A close look at Gmail's new Google Drive integration for attachments

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 13, 2013
Updated • Nov 13, 2013
Email, Gmail

If you are using a web mail service such as Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo Mail, you have probably come up with your own way on how to deal with email attachments.

Most users are probably downloading them to their computer so that they can open them after the download has finished.

Some email services have begun to add viewing options for select file types, pdf documents, Excel spreadsheets and images directly to their applications to improve the usability for the user.

While that is great for taking a quick look or even printing documents right away, it does not really take care of the distribution issue.

Some users may prefer to keep the attachments on Gmail, as they have access to an Internet connection wherever they go. Others may prefer to download the attachments to the local system, for safe keeping and offline access.

Google Drive Gmail integration

Google announced yesterday that it has improved the integration of Google Drive, the company's file synchronization and document managing platform, in Gmail.

The core change here is that you can now view and save attachments directly to Google Drive, without ever leaving Gmail in the process.

Viewing is only available for supported file types, while saving is available for all of them.

view attachments right in gmail

Depending on the type of attachment, up to three options are available on how to deal with them:

  1. Open them for viewing on Gmail. You just have to click on the attachment for that. The document or file is opened in a screen overlay. If things go wrong, you get "Sorry an error has occurred instead" and an open with and download option at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Download will download the selected attachment to your local system.
  3. Save to drive will save it to Google Drive instead. If you select the option, the folder view of the linked Google Drive account is displayed giving you the opportunity to select a folder where you want the file to be saved to. Once you have selected that option, clicking again on the icon will take you to Google Drive automatically. The page is opened in a new tab and the attachment is selected automatically so that you can work with it right there.

About the error to preview files: If the attachment is displaying contents, then the preview will work fine on Gmail. If it is displaying a generic image instead, then it won't work and you will run into the "sorry" error message. The screenshot above shows a generic image, while the screenshot below shows how attachments look like that you can preview on Gmail.

gmail attachment previews

If you have received multiple attachments in an email, you can use the buttons on the top right to download them all to the computer, or save them all to Google Drive.

Benefits of Google Drive

  1. Attachments that you save to Google Drive are accessible from any device that you can use to sign in to Google Drive or use a Google Drive app on.
  2. The files may get synced automatically to all of your devices, so that you do not have to download them separately or download them and move them to a file synchronization folder to spread them to other devices.
  3. You can view select document formats and media right on Gmail without ever leaving the page. Great for quickly browsing a document or taking a sneak peak at an image or media file.
  4. Files are saved to Google Drive without you wasting any bandwidth on the computer you are working on.


There are not any disadvantages, as you can still download the files to your local system just like before.

The new integration is currently being rolled out, which means that it may not be enabled for your Gmail account yet.

The new feature set is definitely useful for Gmail users who prefer to use the web client instead of a desktop email program. What's your take on the new integration? Let me know in the comment section below.

Now Read: Tools and tips that make you a Gmail Pro


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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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