Why do some Mac Mail attachments appear as icons but others don’t?

The Mac Mail app shows all attachments as icons– unless the attachment is a single-page PDF or image. For example, if you attach a Word document to an email, it shows up as an icon.

Mac Mail message with Word document attached
Mac Mail message with Word document attached

If you attach a Pages document to an email it’s the same thing: an icon.

If you attach a sound file, or a movie, or an Excel spreadsheet, or a text file, it shows up as an icon.

Mac Mail message with Sound, Movie, Excel, and Text documents attached
Mac Mail message with Sound, Movie, Excel, and Text documents attached

But… if you attach a single-page image, or a single-page PDF, you will see the attachment “in place” in the body of the Mail message (that is, it won’t be an icon– it will show the actual image). Like this:

Mac Mail message with single-page image attached
Mac Mail message with single-page image attached

The key is “single-page.” All of the standard graphics formats are single-page: JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, PSD– all single-page. Any attachment in one of those formats will display the attachment in line.

PDFs are the one tricky case because a PDF can be multi-page. The rule is, if the PDF is one page, it’s going to show up “in place,” but if it’s multi-page, it’s going to show up as an icon.

Here’s an email with a single-page PDF attached:

Mac Mail message with single-page PDF attached
Mac Mail message with single-page PDF attached

Here’s an email with a multi-page PDF attached (it’s a book):

Mac Mail message with multi-page PDF attached
Mac Mail message with multi-page PDF attached

How to make your single-page images and PDFs display as icons

If you want a single-page image attachment or a single-page PDF attachment to appear as an icon rather than “in place” just control-click on the attachment (after you’ve attached them) and choose “View as icon.”

Control-clicking on the attached image produces this menu
Control-clicking on the attached image produces this menu– if it’s a single-pager

Then your email looks like this:

Mac Mail message with single page JPEG attached, viewed as icon
Mac Mail message with single page JPEG attached, viewed as icon thanks to a control-click

(This is the Mail message we saw previously, with the deer picture in it. Now the image is an icon.)

If you change your mind just control-click on the icon and select “View in Place.”

Control-clicking on the attached image, when it's a single-page image or a single-page PDF currently displayed as an icon, produces this menu
Control-clicking on the attached image, when it’s a single-page image or a single-page PDF currently displayed as an icon, produces this menu

Note: none of this matters to the recipient. It’s all for your benefit. When you send an email you can control how it looks to YOU but you can’t control how it looks to the recipient. Some email programs are set up to show attachments as icons no matter what. Some email programs are set to show attachments “in place” if the attachment is a single page image. Some offer a choice. You, the sender, don’t control how things look to the recipient. Something to keep in mind!


Did this article help you?

Maybe you'd like to contribute to the
Christian Boyce coffee fund.




Want some some quick iPhone how-tos?
Visit me at iPhoneinaminute.com.

Looking for quick tips about Macs?
See my One-Minute Macman website!



Please use the “Sharing” buttons to share what’s interesting with your friends. It helps your friends and it helps me too. Thank you very much!

Sincerely,
Christian signature
Christian Boyce

Please Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑

Read our Privacy Policy