Ever tried to send a really, really big file—think a few hundred megabytes, or maybe even a gigabyte—as an email attachment? Well, good luck with that.

Not only can large attachments take forever to upload and send, they may also get blocked by the recipient’s finicky mail provider.

If you’re using Gmail, though, there’s an easy, relatively no-fuss way to send attachments both big and small in a flash, with a little help from Google Drive.

What’s Google Drive, you ask? Think of it as a digital locker for photos, Office documents, videos, and just about any other type of file, all stored in the vaunted “cloud.”

If you’ve got a Gmail account, you’ve already got Google Drive; just click here to log in. And don’t worry: Google Drive is free for those storing 5GB or less of data.

OK, but what does Google Drive have to do with Gmail?

Well, Google just added a button to Gmail that lets you access Google Drive files directly from Gmail’s “Compose” window.

Not only can you access and attach existing Google Drive documents, you can also upload new files to Google Drive straight from Gmail, using a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Click “Send,” and your attachment (up to a whopping 10GB in size) will arrive as a link in your message.

You can also let your recipients comment on and even edit your attachments within Google Drive—perfect for, say, giving your editor a chance to mark up your long-awaited novel.

Insert files with Google Drive button

You can access your Google Drive account from Gmail in just a few clicks.

Ready to give it a try? Let’s get started…

  • Open your Gmail account and click the “Compose” button in the left-hand column.
  • Next, you’ll need to make sure you’ve enabled Gmail’s new, spruced-up “Compose” window. If a blank email window appears in the bottom-right corner of the screen when you click “Compose,” you’re good to go; otherwise, click the “Try out the new compose experience” link near the top of the page.
  • At the bottom of the “New Message” window, you’ll see a paperclip icon to the right of the blue “Send” button—and next to that, you should see a “+” sign. Hover over the “+” with your mouse, and a series of new buttons will appear, including the triangular Google Drive icon. Click that icon, and an “Insert files using Google Drive” window will open.
  • From here, you can either click the “My Drive” link to access files you’ve already uploaded to Google Drive, or drag new files into the (aptly named) “Drag files here” area. When you’re finished adding files, click the “Upload” button.
  • Once you’re finished composing your email, click “Send”—and when you do, you’ll see a warning that reads “These Drive files aren’t shared with the recipient.” Don’t worry, you can still send the attachment; you can, however, choose whether the recipient can edit the file, comment on it, or merely view and/or download it. After you’ve made your choice from the pull-down menu, go ahead and click the “Share & send” button.
  • Want to access—or even edit—your sent attachments after the fact? If you uploaded the files directly from Gmail, you’ll find them sitting in your Google Drive, in the top “My Drive” directory.

Bonus tip

Large email attachments can still take a long time to upload, even using Gmail and Google Drive.

If you’re planning on sending a particularly big attachment, consider uploading it in advance (and in the background) using the downloadable Google Drive utility, which synchronizes all your Google Drive files and folders to your desktop.

Simply drag the file you want to send into your Google Drive desktop folder, then go about your business as Google Drive syncs the file with your Drive account in the cloud.

Looking for more Gmail tips? Click here!