Attachments to Inbox from External Email

Did you know that while Canvas Inbox allows you to forward your email to an external account that if you answer the email from the external account and add an attachment, that will not show up in Canvas Inbox?  Seems that file attachments in this situation go into a unknown land never to be seen!  So if Canvas allows you to forward inbox messages to your external account (in my case my official college email account) then why not have access to full features of standard email? What sense does it make to have the forwarding happen if replies can't have full functionality?


For an instructor, this adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to what should be a simple activity.  If a student emails me a question via Canvas Inbox and it is forwarded to my standard school email account (we use Outlook Mail) then I should be able to answer that student from my regular school account and attach a file and have the student receive it where ever they are reading their email.  Canvas Inbox or their school email account.


Add functionality that allows attachments to come through with an email reply from designated external email accounts or forwarded to their accounts fully intact!


🔎 This idea has been archived. While this idea isn't open for comments, it is an important part of Instructure’s idea conversations and development process. Contributions like this are valuable as Instructure prioritizes work on new or existing features.

Community Participant

Regardless of one's opinion about how best to communicate and transfer documents, Ken Black's point to simply add a  warning needs to be implemented.

Community Team
Community Team
  Idea is currently in Product Radar Learn more about this stage...
Community Contributor

I completely agree that this message needs to be added.  We have had two very upset instructors who had no idea that attachments did not follow replies to messages in Canvas.    In one case the instructor sent a message from Grades to students who had failed to complete an assignment.  She asked them to reply with an attachment if they wanted to receive some credit.  She had no idea that was impossible to do from email and expected that the messaging system worked as email does.  She was not happy to have to tell the students they needed to resend the attachment separately.  Yes, I know  she could have extended the assignment due dates for these students, but forcing faculty into a workflow like that does not work.  They are used to sending and receiving attachments in email and they do not understand how messages sent and received via email are not "email".  At least a warning message would be very helpful.

Community Novice

I totally agree with this one! some type of notification would be nice! Student's don't understand this either!

Community Novice

I like the message addition as for the time being that would be helpful.  I have had students get upset with me when I tell them I did not receive an attachment.  While they generally understand once I explain to them how the systems work, having to go through that explanation is just another time consuming thing for me to do. 

I might add on "or school email account" to the end of that message.  Either approach would work.

You can reply to this message in Canvas by replying directly to this email. NOTE: Do NOT include attachments! If you need to include an attachment, use your Canvas Inbox or school email account.

Since there is a message there already "programmed" in, that would not be difficult to make that change, probably less than a few minutes. Deciding on the wording might be the most difficult part of that puzzle. Smiley Happy

Community Champion

What I do at the start of the term is make it very clear to my students that I only accept assignments through a Canvas Assignment drop box. When students need to send me any other documentation that is outside the scope of an assignment submission, they are instructed to send it through our school's email system. And finally, I never, ever send attachments to my students using the Inbox. If it is documentation related to the curriculum, I post it in the appropriate place in the Canvas classroom, if it is a non-curriculum related document intended for an individual student, I use our school's email.

I hope this helps.


Community Participant

Has there been any movement on adding a warning to the email to not include attachments when replying to Canvas notification email? It seems it wouldn't take much to add it after the "You can reply to this message in Canvas by replying directly to this email". 

It is pretty important to have a message as it would cut down on the back and forth between instructors and students and arbitration of academic appeals. 


Community Novice

Adding a message somewhere on the inbox section to state "attachments sent in replies will not be sent/received" would be a temporary solution until attachments can be sent in replies.  It is unfortunate that the button to attach is there when the sender wants to reply, AND it looks like it was sent to the receiver (on the sender's end), but the receiver can't see it at all.

Community Champion

While the functionality of adding an attachment (which this Feature Idea requests) has not yet been added, I am delighted to see that on the December 9, 2017 Production Release Notes there is this Bug Fix listed:

Email Notification Attachments

Email notification footers note that attachments are not supported in external replies.


Explanation: When a user received a notification outside of Canvas and tried to reply to the notification with an attachment, attachments were not included with the reply. Canvas code has been updated to include a note in notification footers that attachments are not supported in external replies. Replies that require an attachment must be sent directly within Canvas.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I definitely like this idea in principle, but this would really bring Canvas storage quotas and limits into the forefront.

Hopefully I'm not giving any "secret" info out here (if so, please moderate), but I just learned from our CSM last week that the Canvas storage limit is actually defined in most contracts as 500MB per FTE.  The Course/Group/User quotas that admins can setup inside Canvas are just ways to try to manage that actual 500MB per FTE limit.

