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How to send a PDF through Gmail

How to send a PDF through Gmail

min read

PDF is arguably the most popular file extension across the internet. That's partly because it is portable, lightweight, and accessible on virtually any device. Unsurprisingly, one study found that internet users create more than 2.5 trillion PDFs annually. 

Whether it's your first attempt or you're looking for a better option, this guide will show you how to send PDFs through Gmail. 

We’ll also show you how to share PDFs (along with other files and information) with your team in Gmail using Streak - a CRM built into your Gmail inbox.

<a href="#what-is-a-pdf" class="anchor-link">What is a PDF?</a>

<a href="#why-are-pdfs-so-popular" class="anchor-link">Why are PDFs so popular?</a>

<a href="#how-to-send-pdf-through-gmail-in-six-steps" class="anchor-link">How to send PDF through Gmail in six steps</a>

<a href="#how-to-attach-a-pdf-file-to-an-email-through-google-drive" class="anchor-link">How to attach a PDF file to an Email through Google Drive</a>

<a href="#how-to-embed-a-pdf-in-an-email" class="anchor-link">How to embed a PDF in an email</a>

<a href="#limitations-of-sending-pdfs-in-gmail" class="anchor-link">Limitations of sending PDFs in Gmail</a>

<a href="#discover-a-better-way-to-organize-and-share-pdfs-in-gmail" class="anchor-link">Discover a better way to organize and share PDFs in Gmail</a>

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What is a PDF? 

PDF stands for Portable Document File, which provides an electronic image of a document including text and/or graphics. PDFs can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted via email and other methods. 

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Why are PDFs so popular? 

Since PDFs are images of documents, they’re often used in scenarios where you don’t want the recipient to alter the document. For example, PDFs make great one-pager sales assets, contracts, and legal documents. 

PDFs are also easy to read, since they tend to look like a digital version of a printed document.

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How to send PDF through Gmail in six steps

You can send PDFs to colleagues, contacts, and leads via email in Gmail.

  1. Log in to your Gmail account and click Compose to draft a new email. 
  2. Enter the recipient's email address and the subject of the email.
  3. Click the paperclip icon at the bottom of the compose window to attach a file.
A screenshot of the Gmail Compose showing the attachment file icon in the toolbars below
  1. A file chooser window will appear, showing files on your device. Locate the PDF file and click on it.
  2. At the bottom of the window, click Open to select the file.
  3. Click on the Send button to complete the process and send your email. At the bottom left corner of your Gmail screen, you'll see a confirmation message that your email has been sent.

Pro tip: While not required, including a message in the email's body is good practice. For example, let the recipient know you've attached a PDF file to the email and what the file is all about. 

Don't assume they already know there's a file attached—it's not uncommon to miss attached files, especially in an email thread

A screenshot of a dialogue that pops up in Gmail once you failed to attach a file in the email after stating in your email message that you have attached a file

Gmail will also help make sure you don’t forget to attach the PDF when you meant to. When you type in the word "I’m attaching" (or other words along those lines) in your email body, Gmail will watch for a file attachment in your email. If you forget to attach said file (which happens to the best of us), Gmail will ask if you want to proceed without attaching a file.

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How to attach a PDF file to an Email through Google Drive  

Suppose the PDF is in your Google Drive, rather than stored on your computer. In that case, you have two options:

  1. Open Gmail and click Compose to draft your email.
  2. Click on the Insert files using Drive icon to choose a PDF from Google Drive.
A screenshot of Gmail Compose featuring the GDrive tool where you can insert your files using the Drive, another way to attach files
  1. Click on the PDF file you want to send. You can use the search bar to find the file if you need.
  2. Next to Insert as in the bottom right corner, choose whether to send the PDF as an attachment or Drive link. 
  3. Click Insert.
  4. Hit Send.

The second option is to share your PDF via Google Drive. This option gives the person you’re sharing with access to the file in Google Drive and send them an email to let them know the file has been shared.

  1. Go to Google Drive and locate the PDF file, or type its name into the search bar at the top of the page to find it. 
  2. Locate the three vertical dots at the file's top right corner, then click Share.
A screenshot of what's inside a Google Drive showing what's inside the drop down menu or the three dots, highlighting the Share function
  1. Enter the recipient's email address, and add an optional message. Make sure the “Notify people” option remains checked so they receive an email.
A screenshot of a pop up window after clicking the Share button in the three dots menu of one of the files in the Google Drive. It shows the box where you should indicate the recipient of the file's email address or name and another box for your message
  1. Click Send.

