3 Ways to QUICKLY Attach Excel Files to Emails - Excel Campus
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3 Ways to QUICKLY Attach Excel Files to Emails

Bottom line: Learn how to quickly attach Excel files to your emails.  These techniques and keyboard shortcuts can work for any email client including Outlook, Mac Mail, and Gmail.

Skill level: Beginner

How To Quickly Attach Excel Files to Emails

If you work with a lot of Excel files, then chances are you also email a lot of Excel files.  There are probably a million different ways to attach a file, and some of those ways can be painfully slow.

You can end up spending a lot of time navigating through folders to find the file(s) you want to attach.  Then repeat that process if you realize you need to make a change to the file, or you’re not sure if you saved it.

If that sounds familiar, then this article should help speed up this process. 🙂

Method #1: I Don’t Use “Send as Attachment”

Excel has a built-in feature called Send as Attachment that will attach the current file to a new email.  This email can be created in Outlook, or your default email application.

Excel Send as Attachment Button

You can find the Send as Attachment button on the File menu, or add it to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).

This is a quick way to attach the file to an email, but I don’t use it.

Why?

Well, there are a few reasons I avoid it:

  1. You cannot make changes to the file after you have attached it.  In some versions of Office you cannot edit the file in Excel either.  I always find myself needing to make changes to the file or take screenshots before I send it.
  2. It doesn’t work if you are using an email application in your web browser like Gmail or Yahoo mail.
  3. It only works for attaching one file to an email.
  4. It only works for new emails.  Often times I will be attaching a file to a reply.

Based on those limitations, I never use the Send as Attachment feature.  It’s not a bad option, I just find it too limiting for everyday use.

So let’s look at more flexible solutions.

Method #2: Use the Recent Items Menus

Typically you will be attaching a file that you are currently working on.   Both Windows and Mac have ways to view your most recent items in the Windows Explorer or Finder windows.

The first step is to click the Attach button in your email program.

Here are the keyboard shortcuts to attach files for some common email clients.

  • Outlook: Alt, H, A, F
    • Or use the Quick Access Toolbar shortcut I explain below.
  • Gmail: From the email body, hit Tab twice to highlight the Attach button, then Enter
    • The number of times you hit Tab may vary depending on other extensions you have installed.

Keyboard Shortcut to Attach File in Gmail

The next step is to use one of the following methods to quickly locate the recent file.

If you are using Windows 10 then you can see the list of recent items by selecting Quick Access on the Navigation Pane, then scroll down to the Recent Files section.

Quick Access folder for List of Recent Files and Folders in Windows 10

On a Mac you can view all your files and sort the Date Modified column to show the most recent items first.

Mac Mail Sort by Date Modified to View Recent Files

New Recent Items feature in Outlook 2016

Outlook 2016 also has a new Recent Items feature in the Attach File menu.

Outlook 2016 Attach File Menu List of Recent Items Files

I really like this new feature because it allows you to see, and quickly attach multiple files that you are working on.  You can still access the files in Excel and work on them.

If you do make any changes to the file you will need to delete the attachment and re-attach the most recently saved version.

The keyboard shortcut to attach the most recent file in Outlook 2016 is: Alt, H, A, F, Enter

Alt, H, A, F will bring up this new menu in 2016.  Hit Enter to attach the most recent file.

In older versions it will bring up the Insert File menu to select a file.  You can then use the Recent file list or the copy/paste technique (method #3 below) to quickly attach a file.

A FASTER Way: Add the Attach Button to the Quick Access Toolbar

The quickest keyboard shortcut for attaching a file in Outlook is to add the Attach button to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT), then press Alt+location number to open the Insert File menu.  You can add both the new and old attach icons to the QAT in 2016.

Attach File Keyboard Shortcut for Outlook with Quick Access Toolbar QAT

So with the setup in the screenshot above the following keyboard shortcut will attach my most recent file to the email:

Alt+2, Enter

This is probably the fastest way to attach the latest saved version of the file you are working on.

Here is an article on how to use the Quick Access Toolbar keyboard shortcuts.

If you don’t have the latest version of Office then the next method works universally on all apps and operating systems.

Method #3: Copy & Paste the File Path

My preferred method for attaching files is to copy & paste the file path.  This method works with any email client and also any file type, not just Excel files.

The process is simple.  You just need to copy the file’s path (location) to the clipboard, then paste it in the File name field of the File Explorer (Finder) window in the email attachment window.

Copy Paste File Path to Attach File to Email

Let me break that down into steps.

