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In Gmail, I sometimes receive messages with attached images.

If I click on an attached image it will open in an overlay (popup over the original message). I usually just wish to copy the image from the overlay and paste it into another Google Doc or web application, but I can't figure out how to do it.

Currently, I have to first download the image and open it locally in order to copy it. Doing this locally involves many additional steps related to downloading, storing, retrieving, and subsequently deleting the file.

I feel like copying the image from the browser is so simple and obvious that I must be missing something.

Options when viewing image attachments

  1. Return to message
  2. List of connected apps
  3. Add image to Google Drive
  4. Print image
  5. Download image
  6. More actions menu

This is not a duplicate of:

  1. How to paste images in Chrome? (By default it pastes the URL)
    • That question is about copied images from websites not 'pasting' properly into Gmail. It sounds similar but is unrelated to this question.
  2. Download embedded-images attachments from Gmail
    • That question is about downloading embedded/inline images.
    • Right-click copy is straightforward for embedded images but OP wanted something else.
    • This question is about copying (not downloading) attached (not inline) images.
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Gmail Has Disabled This

The reason you can't copy the image from the preview overlay is that the Gmail web app has disabled your mouse's right-click behavior. As you read further you may better understand "why" they made this choice.

Preview Is Not The Attachment

It should be noted that the image displayed to you is not the attached image but a lower-quality preview generated by Gmail.

For example, I performed some tests and compared the resolution and file size of an image when downloaded vs. one that was saved from the image preview.

In the results below Preview 1 and Preview 2 differ only in that they were downloaded 4 hours apart. They are from the same test method, using the exact same image attachment from the exact same message.

  1. Attached Image:  4608x2112 - 2,926 KB
  2. Preview 1 Image: 2191x1004 - 109 KB
  3. Preview 2 Image: 2864x1313 - 162 KB

In Preview 1 the image resolution is ~50% of the original image however the file size has been reduced by more than ~95% which points to it having been "heavily" compressed as well.

Performing the same test within the span of a few minutes returns the same result (likely caching) however if there is a long gap between sessions the preview image size and resolution varies: Preview 1 vs. Preview 2.

  Previews Takeaways

  1. You don't know exactly what you are going to get
  2. You do know that it will be very very low quality
  3. Gmail doesn't want to encourage using the preview for anything but its intended purpose.

Work Arounds

1.  Get Preview Image URL From HTML

Since the preview image's URL is not obfuscated in the page's code, it can be accessed there and opened in a new tab outside the Gmail web app. This doesn't require any 3rd party tools or add-ons and can be done with minimal clicks via Chrome DevTools:

  1. F12 opens DevTools
  2. Use the select an element tool on the image
  3. Right-click on the selected element and choose open in new tab
  4. F12 closes DevTools

2.  Re-Enable Right-Click

If you'd like to re-enable right-clicking in the image preview you can install a 3rd party extension.

If you search "enable right-click" in the Chrome web Store you will see the list of related extensions goes on for days.

I quickly tested the first result in the list, Enable Right Click for Google Chrome, and it seemed to do the job. It allows you to click the extension's button to re-enable right-click functions for the current web page.

Note that I have no affiliation with that extension, used it only for a few hours, and I expect the others to work in a similar manner. Remember to always do your own due diligence before installing any 3rd party software or extensions.

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    Re-enable right click has worked for me in late 2023. Comically dystopian that making right click work is now an advanced computer skill. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 21:52
  • @LibrarySeph This has been a common tactic by websites to stop people from downloading their images. Only stops the most inexperienced users. This case is interesting in that Google wants you to have the image just not the crummy version.
    – Blindspots
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 1:25
  • The IP protection makes sense. I suspect there's more to Googles choice than image quality though. Creating a custom context menu with a copy command that fetches the image, creates a blob, and then writes that to clipboard is a pretty easy project. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 18:53
  • I don't have any insight into their design choices but what they did seems pretty simple, and saves their bandwidth.
    – Blindspots
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 19:21

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