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
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.
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.
Well, there are a few reasons I avoid it:
- 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.
- It doesn't work if you are using an email application in your web browser like Gmail or Yahoo mail.
- It only works for attaching one file to an email.
- 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.
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.
On a Mac you can view all your files and sort the Date Modified column to show the most recent items first.
New Recent Items feature in Outlook 2016
Outlook 2016 also has a new Recent Items feature in the Attach File menu.
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.
So with the setup in the screenshot above the following keyboard shortcut will attach my most recent file to the email:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click here the image below to watch a quick animated screencast on how to add the Document Location command to the QAT.
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.
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!