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Video: Add image thumbnails to folders in Windows Explorer

If you're working with image files in Windows Explorer, using the thumbnail view can make your job a bit easier--especially if the filenames aren't descriptive. In this video, Bill Detwiler shows you a handy trick that can make viewing files as thumbnails faster in both Windows XP and Vista.

If you're working with image files in Windows Explorer, using the thumbnail view can make your job a bit easier--especially if the filenames aren't very descriptive. In this video, I show you a handy trick that can make viewing files as thumbnails a bit faster in both Windows XP and Vista.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Mark Kaelin's article, "Add image thumbnails to folders in Windows Explorer," on which this video is based.

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About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

28 comments
aguatec
aguatec

VERY USEFULL. THANK YOU SHANE

Highlander944
Highlander944

This could be the most worthless IT tip I've ever seen. To start, any IT person who doesn't know this and can't figure it out within 30 seconds really isn't an IT person. MORE IMPORTANTLY, this article completely missed two major issues. How do you create thumbnail previews of other common file types? How do you refresh thumbnails under Vista? Both of these questions are worthy of research and explanation.

jedalton
jedalton

Thank you so much. I was having a hard time in Vista, trying to figure out how to do this. This is great!

rdettwyler
rdettwyler

Hey Cousin, I don't have the Preview Pane in my Organize/Layout. I only have Menu Bar and Navigation Pane. Help? Thanks, Rick Dettwyler

read
read

I find that the default size for thumbnails is sometimes too big or small (80 pixels wide) depending on the files I'm working with at the time. Changing the following reg value allows you to specify any width from 32 to 240 pixels (which is 20 to F0 in hex). On XP the max size is 240. HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\Software\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\Explorer\\ThumbnailSize [REG_DWORD] This change makes any existing thumbs.db file that was created with a previous setting useless of course. I find I change this fairly often depending on the work I'm doing (working with icons vs more detailed images, etc) so I've written a script (an HTA) that lets me see what the current size is (uses WScript.Shell to read and write to the registry) and change it quickly between a set of fixed values.

wyattharris
wyattharris

There must be a different way of setting up Windows for this. I've always seen the thumbs.db file pop up since first using XP. I just assumed it has always cached by default. Maybe this has changed in a recent update? Even so, I never knew there was a setting for it. Thanks for the heads up.

tvshub
tvshub

Please, can someone tell me what is a dojo? I know a mobo and a hobo, and a hoho, but I don't know what a dojo is.

MPG187
MPG187

I hate how Windows makes those annoying thumbs.db files EDIT: Sorry wrong post, this comment was meant for another article, lol EDIT: wait no it wasn't, in the email it look like it was posted for another one...

luis.vindas
luis.vindas

Excelent advice, thanks a lot. Luis Vindas Costa Rica.

jilld123
jilld123

And one more tip: If there is a specific image that you want to show up as your thumbnail for a particular folder, (it has to be either a .jpg or .png image, as far as I know), re-name that image "folder.jpg" (even if it is in .png format - you will get a warning about changing extension, but ignore it and change it anyway) then right-click on the folder and select "refresh thumbnail" (if using XP) OR - for Vista, right-click on the folder, select properties>customize>change icon>restore defaults>apply (I wish it was as easy as XP - anyone know a quicker way?) and the newly re-named file will become your thumbnail image.

toritrinder
toritrinder

Video was not working. It started out okay, kept getting some sort of radio station....all I could hear was Chesty.com.

ray.derkacz
ray.derkacz

Small point: You won't see the thumbs.db files unless you uncheck 'Hide protected operating system files'

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Just an FYI. Anyways, I have no sound and video is coming in poorly due to a slow remote connection via terminal services. However, what could be more easy than just opening windows explorer and clicking the "views" button above the navigation bar and selecting thumbnails?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

If you're using Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, you can easily create thumbnails of Word and Excel documents by selecting the "Save Thumbnail" option from the Save As window. PowerPoint saves a thumbnail automatically. On existing documents, I had to save the file using a new file name for the custom thumbnail to take affect.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

You can use Vista's Disk Cleanup utility to refresh thumbnails. Open the utility by entering "cleanmgr" in the Start Search box. When the Disk Cleanup Options window appears, click "My files only". Select the appropriate drive and click OK. Once the scan finishes, scroll down through the list and make sure the Thumbnails option is checked. Click OK to delete the currently cached thumbnails. They should now be recreated the next time you navigate to the folders. I hope this helps.

rdettwyler
rdettwyler

I should have looked closer at the main Folder Options' menu, which was set to Classic Folders. Love the outtakes :-) Rick

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Thanks for adding this extra tip to the discussion. I'd love to see the script.

sltate
sltate

the name of a school of Martial Arts in Japanese terms. Other cultures have other terms. Do you ever him say something about becoming an IT Ninja? That is in reference to the dojo that the ninja trained. Google search dojo and you should find some good info. Thanks for the tip. Keep them coming!

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

A good tip. Thanks for adding it to the discussion!

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I'm so accustomed to displaying hidden system files that I didn't think to mention turning the feature on to view the thumbs.db file. Thanks for the tip.

SumDawgy
SumDawgy

So true but then, those that belong here already LIVE thier lives in that "view all, hide nothing" enviornment. :) Snobbish? Mebbe, but valid.

it
it

If I turn this feature on, on workstations that access a file server full of photos, will this increase the system resources on the file server or the workstation? Once the thumbs.db file is created, will all other workstations benefit from this thumbs file having already being created?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Glad the tip helped and that you enjoyed the outtakes.

zclayton2
zclayton2

But the Dojo was good review for XP. Now, how to translate to another OS....