imageThere used to be a time when you couldn't imagine your life without Microsoft's Outlook – web email clients were pathetic and non-functional, Internet access was scarce, and access to certain advanced features was only possible with a desktop application like Outlook.

Then, Gmail arrived and exploded the whole notion of desktop email clients forever, almost overnight. It was fast, robust, logical, and integrated – many things Outlook still isn't to this day (Outlook 2010 + IMAP is pure hell).

Slowly, Google brought out more and more features that made the fine line between web and desktop emailing thinner and thinner, and today, it finally disappeared, at least for me.

The final nail in the coffin turned out to be something I'd desired for a very long time – taking screenshots and pasting them directly into Gmail in the browser window. Inline image pasting from the clipboard if you will.

Update #1: Hrm, I may have jumped the gun here. While the image appears perfectly fine in the Create interface and can be resized, moved, etc, it seems to be sent out with formatting errors that prevent it from showing up properly on the recipient's side.

Essentially, what happens is the image is encoded inline, but for some reason the encoding is done wrong.

Here is what Gmail shows this image was encoded as (via "Show original"). I don't know if it's Gmail adding these or not, but there are a ton of =\r\n characters along with "3D" in there that break everything.

Here is what this image is supposed to look like with those things stripped (it works in Chrome and Firefox just fine).

We're close, really close.

Update #2: HowToGeek investigated this new capability with Chrome and found that while it doesn't work with the clipboard, it does work if you copy and paste images within Chrome itself, and it doesn't suffer from the bug above.

After digging into it, I found that it only works because rather than create the image inline, like Firefox does, Chrome just makes an <img> tag with the src parameter pointing to the original url.

This means the image in the email will disappear if it's deleted and simply won't show up if you tried to copy something that requires a login.

Update #3 (6/13/11): According to the Gmail blog, you can finally paste images directly into your emails, albeit in Chrome only at this time!

I take a lot of screenshots of my desktop or certain parts of it when doing reviews or reporting bugs (with OneNote or SnagIt), and having to save the image, find it on the disk, and drop it into Gmail, while relatively easy, was still too cumbersome. In that regard, Outlook was great – I could quickly pump out a few screenshots and send off an email with all of them inline with text in only a few seconds. If I attempted to do that in Gmail, I either got nothing or a little image basically saying how full of fail I was.

It all changed with Firefox 4 (at least that's my theory) – I am now able to take screenshots and paste them straight into Gmail, right in the browser. Let's take a look:


Amazing, isn't it? This does not work for me in Chrome 12 or IE 9 – only Firefox 4 at the moment. I'm not sure how it works or why it started working only now, but I'm sure one of you will eventually come here and provide a sensible explanation.

Goodbye Outlook, I hardly knew ye.

P.S. I'm using Windows 7 in case it matters.

● ● ●
Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.

  • Shawn

    Works fine in chrome for me using canary latest build
    12.0.727.0 canary build

  • Vivek

    Does not work for me with Canary 12.0.728.0 but works great in Firefox 4.

  • greybeardedgeek

    The 'wrong' GMail coding is actually a perfectly legal encoding according to the Base64 spec (see

    The fact that other email clients / browsers don't decode it properly is the real issue.

  • Merovingian

    This is not just Gmail, I'm also able to copy paste images on Hotmail. Maybe its just something special in Firefox 4

  • cameos

    Does not work well… other mail service might NOT display the picture correctly, even Gmail itself does not (from "Sent Mail")

  • Joel

    Pasting image data from the clipboard is not a feature that will come to GMail or Hotmail any time soon because it's a security risk. I've researched this to no end because it would be a GREAT tool for MANY people. Unfortunately/fortunately (?) browsers only have access to text clipboard data. The only way to get access to image data from the clipboard is through Adobe Air, or run a Java service running on your computer (gross), or use a WPF plugin which is only available in Chrome if you copy the NSPlugin files from Firefox into the Chrome plugin directory.

    • You may want to research what happens in Firefox 4, because it's definitely pasting a full inline image as a base64 encoded string (data:image/png;base64), which is a valid way to represent an image (a lot of bookmark sync plugins use this exact way to sync favicons).

      I feel like we're missing 1 tiny bit in this equation to make it work properly.

  • Orks

    Chrome 12.0.742.91 on Windows7-64 bits
    >Snagit does not work
    >Windows clipping tool works fine.

    • Louie T

      The new Gmail image paste isn't working for me with Chrome 12.0.742.100, on Windows 7 64-bit.
      It looks like it does, but the image blocks are either white or invisible. They take up space and can be moved, but you can't see them.

      I look forward to when they get it working.

  • Joe Dark

    Not for nothing but AOL Mail had this feature since…ummmm forever…..

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