Helpful Vista/Outlook 2007 Feature: Preview Pane

There’s a feature in Windows Vista that isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves. I think it could be a tremendous time saver for a lot of people. That feature is the Vista Preview Pane.

To activate the Preview Pane, open an Explorer window, click the Organize button, select Layout, and click on the Preview Pane. Now click on a file, and you should see a preview of that file in the right sidebar.

In the past the preview feature was limited to very small thumbnails of photos in the XP sidebar. Now the preview pane lets you preview office documents, text files, HTML, and media files like MP3’s. In addition, there’s a plug-in structure that lets you add more file types to the preview pane, such as PDF files and Photoshop Documents (PSD’s). (Since Photoshop takes a long time to open, the PSD plug-in is especially helpful.)

I’ve created a quick YouTube video that demonstrates how the Preview Pane works. (For some reason, when I uploaded it, it compressed the time from just under a minute to just under 30 seconds, so you’re seeing this in double time.)

Another cool thing is that you can actually select and copy information out of the preview pane, without opening the file at all.

Outlook 2007 uses this same preview technology to let people preview attachments in their email. Just single click on the file instead of double clicking it, and you should be able to see a preview without opening the full program.

I’m just amazed that so few people seem to know about this. It took me nearly three months of working with my new Vista laptop to discover this, mostly because the button to turn on the preview pane is in such a bad location. (Why isn’t under the Views button, Microsoft?) But now that I’ve found it, I believe that its going to save me all kinds of time.

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