I recently changed from using a Surface to a Mac and I am having a hard time figuring out how to open files, let say from my gmail, without having to save the file on my Mac. With Microsoft, when I click download it prompted if I wanted to just open the file, Save or Save as... I can not figure out how to get those options on my Mac. Everytime it just prompts to save the file, but no to just open it without saving it first.

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    Welcome to Ask Different. Can you please edit your question to include the version of macOS you're running as well as the steps you're taking. You can see How to Ask for info on asking questions on this site.
    – fsb
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:14
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    Have you tried right-clicking on the file? It should bring up a menu with open in it.
    – Natsfan
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


That option is located in the Safari Preferences dialog.

in Safari go to the Safari menu and select Preferences.

If it is not already selected click on the General icon in the top left of the Preferences dialog.

At the very bottom there should be a checkbox (likely unchecked) that says "Open "safe" files after downloading." Check that box and you should be good to go.


There are several aspects to the behavior you are describing. First, you should know that the "Open" vs "Save" behavior is not strictly controlled by the Operating System; it is a function of the application and the source of the file. For example, you mentioned GMail... there are many different ways to configure GMail, but in my setup, hovering the pointer over a mail attachment yields a choice of Save to Drive (i.e. Google Drive), or Download. In the Chrome browser's Settings, Advanced menu, you will find options to specify both the download location, and whether or not the file will be opened after download. You'll find similar settings for Firefox, and for Safari (as pointed out in @SteveChambers answer).

Also, as @jmh pointed out in his comment, a "right click"/control click will yield a context-sensitive menu that may offer choices such as Open and Save As..., depending upon the type of document it is, and how the web page was coded.

It seems that you may be laboring under a misconception. By that, I mean you seem to feel that Microsoft is not saving the file before you open it. Let me assure you that Microsoft is saving the file before you open it. Microsoft may be saving the file to a temporary location (I'll explain that in a moment), but they are saving it - that is, it exists on your hard drive somewhere, and it was downloaded.

And so, if you wish to "do it like Microsoft does" on your Mac, you might try this:

  1. If you're using Safari as your web browser, you can configure it as outlined in @SteveChambers answer; i.e. open the file after download. Likewise, these same settings are available in Chrome and in Firefox (and likely any other browser you'll encounter).

  2. You can change the default location for Downloads . Generally all the browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) default saving downloaded files to the folder ~/Downloads - a folder you will see in your Dock. Files you download to this folder will remain there until you manually delete them. However, if you specify /tmp (a "temporary" folder) as the default location for downloaded files, these downloads will be deleted when your system restarts.

One caveat you should be aware of: If you elect to use /tmp, you should NOT go into /tmp and manually delete files. Let the OS take care of the cleanup.

Hope this helps... transitioning to a new OS means re-learning some things, but at the end of the day, they often do the same things, but called by a different name. Such is the case with "Open" and "Download".

  • But what users want is for a link to an image to open the image right there in the browser window or tab, and not download and save it or open it in Preview (it does of course download it to cache but that's not what I am referring to). Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 21:42

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