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How to embed a PDF in an email

Sending a PDF as an attachment is not the only way to deliver the file to the intended recipient. Another option is to embed it directly into the body of the email. This increases the chances of the recipient noticing the embedded file since it appears inside the email. 

Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t have a method of embedding PDFs directly into the email body, but there are a couple workarounds you can use to achieve the same effect.

Here's how to go about it. 

Convert the PDF into an image

Since a PDF is essentially an image of a document, you can convert it to an image with similar results. 

A screenshot of one the tools used in converting PDF file into an image

This is easy if you have the PDF saved on your computer - simply “save as” or export the file as an image file before embedding it into an email body.

You can also use a free tool like Adobe’s PDF to JPEG image converter (or any other similar tool of your choice) to convert the PDF file into an image.

Take a screenshot of your PDF

Alternatively, take a quick screenshot of your PDF and include it in the email. This is best for informal messages or when you’re simply trying to give a preview of the PDF file. If your PDF is multiple pages long, you’ll need to screenshot each page and arrange them in order in your email body.

On Windows 

  1. On Windows, press and hold the Windows key, and then press the Print Screen key to take the screenshot. Most Windows computers have the Print Screen key labeled "PrtScr" or something similar.
  2. The screen will blink for a second to confirm the screenshot. Head over to the Pictures file on your Windows computer to locate it.

On Mac

  1. Press and hold Shift, Command, and 4 simultaneously.
  2. Drag the crosshair to highlight the area you want to capture on the file. 
  3. Release your mouse or trackpad button to take the screenshot. 
  4. You'll find the screenshot on your desktop or Documents folder. 

Embed the image into your email 

Once you've saved the PDF as an image file to your local computer, follow these steps to embed an image of the PDF in Gmail:

  1. Open Gmail 
  2. Click Compose, and click on the specific area in the email's body where you want to insert the image. 
  3. Locate the gallery icon at the bottom of the window and click on it.
  4. Click Upload, and select the image file from its location on your device.
  5. Click Insert.

Note that while sending a PDF as an image embedded inside the email body can increase visibility, it can also achieve the reverse. This is especially true if you attach large image files or the recipient has poor internet connectivity. That's because text files usually load faster than images, which also explains the logic behind sending PDFs as attachments.

For best results, remember to inform the recipient about the embedded image in the email you're about to send. Chances are, they will let you know if they can't see it. 

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Limitations of sending PDFs in Gmail

Sending PDFs through Gmail has limitations worth noting. 

Gmail file size limit

Gmail’s file size limit is 25 MB for standard Gmail accounts. If your PDF file is larger than this, you may need to compress it or find an alternative method for sharing, such as using Google Drive or other file-sharing services.

Recipient's inbox limitations

Even if Gmail allows you to send a large PDF file, the recipient's email provider or inbox settings may have different limitations. The recipient may not be able to receive files larger than a certain size.

Network issues 

Sometimes, large attachments can encounter issues during the sending process, especially if there are network interruptions or bandwidth limitations. This could result in the attachment not being sent or being corrupted during transmission.

Version control

Some PDFs allow viewers to add text for signatures and other inputs. If you're collaborating on a document and sending multiple versions back and forth via Gmail, it can quickly become confusing to track which version is the most recent. Using a more collaborative tool to share files may be more effective when working on files together.

Archiving and organization

Email inboxes can quickly become cluttered, especially if you frequently send and receive large attachments like PDFs. It may be challenging to find specific attachments later on if they're buried in a long email thread.

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Discover a better way to organize and share PDFs in Gmail 

Streak is a CRM for Gmail that helps you organize your Gmail inbox and track deals in pipelines

When you start tracking leads in Streak, you’ll be able to automatically add their emails with your team and include attachments, including PDFs, in a “files” section for easy access.

Streak allows you to collaborate with your team, meaning you can share PDFs without emailing back and forth. We think that’s a big win!


For each lead, you can:

  • Add contact and  organizations 
  • Automatically pull in all of their emails with your team and organize them in a timeline
  • Organize, share, and easily find PDFs along with other files and documents
  • Record important dates and details in pipeline columns
  • Leave comments and notes for yourself and team members
  • Create tasks for follow up and to-do items
  • Add contacts to mail merge sequences with automatic follow up
  • And more!

Organizing and sharing PDFs in pipelines means you won't waste your precious time inbox-diving to find the files you need. Best of all, this all happens in a familiar environment —Gmail— saving you the time and stress of switching between apps and browser tabs. 

Try Streak for free - it takes just minutes to start organizing your emails, files, and pipelines for any workflow!

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