If attachments are implemented, they'd certainly go against the overall storage limit we have for Canvas, and would probably add quite a bit overall as most people don't even think of email/attachments as having limits these days.  I'd like the whole limits/quota system to get revisited at some point, but I know that's really a much bigger thing than just this idea.  I thought I'd put it out here though for those that may not know about Canvas storage limits and the implications this idea could have on them,

Community Participant

Gumpy admin message coming in...

Just a few messages above you make a point about how you "...studiously avoid sending my students outside the Canvas classroom except for the purposes of internet research...", and how this is because you cannot imagine people that use an LMS might not want to do everything within that piece of software and not 'shuffle paper' (as if that is not part of real education life) and that online instruction is amplified by good instructor engagement with students. But here you contradict yourself stating, "they are instructed to send it through our school's email system." and "...I use our school's email."

So what is the advice of Instructure and the Coaches?  To communicate and train all our users to use the Inbox but deal with this problem and be sure to read the note at the bottom of your emails, to not use the Inbox and deal with the jumping between apps or (this appears to be the advice) to use both Inbox and external institution provided email despite all the other evidence the research, Instructure and the coaches point to in practice, documentation and design of other features in Canvas that maximizing simple, consistent and clear communication channels with students is KEY to online course success.

The fact that Instructure had not documented this behavior for students, instructors or admins and patently ignored requests by long-standing customers for over a year to simply amend text that directly instructs users on how to act within their application is disappointing.  Glad the note is finally added to the body of the messages but it is a bit of cold comfort.

Community Novice

I'd rather Canvas messages be fully synced with external email (meaning I can reply to a message sent via Canvas from my external email with an attachment) or be a completely internal messaging system (meaning I don't get Canvas messages in my external email). It being partially synced is the worst of both worlds. Thanks for addressing this issue!

Community Novice

I agree - it is the worst of both worlds.  Either do a complete integration with E-mail or do no integration with e-mail.  The main issue for us is the expectation of students and instructors - they see messages in their e-mail from Canvas and expect it to have full functionality.   The caveat at the bottom of the e-mail helps, but it will be ignored if the message is too long and it still leaves open the possibility that attachments will be forwarded to e-mail if they are attached in the Canvas inbox.

Community Novice

At this point, many users still don't know about this gap in functionality and have misaligned expectations.  It would be really great if Canvas could reply with an "error message" email response when users email attachments.  If users received an email back indicating that their attachment didn't go through, they would realize their "mistake" and correct accordingly by sending the attachment using alternate methods.

Community Team
Community Team

The Radar idea stage has been removed from the Feature Idea Process.  You can read more about why in the blog post Adaptation: Feature Idea Process Changes.


This change will only impact the stage sort of this idea and will not change how it is voted on or how it is considered during prioritization activities.  This change will streamline the list of ideas 'open for voting', making it easier for you to see the true top voted ideas in one sort, here.

Community Novice

I'm going to promote this vote across my campus!!! This is a "no-brainer" folks! I MUST be able to reply to a student's email and send attachments...grrrr. Please vote UP!

Community Novice

For those of us who are part-time and spend very few hours actually on the campus, most all of our communication with students is via Outlook. Being able to send them attachments via Outlook would be extremely helpful.

Community Novice

Hello all, 

I am a student and this lack of functionality has been screwing me over for years. The number of times group members or professors have tried to send me an attachment from their native email provider to my Canvas inbox, with no success or understanding why it wasn't working, is more than I would like to count. I am stunned that this is even up for debate, there is nothing anywhere in the email that tells you that you can respond to a canvas message through your normal email, that you can't send attachments. The reason why so many users are having trouble with this and probably aren't even coming here to say something about it, is because it's such fundamentally basic functionality, they assume it's their and that the problem is actually user error or a glitch. Please fix this most basic of features OR  AT THE VERY LEAST PUT A NOTICE THAT PEOPLE CAN'T SEND ATTACHMENTS FROM THEIR EMAIL TO THE CANVAS INBOX, it really is the very least you could.

I apologize for my all caps response, but it's a very frustrating lack of functionality to deal with and one that has been causing a ton of problems for as long as this system has been like this. 

Have a good rest of your day.

Community Novice

I've used Blackboard, eCollage, and Brightspace, but Canvas is the only LMS that doesn't allow direct email.  Combined with Canvas's inability to allow each student to start his or her own thread on a discussion board, Canvas's lack of email makes Canvas feel like it's working to inhibit learning rather than enhance it.

Community Novice

I answer email from my Mac, using Apple's Mail app. It would be great to be able to send students attachments in replies to them, but instead I'm required to log in through the web interface. When replying and sending from a phone or iPad this is cumbersome. When will attachments be allowed from external mail apps?