How to Save Email Attachments on iPhone in iOS 9

If you’ve tried to save email attachments on iPhone previously, you know how frustrating it can be – while keeping users from accessing the filesystem helps keep iOS secure, you can’t easily save files that end up in your inbox. Fortunately, iOS 9 changed all of that – here’s how it works.

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Apple created a sort of user-friendly filesystem to facilitate attachments in iOS 9. Prior versions of iOS forced users to rely on various third-party apps. Photos and eventually PDFs could be handled natively by iOS; other, more arcane filetypes required specialized software – this could be an issue if you needed to download a ZIP file, for instance.

Saving attachments in iOS 9. Saving attachments in iOS 9.

But the Mail app has grown up in iOS 9, and a new Save Attachment feature lets you download literally any file, even if iOS doesn’t support opening it.

Tap and hold the attachment icon in one of your email messages.

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The iCloud Drive screen lets you organize attachments and files into folders.

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A menu will slide up from the bottom of the display. You’ll notice that one of the icons reads ‘Save Attachment.’  Tap on it to open (if you’ve enabled the service) iCloud Drive as the default option for saving your attachment. Note: in the images above, the left window is what you see when tapping and holding on your attachment in an email message. The right window appears if you open your attachment, then try to share it.
Saving attachments on iOS 9.

If you save a file here, you’ll be able to access it on any iOS 9 device by using the iCloud Drive app. Macs running OS X Yosemite or El Capitan can access it in Finder, while PCs running Windows 7, 8, or 10 can access it in File Explorer after installing iCloud for Windows. You can also go to iCloud.com, sign in, and access your files there.

To enable saving to other locations, you’ll need to install the relevant app.

If you want to save your email attachment to your Dropbox directory, for example, you’ll need to install the Dropbox app. Likewise, installing Microsoft’s OneDrive app will enable access to saving files to your OneDrive account. Once you’ve installed the app you wish to save to, proceed as above by tapping and holding on your attachment, then clicking Save Attachment. In the window that appears, tap on ‘Locations’ in the upper left-hand corner. This will let you choose the service to which you wish to save.

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IMG_0171  Saving attachments on iOS 9.

Not every cloud storage app has been updated to take advantage of the feature, so you might need to wait for developers to update their software.

Dropbox doesn’t currently support using the Save Attachment and Locations filesystem, for example, but it does offer a ‘Save to Dropbox’ icon right next to Save Attachment that does the same thing.

You can also save directly to an OS X Server share from this screen, if you or your IT person has set it up in advance.