Step #1: Copy the file path to the clipboard

The file path is the full file location of the file including the drive letter, folders, and full file name.  It will look something like the following.

C:\Users\jon\Documents\Excel Campus\Book1.xlsx

So how do we copy it to the clipboard?  You can actually do this from the File>Info menu in Excel.  In Excel 2013 and 2016 you can left-click on this field and select Copy link to clipboard.  In 2010 you use Ctrl+C to copy the path.

Excel Copy Full File Path to Clipboard

The keyboard shortcuts for copy link to clipboard (copy the file path) are:

  • Excel 2010: Alt, F, I, G, Ctrl+C
  • Excel 2013, 2016: Alt, F, I, G, C

You can also use a macro to copy the path to the clipboard, and add a button to the Quick Access Toolbar.  Here is a post by Dick Kusleika from Daily Dose of Excel on how to copy the file path to the clipboard with a macro.  I have this setup on my QAT and it allows me to copy the file path with one click or keyboard shortcut.  Leave a comment below if you would like me to explain more about this setup.

Another method (submitted by Salvatore in the comments below) is to add the Document Location command to the Quick Access Toolbar.  This will add a box to the QAT that contains the full file path of the active workbook.  You can click the box (or press the Alt+number keyboard shortcut) to select all the text, then press Ctrl+C to copy.

Document Location Command in Quick Access Toolbar contains the Full File Path

Click here the image below to watch a quick animated screencast on how to add the Document Location command to the QAT.

Document Location Command in Quick Access Toolbar Animation Thumbnail

Step #2: Paste the file path to the attachment window

Open the email in your email client (either new or reply) and press the Attach button.

Now that the Insert File window is open, you just need paste (Ctrl+V) the full file path in the File Name box and press Enter.

Attach a File by Pasting the Full File Path in the File name box, then hit Enter

That might seem like a lot of steps, but it is actually pretty fast once you practice it a few times.

How Do You Attach Files to Emails?

Well I hope one of those methods helps you save a little time with attaching emails.  Like I said, there are probably a million different ways to go about this.

Another popular method is to drag and drop the files from Explorer or Finder, into the body or attachment section of the email. (Thanks to Charlie for suggesting this in the comments section!)

Please leave a comment below with your preferred method.  I would love to learn some new ways to do this.  Thanks!

Please share
Jon Acampora
 

Welcome to Excel Campus! I am excited you are here. My name is Jon and my goal is to help you learn Excel to save time with your job and advance in your career. I've been an avid Excel user and VBA developer for 10+ years. I am also a Microsoft MVP. I try to learn something new everyday, and want to share this knowledge with you to help you improve your skills. When I'm not looking at spreadsheets, I get outdoors and surf. :) more about me

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 42 comments
Laura - April 17, 2017

I’m trying to write a VLOOKUP formula for a particular spreadsheet and I’m having trouble. I’m trying to obtain one result in one cell for 3 different arguments. Is that possible?

Reply
Sam - April 14, 2017

I like using Send as Attachment to quickly send out files/reports that I just finished.

In Excel/Outlook 2013, I was able to alt-tab between the excel file and the newly created email with the attachment. I can copy and paste some quick information from the excel file and paste it onto the body of the email.

I figured this was a new feature with Office 2013.

I was able to do this until recently. I can no longer alt tab back to the excel when I use the Send as attachment option. I’m not sure what changed; I don’t remember making any changes in options with either program.

Is there a way to go back to what it was? I have been trying to look in options of excel and outlook and can’t find it.

Reply
Jem - March 22, 2017

Hi Jon,

How about if I would like to send a single sheet as a reply? Usually when im sending single sheet it goes automatically to a new email. I appreciate any suggestions. thanks.

Reply
Josh - March 8, 2017

I use the Email icon in the Quick Access Toolbar above the ribbon to send an excel file daily. After I click on the Email icon, it opens a new message in Outlook with the attachment. It used to put the cursor in the To field automatically, but now my company has switched to Office 365. Now, it just opens up the new message and I have to click in the To field to type in the recipient’s name. How do I make it default to the To field, when opening a new message. This only happens when I send the file from Excel as an attachment.

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 13, 2017

    Hi Josh,
    I’m not sure about that one. It defaults to the To field for me. It might be that the New Message window is not active, but I’m not sure what would cause that either.

    Reply
      Josh - June 12, 2017

      I found the answer. If there is something on the clipboard, the paste icon will be active by default. If not, then the To field will be active. I just noticed this.

      Reply
Sundar - February 6, 2017

Dear Sir !

