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How to View Attachments Instantly in Gmail

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A man seated at a table, using a laptop computer.
Mint Images - Tim Robbins/Mint Images RF/Getty Images
After you have successfully received a file as an attachment in Gmail, there are still at least two hurdles to be taken before you can view its contents.

Attached Files Without the Download, Any Download

Firstly, you have to download the file to your computer. Secondly, you need to have the right software installed that allows you to open the file. Neither hurdle is difficult to take — under normal circumstances. But being the fearless explorers as which we were born, we like to take not only ourselves but also our Gmail email to the limit: accessed wirelessly using a device that can show but a few lines and certainly does not know how to display a PowerPoint presentation.

Fortunately, Gmail knows how. Gmail knows how to turn many file formats into plain HTML pages, the same stuff that Gmail itself is made of. If your device can access Gmail, it can render Gmail's interpretation of these attachments. Often, a quick peek at a document through Gmail's View as HTML interface is not only faster but also enough even if appropriate viewer software is available.

View Attachments Instantly in Gmail

To open attached files instantly in your browser in Gmail:

  • Open the message containing the attachment.
  • At the bottom of the message, follow the View link under the desired file.
  • Close the browser window showing the attachment to return to the message.

Gmail's View as HTML Does Not Show Images

Note that inline images will not be displayed in Gmail's HTML rendition of attachments.

(Updated December 2011)

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