Apple Mail Attachment View

How To… Change The Way PDFs Are Shown In Apple Mail

by John Carroll on November 25, 2013

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In Apple Mail, attachments display their contents. If you attach a PDF or JPEG image, you actually see the document or picture.

This has zero impact on compatibility of your attachments. It’s just a display choice.

Apple Mail - Viewing Attachments

Still… if you come from a PC background this can be a tad disconcerting.

PC Mail clients like Microsoft Entourage or Outlook, display attachments as small icons.

The good news… is that the Mac can do this too.

Changing An Email Attachment From View In Place To View As Icon

  • Open Apple Mail.
  • Create a New Message.
  • Click in the body of the message.
  • Click the Attachment icon in the Toolbar. It’s on the right-hand side and shaped like a paperclip.
  • Navigate to the PDF or image you want to attach.
  • Select your file and click Choose File.
  • You can now see the PDF or image in the email. This what is know as “View In Place.”

Apple Mail - Viewing Attachments - View In Place

  • Right-click or Control-click on the file and a drop-down menu appears. Choose View As Icon.

Apple Mail - Viewing Attachments - Options Menu

  • The attachments turn into icons.

Apple Mail - Viewing Attachments - View As Icon

If you’d like to change them back, just right-click or Control-click and select View in Place from the menu.

This works on an email by email basis.

If you’d like to change how attachments are displayed in all emails, things get a little more complex.

Only use this option if you’re comfortable using Terminal. Even if you are… be careful. Mistakes here can really mess-up your Mac.

How To Change All Email Attachments To View As Icon

  • Open Terminal
  • Run the following: defaults write DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -bool yes
  • Press Return.
  • Quit Mail then Relaunch it.

To reverse the process, follow the same procedure, but run the command: defaults write DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -bool no

No Problem Mac is not responsible for your data. Please remember to backup your data before running Terminal commands. Use at your own risk.

If you’d like more information related to this area, check out the following posts:

How To… Save A Document On Your Mac As A PDF File

How To… Mark-Up A PDF Using Preview

Core Mac Concepts – Changing The Default App That Opens A File

Have a fantastic, yet thrifty weekend.

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How To… Change The Way PDFs Are Shown In Apple Mail was last modified: March 6th, 2016 by John Carroll
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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar 1 Judy January 25, 2019 at 10:56 am

The problem is on the receiving end. Attached Jpgs and l page pdfs will always be received as viewable in-line images. A multipage pdf will only show as an icon. In High Sierra, I put files into a folder and then attach the folder. Word and Excel files show up as icons.


Avatar 2 Ellen November 28, 2018 at 2:15 am

OK, so how do you get the email to print without expanding the PDF to a viewable page? When I try to print, it automatically expands the attachments.

Also, even if I choose “view as icon”, if I close and open that email again, it reverts to viewable page.



John Carroll 3 John Carroll November 28, 2018 at 5:53 am

Hi Ellen

I looks like you can only change the View, but not how that email is printed. The only way around this is to forward the email to yourself without attachments, but I imagine this is a less than perfect solution. – John


Avatar 4 Jason K November 13, 2018 at 7:07 pm

John, how about us guys who don’t reside in Los Angeles, I’m on East Coast but would love your assistance. Although a Mac user all my life (really long) I am still in the dark with so many things. Gladly pay your fee what ever it is and I will call you at a specific time of your choosing,day or night? What do you say? PLease help me…


John Carroll 5 John Carroll November 13, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Hi Jason – I actually do work with folks across the country and even in other countries. Shoot me an email with your phone number and a good time to call and I’ll get in touch. All the best – John –


Avatar 6 Sue October 23, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Thanks! This worked great… the person I was emailing asked for an attachment… even though it was one already. He wanted the icon evidently.
BTW, I’m on 10.13.6 High Sierra. I noticed someone said it doesn’t work on it… no problem here.


John Carroll 7 John Carroll November 13, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Thanks for the info Sue – John


Avatar 8 Diane Dunn June 26, 2018 at 9:49 am

Thanks for this info – this has been driving me nuts


Avatar 9 Gohar March 28, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Saw a hundred blogs for permanent solution, But Bam!
First time ever searching solutions on net worked out!
So grateful to your Terminal Thing solution.

