written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/18/2011
Gmail allows users to open attached documents in different ways. One way is faster, another way lets you edit the file and keep it in Google Docs and yet another way allows you to download the file. See what Gmail has to offer in handling doc attachments and how it works with Google Docs.
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You can access documents and Adobe Acrobat PDF files from within Google without logging into Google Docs or taking extra steps. It's no different from when you receive an attachment in Outlook or another email client. Except, instead of opening the document in Word or another application, Gmail opens the file in Google Docs in a new tab rather than inside of Gmail.
For document files ending in .doc, Gmail provides three options for handling the attachment at the bottom of the email:
View as HTML: Opens the file like a Web page in a new browser window instead of in Google Docs. The formatting won't be the same as the original document. This method doesn't require downloading anything and it loads faster downloading a document. The following file types have HTML viewing available: .pdf, .doc, .xls, .ppt, .rtf, .sxsw, .sxc, .sxi, .sdw, .sdd and .wml. Some file types won't offer "View as HTML" as an option. Instead click View to open the document. Once opened, you have the option of switching to plain HTML view. View as HTML files won't appear in Google Docs unless you open them in Google Docs.
Open as a Google document: Opens file in a new table in Google Docs. You can edit the document and share the document with others to review and edit. The document also becomes a file in your Google Docs account. Even if you close the file without saving it and return to Gmail, the file will still be in your Google Docs account.
Download: Download the attached file to view it in a separate application like Microsoft Word. Click Download and a pop up box shows asking if you want to open the file in the default application or save the file on your computer.
20MB is the largest file Gmail allows you to receive as an attachment. You can tell the file has opened in Google Docs by looking for "Google Docs" in the header. For a .PDF and other file types, Gmail provides two options: View and Download. In selecting View, Gmail converts the file to .docx (Microsoft Word 2007 format) as shown in the image at the end of the article.
It's possible for Gmail not to provide the option of opening a .doc file in Google Docs. Google Help doesn't have an answer for why this happens. To work around this, download the file to your computer, go to Google Docs and open the file there.