I have been using a broadcaster software – which was developed in house – to attach excel workbook and email each excel workbook to individual, distinct email addresses. However, Iam not able to do any formatting in the body of the message nor am I able to mark a Copy or BCC the Email to anyone else.

Can you please help me Sir with a solutions like any better broadcaster software or any other VB script available to address this problem ?

Thanks.

Reply
Jerry - January 26, 2017

Hi,
In Excel is there a way of using “send as attachment” using Gmail instead of Outlook? My work just switched over to Gmail e-mail and trying to send files from Excel the program still resorts to trying to send it from Outlook.
Any advice?

Reply
    Jon Acampora - February 4, 2017

    Great question Jerry! I don’t believe it’s possible in the app. Since Gmail is browser based, it’s going to be difficult to program a solution to do that.

    I use Gmail for all email, and use Solution #3 above to copy/paste the Excel file path to the Gmail attachment window. It’s not a one step process, but it’s quick enough for me.

    The other option is to connect your Gmail account to Outlook, if your employer allows it. I hope that helps.

    Reply
Carol - November 28, 2016

I have been attaching a monthly updated excel file once a month to an email for years, BUT now it won’t attach or I have to do it via OneDrive, but my client then cannot open it because he doesn’t have OneDrive. Any ideas?? Thanks.

Reply
    Jon Acampora - December 1, 2016

    Hi Carol,
    You should still be able to attach your files to an email in Outlook. Does this happen on all files or just one in particular?

    Reply
Tania - November 2, 2016

Hi there. Have you ever had any problems with using these methods and an outlook email program, that the sent email doesn’t go into the “sent” folder? Thanks

Reply
    Jon Acampora - November 14, 2016

    Hi Tania,
    I usually experience that issue if the computer is not connected to the network or VPN properly. Sometimes files can get stuck in the Outbox, but that is usually due to another issue besides the attachment method. At least that is my experience. I’m not aware of any known issues. Thanks!

    Reply
Pedro Manaças - August 11, 2016

Just found this today and it rocked my world =)

1) Make sure you excel file is saved (Ctrl+S)
2) Save As.. (F12)
3) From the Save As dialog explorer drag your excel file on to your email

Done

Reply
regina - March 8, 2016

I would LOVE to be able to just send one (1) sheet of a workbook in an email as simply as in the earlier versions of Excel (2003; 2007). You could choose to send the whole document, or 1 or more selected sheets of the workbook.

it is ridiculous that you have to copy the sheet that you want to send from a multi-sheet workbook in order to accomplish this in the new versions. (2010; 2016)

Reply
Nate O - March 3, 2016

Jon I would really appreciate it if you stopped showing off all the cool features of Office 2013/2016. I’m still in the dark ages with 2010 and I get more jealous every day looking at stuff like this! Someone needs to have a word with my boss!

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 3, 2016

    Haha! Sorry about that Nate. I totally understand. To make you feel better, I still use 2010 at my job. And don’t tell anyone but it’s actually my favorite version of Excel. 🙂

    Reply
Michelle - March 3, 2016

In your Method #1: I Don’t Use “Send as Attachment,” you claim that you “cannot make changes to the file after you have attached it. In some versions of Office you cannot edit the file in Excel either. I always find myself needing to make changes to the file or take screenshots before I send it.”

Sure you can — all you need to do is close the email it has created and say “yes” when Outlook asks if you want to save the draft. Then open the draft and you can do whatever you want, just like when you attach the file any of the other ways you described.

Reply
INDZARA - March 2, 2016

Thanks for sharing, Jon. I use GMAIL nowadays as a small business owner (building Excel templates). I use Tab+Tab+Space to attach files. It appears that Enter and Space are interchangeable. Due to previous experiences with Word and other software, where tab is used for indenting, I end up using Tab trying to indent while writing the body of the email in GMAIL (and get frustrated). 🙂

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 2, 2016

    Haha! I know what you mean Indzara. You probably already know this, but the keyboard shortcut to Indent in Gmail is Ctrl+]. Not as simple as Tab.

    You can hover the buttons in Gmail to see the keyboard shortcuts, just like the ribbon in Excel. Here is a screenshot.

    Gmail Keyboard Shortcut to Indent Ctrl+]

    Thanks again!

    Reply
      INDZARA - March 2, 2016

      Exactly. It is not as simple and it is not consistent with other word processing software. I should not complain as this is a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits from these applications.
      By the way, your site is really easy on the eyes and the commenting system is good too. Best wishes.

      Reply
        Jon Acampora - March 3, 2016

        It is interesting how most software programs have their little quirks that we have to get used to. Keeps us learning I gues… 🙂

        Thanks for the great feedback! I’m so happy to hear you are enjoying the site. Have a good one!