Used The Command and now files are permanently shown to me and my end Mail user as Icons. Thanks alot John!


Avatar 10 binrob February 7, 2019 at 11:46 pm

I have placed the code in Terminal to permanently change attachments to icon view only and it doesn’t work, no matter how I try. I have restarted my computer, quit and restarted mac mail, but still my single page pdf’s show up as in line view.

Not sure what to do….


John Carroll 11 John Carroll February 8, 2019 at 1:19 pm

I would go online and search for a solution – terminal or otherwise – that will work with your version of macOS. If that isn’t it, you may need to reinstall the operating system, but for such a small thing it would seem like a drastic solution. – John


Avatar 12 Jeff March 21, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Hi John, Thanks the sending part worked great but the person who is recieving my email is still getting attachments in open view format. Is there a way to send so that they receive my attachments in icon format?



John Carroll 13 John Carroll March 22, 2018 at 4:21 am

Hi Jeff – Unfortunately, not that I’m aware of. If anyone has different information, please post. Thanks a million. – John


Avatar 14 Carlos January 26, 2018 at 10:51 pm


Your instructions only work with Jpeg! It doesnt work with my pdf file that has multiple pages?

Any ideas?



John Carroll 15 John Carroll March 3, 2018 at 11:47 am

I haven’t found that. Maybe someone else here has and can solve the problem. – John


Avatar 16 Miranda December 14, 2017 at 2:40 am

Thank you John! Your clear, easy to follow instructions saved the day! I had a pdf that had to send as an icon, not as “in place”. Your site is now bookmarked 🙂
Cheers, Miranda


Avatar 17 Jeremy November 16, 2017 at 10:54 pm

I entered the command into Terminal and it works for me when I am sending an email, but I would like to know if there is a setting for an email I received.

It is easier for me to select multiple attachments to click and drag if they are set to view as icon. Thank for these instructions. It is a lot cleaner when I am sending emails.


John Carroll 18 John Carroll November 22, 2017 at 2:06 am

There is no setting that I am aware of. I would Google for an answer, but be careful what you do in Terminal. It’s not a place to experiment. – John


Avatar 19 Neil November 15, 2017 at 9:15 pm

This seems to be no longer true. What I see in macOS High Sierra is open attachment, quick look attachment, etc.
View as icon is not visible in this list


John Carroll 20 John Carroll November 22, 2017 at 2:04 am

This is an issue in High Sierra. Hopefully it will be addressed in an update. – John


Avatar 21 Lev November 14, 2017 at 2:00 am

Hi John,

I’ve installed the latest upgrade on my MAC and it is now not putting in the PDF in the body of the e-mail as an icon. When I right click it states none of the options you have listed, do you mind if I send you a screenshot?

I’ve never had this issue before!



John Carroll 22 John Carroll November 22, 2017 at 2:04 am

Hi Lev – This is an issue in High Sierra. Hopefully it will be addressed in an update. – John


Avatar 23 Jorie September 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

As a writer of of many one-page manuscripts, I need to be sure that recipients are receiving icons. It is paramount that manuscripts not be viewed until the receiver (often my publisher) is in a frame of mind to read it — sneak peeks end badly before coffee.

I want my one page pdf to appear as an icon on emails in mail for mac, so I used the command in Terminal suggested here. It works, recipients are receiving the pdf as an icon. HOWEVER, when I send a copy of this same email to myself — for my records and peace of mind — the pdf is again embedded in the body rather than as an icon! This gives me no peace of mind and no way of knowing what the recipient received without asking them.

Is there a way to fix this problem?

thanks for help,


John Carroll 24 John Carroll September 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Hi Jorie – Unfortunately the only information I could find is about an App called Attachment Tamer, but it looks as if development may have stalled indefinitely. Here’s the link – You could always compress your PDFs into Zip files. These would always show as an icon, but that’s probably not the perfect solution for you. If i hear of anything I will update this comment. Good luck. – John


Avatar 25 Steve August 5, 2017 at 2:20 am

Thanks for this. Exactly what I was looking for.



Avatar 26 Jennifer Perry July 13, 2017 at 8:39 am

I am so grateful to you for giving me the correct solution to this issue and making the directions so simple!


John Carroll 27 John Carroll July 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

My pleasure.


