Save attachments with the keyboard

Using more of your keyboard commends is the way to go when you value performance. If you’ve read my Each Day Empty eBook (I renamed it last week from ‘The Happy Outlook Book’ as some thought this was a confusing title), you know that I consider using keyboard shortcuts one of the most important strategies for optimizing your use of Microsoft Outlook.

Where Getting Things Done gives most of the mental strategies you need to quickly process incoming e-mail, the process is much more powerful and faster when you add shortcut keys to your repertoire.

Fortunately, Outlook has lots of shortcut keys that you can take advantage of. As soon as you get used to keeping the mouse motionless on your desk, you’ll start to find situations where you’d like to use the keyboard.

From the Reading Pane / Preview Window

Need to save one or more attachments from an incoming e-mail? Lots of people we train or coach use the mouse to save attachments. The task can be tackled using keys only.

  1. Open your inbox and display an e-mail with attachments in the Reading Pane in Outlook (View | Reading Pane | Right).
  2. Press Alt+F, N to open the Save Attachments menu item from the main menu.image
  3. Select the attachment you want to save, then press Enter to specify the location and filename for that file.image
  4. Or choose ‘All Attachments…’ and press Enter to specify the folder where you want to store all attachments for this e-mail. The original filenames will be used to store them in the folder you specify.

From an open e-mail

Some people open each e-mail to process it. Doing this is quite a bit slower, but if you want to open each e-mail when processing it, saving all attachments with the keyboard is a bit more difficult, but can be done.

  1. Open an e-mail with attachments by pressing Enter.
  2. Press Alt+H to select the first Tab on the Ribbon (Home).
  3. Press ‘X’ to select the button ‘Other Actions’.
  4. Press ‘N’ to select the ‘Save Attachments’ item.
  5. Press Enter to select the dialog that allows you to select the attachments you want to save.
  6. Specify the location of the folder in which you want to save these attachments.

If you open an e-mail and want to save just one attachment, you can also press Shift-Tab, then press the Right cursor key and, finally, press the context menu key to open the menu that allows you to save the attachment.

Save time

After you’ve trained your fingers to use the keyboard to save attachments, the new habit may save you up to 40% of the time you now need to save an attachment. And apart from saving you time, it will also help you stay focused on your work instead of having to invest the eye-hand coördination efforts that using a mouse requires.

The easier you can perform each step while processing e-mail, the greater the chance that your inbox will be emptied each day. At least once every day.

9 comments

  1. AKW said >

    Great tip! Is there a way to use keyboard shortcuts to open an attachment in MSOutlook?

  2. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    @AKW – As far as I know you’d have to open the e-mail first and then use the steps that I described in the article under ‘From an open e-mail’. Look for the Shift-Tab description and don’t press the context menu key, but hit Enter. That should do the trick.

  3. AKW said >

    I figured out an easy way to view attachments using keyboard shortcuts from the Reading Pane / Preview Window:

    – highlight the e-mail

    – press the context menu key

    – select “View Attachments”

    – select the appropriate attachment

    This method was used in MSOutlook 2003

  4. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    @AKW – Thanks!

  5. Jason said >

    Thanks for the View Attachments shortcut AKW! Just what I was looking for!

  6. Tess said >

    I am going to try this – the correct key sequence for Dutch Outlook users would be alt, B, B BTW –

    Wondering however, if I could make a rule to save attachments automatically for certain emails?

    Thanks Taco keep it up : )

  7. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Tess, I wouldn’t know if this is possible with standard Outlook rules, but you can choose from several Outlook add-ins that would do this for you. I’d start by searching in Google, or on http://www.download.com and http://www.softpedia.com.

  8. Pedro said >

    Hi this hasn’t worked with me. From the Reading pane Atl+F, or Alt+N doesn’t work. any thoughts ? Many thanks

  9. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Pedro,
    In Outlook 2010 it is Alt+F, M.
    Does that help? Or do you use yet another version of Outlook?
    Taco Oosterkamp

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