Mac Software

How do I stop Mac Mail from embedding attachments?

MacBook Pro
Grow unattached: stop Mac Mail attachments swallowing the screen

By default, Apple’s Mail app for Macs will show any attachments as an inline preview. This means that a large image will quickly fill up the mail window and make it difficult to navigate. Most other email clients will show attachments as an icon that can then be previewed if double-clicked on, similar to how the receiver will see it. So how do you stop Mac Mail from embedding attachments?

It is possible to get Apple Mail to display attachments as icons, but it has to be done each time. Unless you tweak macOS to do this automatically, that is. In no time at all you can have smartly formatted emails once more.

How to show an attachment as an icon: the ad-hoc method

  1. Add the attachment to your mail
  2. Right click on the resulting output
  3. Select “View as Icon”

How to stop Mac Mail from embedding attachments permanently

Time needed: 2 minutes

How to view attachments as icons in Apple Mail

  1. Close the Mail app

    Fully close the app, by right-clicking on its Dock icon and selecting Quit.

  2. Ensure Terminal has disk access

    Click on the Apple icon in the top left-hand corner and then select System Settings > Privacy & Security > Full Disk Access. Ensure Terminal is active. If not you can use the + button at the bottom of the window to add it to the list of apps (you’ll find it in Applications > Utilities).

  3. Open up the Terminal app

    Search for Terminal in Spotlight and click on it to start it.

  4. Type the following command, followed by a press of the Enter key.

    defaults write DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -bool yes

When you restart the Mail app, it should activate the change and the end result will look something like this:

To reverse this, you’d repeat the process above but, this time, type:

defaults write DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -bool no

What does the fn key on a Mac do?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.


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  • Ok so maybe it is because I’m using a beta version : Ventura bêta 13.2 (a) (22D7750270d)
    Or does the setting affects only new messages only ?
    I’ll keep it active and let you know how it goes. Thank you anyway for the tips, at least it helps other than me 😉

  • I did this and it seemed to be working but now I have two problems: 1) clients on Windows machines can’t view JPG attachments. 2) I can’t view JPG attachments on my iPhone – I see icons that look like a white page with two blue rectangles with rounded corners but they won’t open. Are you having any trouble at all?