Avatar 28 R Thomas Berner April 13, 2017 at 3:26 pm

A client complained about receiving embedded photographs, but the real issue wasn’t the embedding (which I have changed per your instructions) but the compression. The client wanted a big file but my 114 mb file leaving here arrived as 6mb. How can I stop the compression?


John Carroll 29 John Carroll April 14, 2017 at 12:09 am
Avatar 30 Jay April 8, 2017 at 9:41 pm

I did as you suggested, changing each attachment to “view as icon,” which seemed to work fine.

However, when I sent the email, then looked at the sent email (I was just moving it to a client mailbox) I noticed that the attachments displayed “in place” after all! So I assume they were sent that way instead of as icons.


John Carroll 31 John Carroll April 12, 2017 at 3:19 am

Hi Jay – You’d have to check with the recipient. I wouldn’t be surprised if they arrived fine. It’s the Mac’s default to “Show In Place”> That’s why yjhe Sent email looks as it does.


Avatar 32 Cherry Bond February 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Why are my attachments always going to the bottom of my email (aol on a Mac) I used to be able to click on the text and insert the attachment there. I can’t even drag the attachment to a place where it is more visible than at the bottom of multiple email conversation


John Carroll 33 John Carroll February 21, 2017 at 1:16 am

In the Apple Mail application, go to Edit in the toolbar choose Attachments and uncheck “Insert Attachments at End of Message.”


Avatar 34 Ludo October 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Dear John,
Thank you. You just made my day!


Avatar 35 Amanda August 14, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Hi John,

I have trouble with Mac email. When I email a scanned copy of the document (Whether I choose Windows Friendly or not, it is the same), it appears very small and unreadable on the receiver’s side. I tried it by emailing scanned copies to my own email address using MacBook, it happens as well. Please help. Thanks.



John Carroll 36 John Carroll August 16, 2016 at 10:51 am

Hi Amanda – The only way i can really get you an answer is if you email the pdf to me –


Avatar 37 Mary May 23, 2016 at 3:40 am

Thanks, that worked. I cannot right-click, not having set my mouse to do so, but using Control and clicking on the attachment I was able to use the dropdown menu to change it into an icon.


John Carroll 38 John Carroll May 24, 2016 at 8:15 am

Awesome. Glad you found it useful.


Avatar 39 Olivia October 1, 2015 at 3:26 am

Hi – I tried the command (to actually enable inline attachments) and the command says ‘not found’ – any ideas? I’m using yoesmite


John Carroll 40 John Carroll October 2, 2015 at 8:39 am

Hi Olivia – Can you describe what you mean? The “command” is to right-click the attachment in the email and select “View as Attachment” or “View as Icon.” If you are not getting this, you may be clicking on a file that has no extension or doing this in a program other than Apple Mail. Let me know. – Thanks – John


Avatar 41 Mandy March 2, 2015 at 5:26 am

Disabling the preview to an icon is all well and good for viewing, but can this be the case for printing? When I print the email the attachments don’t remain as icons, they print in place. Would love it if they remained as icons.


John Carroll 42 John Carroll March 3, 2015 at 1:16 am

Hi Mandy – Sadly, it won’t even print as a saved PDF. The only option left is to take a screenshot and print that. Hardly a great option. If you figure anything else out, let me know. – John


Avatar 43 Amanda Batson September 19, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Thank you! I’ve been searching for this solution for a while and voila you provide it!


Avatar 44 Gordon September 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm


You say that embedding pdfs in the body of the email has no impact, it’s just a display choice.

That’s not quite true. I send invoices to a large newspaper for freelance work I do. The invoices go to an automated reader. Pdf invoices must be sent as attachments – not embedded – or the system can’t/won’t read them (I think it’s an executable file thing).

It’s been driving me mad trying to work out why sometimes my pdfs attached as icons and sometimes are embedded. (Plus I was sick of not getting paid …) No matter what attachment settings I had in Apple’s email program most pdfs became embedded.

Then I found this, which explains what was happening (pdfs comprising a page or less are embedded, more than a page are attached as an icon):

And then found the Terminal solution you suggest ( which fixed the problem.




John Carroll 45 John Carroll September 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

Thanks Gordon. I had no idea about the 1 page rule. Sorry it took so long to approve your comment, but it’s been a busy week. have a great weekend – John


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