gear icon menu.

Of course, you can also sort without grouping:

  1. Make sure list view is enabled in Finder for the "Mail Downloads" folder.
    • Select View | As List from the menu, for example, or press Command-2.
  2. If you do not see a Date Created column:
    1. Click on any column header in the Finder window.
    2. Select Date Created from the context menu that has shown.
  3. Click the Date Created column header to sort by creation date.
    • ​Click again to reverse the sort order.
    • Date Modified might be another useful column to find edited email attachments.

    Where Attachments Opened from Mac OS X 2 and 3 Mail Are Stored

    When you open an attachment from Mac OS X Mail, a copy is placed in the "Mail Downloads" folder,

    • Home/Library/Mail Downloads, or
    • the system "Downloads" folder

    by default. You will find the edited document in this folder.

    Make Mac OS X Mail Store Attachments on the Desktop

    If you want to keep track of files opened from Mail more tightly, you can change the folder used to save attachments and downloads, to your Desktop for example.

    • Select Mail | Preferences... from the menu.
    • Go to the General category.
    • Select the desired folder under Downloads folder: (or Downloads Folder:).

    Mail Manages the Files Automatically

    Mail will never delete a file you opened, edited and saved. It will, however, remove any files associated with deleted messages. You can prevent this by changing the setting under Remove unedited downloads: to Never.

    (Updated May 2016, tested with Mac OS X Mail 2 and 3 as well as OS X Mail 9)