        Reply
Karen - March 2, 2016

Hi Jon,

If I copy the file path, does the receiver need to have access to the path? OR does it send the real file when hitting send?

I’ve never heard of this one before and I like that idea. I enjoy your posts a lot. Karen

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 2, 2016

    Hi Karen,
    The real file will be sent to the receiver. When you paste the file path into the attachment window, the email program (Outlook,Gmail) will attach the actual file.

    Pasting the file path is just a shortcut that prevents you from having to navigate through folders to find the file you want to attach.

    Instead of drilling down through folders, you are basically telling the file browser window exactly where to go and which file to choose.

    Let me know if that makes more sense. Maybe I need to update the article to be more clear.

    Thanks for the great feedback Karen!

    Reply
      Karen - March 2, 2016

      Hi. That makes perfect sense. I don’t think you need to modify your description. I was just double checking. I appreciate everything you teach and share with us. It’s great that you reply to comments too! Thanks!

      Reply
salvatore - March 2, 2016

Hi Jon,

I have 2 ways to send emails. (At work I use MS Outlook).

1. From the file in excel, I use shortcutkeys – Alt F, D, A (F= File; D = Save & Send; A = Attachment)

2. From the excel file I have the FILE LOCATION located above the formula bar. I copy that (it has path and file name) open up Email, Click attachment and paste the path & file name in the File Name box. Done.

I have done this for a long time, but I will try your methods too!

You will need to add the File Location to your QAT (see below)

(I’m sorry I am unable to attach a screen shot at this time – I’m trying to send to Jon the jpg file)

Thank you for your site!

Salvatore

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 2, 2016

    Thanks Salvatore! These are great suggestions! I received your image and recreated it to fit in the post. I put a section above that also includes a screencast animation of how to add the Document Location command to the Quick Access Toolbar.

    Add Document Location to Quick Access Toolbar for Full File Path

    The Document Location command contains the full file path/location of the active workbook. You can click on it to select all the text, then press ctrl+C to copy. You can also access it with the Alt+number key keyboard shortcut for the QAT. Thanks again!

    Reply
      Nate O - March 3, 2016

      This method is really handy, but it’s a bit of a space hog on the QAT. Would it be possible to make a macro that finds the Document Location and then just copies it to the clipboard so I can paste it in to Outlook or somewhere else? That way it would just be a single icon instead of a massive bar.

      Reply
        Jon Acampora - March 3, 2016

        Hi Nate,
        Yes, I actually have a link to a macro that does that in the article. But it became kind of hidden with all the other options for copying the file path.

        I actually use the method you are describing. Here is a screenshot of the button I setup in the QAT that calls the Copy_File_Path macro.

        Copy File Path Macro in Quick Access Toolbar Excel 2010

        See, I do use Excel 2010. 😉

        Here is the code:

        
        Sub Copy_File_Path()
        Dim DataObj As New MSForms.DataObject
        Dim sName As String
            
            sName = ActiveWorkbook.FullName
            DataObj.SetText sName
            DataObj.PutInClipboard
        
        End Sub

        You will also need to add a reference to the Microsoft Forms 2.0 Object Library to get that code to work. Tools > References in the VB Editor window.

        Microsoft Forms 2.0 Library Excel VB Editor Reference

        When I get a chance I’ll make a video that shows how to set it all up. It’s the method I use the most, and should have been more clear on that. Thanks!

        Reply
Stewart - March 2, 2016

Where possible I will add the file as a hyperlink in the body of the email. It does ensure that file is always up to date. However of course this only works if you know the recipient has access to the file. You can usually pick the file details up from the recent file list in the hyperlink details.

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 2, 2016

    Great suggestion Stewart! That also keeps less versions of your file floating around in the world… 🙂 Thanks!

    Reply
Dave - March 2, 2016

Use Affixa for Gmail with the Send as Attachment. At least as easy than the options mentioned. It is reliable and straightforward.

thanks,
Dave

Reply
Charlie - March 1, 2016

Great tips Jon. I usually end up dragging and dropping a file from windows explorer into the body of my email in Outlook. But I like the keyboard shortcuts and will have to give those a try!

Reply
    Jon Acampora - March 1, 2016

    Thanks Charlie! That’s another great tip that I probably should have included. I also do that when adding multiple files or working with Outlook 2010.

    Reply
    m-b - April 1, 2016

    That’s my preferred way of doing it as well. Also for saving attachments you’ve received; just drag them from the e-mail to a folder.

    Reply

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