Seeing a Worksheet Thumbnail in Windows

Dennis has some of his Excel workbooks displayed in Windows Explorer with the image of the first worksheet showing. Other workbooks don’t display the thumbnail. It would be great if he could have all of his Excel workbooks display this thumbnail, so he wonders if there is some setting he needs to make that controls this.

Actually, Excel provides a couple of settings that control this feature. First, Excel lets you control the saving of the thumbnail image when you first save the workbook or when you use the Save As command to save the workbook under a new name. The Save As dialog box contains a Save Thumbnail check box at the bottom. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Save As dialog box.

Select the check box, and when you save the workbook the preview image is saved with it. The image represents the appearance of the first worksheet in the workbook. (You have no control over which worksheet is used in the preview.)

On some systems, the Save Thumbail check box may be selected by default; on others it may not. Whether the check box is defaulted to “selected” or “not selected” is controlled, interestingly enough, by a Properties setting. Here’s how you change that setting in Excel 2010 and Excel 2013:

  1. Display the File tab of the ribbon.
  2. Make sure the Info option is selected at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click the Properties link near the right side of the dialog box and then click Advanced Properties. Excel displays the Properties dialog box for your workbook.
  4. Make sure the Summary tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Summary tab of the Properties dialog box.

  6. Select the Save Thumbnails for All Excel Documents check box at the bottom of the dialog box.
  7. Click on OK to close the Properties dialog box.
  8. Save your workbook.

How you do it in Excel 2007 is just a bit different:

  1. Click the Office button, click Prepare, and then click Properties. Excel displays an abbreviated set of properties just above your worksheet.
  2. Click the down-arrow next to Document Properties and choose Advanced Properties. Excel displays the Properties dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Summary tab is selected.
  4. Select the Save Thumbnails for All Excel Documents check box at the bottom of the dialog box.
  5. Click on OK to close the Properties dialog box.
  6. Save your workbook.

The reason that I said that how you set this option is interesting is because it affects ALL workbooks, not just the one whose properties you are adjusting. All that this particular setting does is to make sure that the Save Thumbnail check box, on the Save As dialog box, defaults to selected. It does this for all future times that the Save As dialog box displays.

It should be noted that the only way to save a thumbnail for an existing workbook that doesn’t have one already saved is to open the workbook and use the Save As dialog box (press F12 to display it) to resave the workbook. (Don’t forget to make sure the Save Thumbnail check box is selected before saving.) It is easy to forget to do this on workbooks you receive from others which may not have had the thumbnail saved.

It should also be noted that if you save your workbook via macro, there doesn’t appear to be a way within VBA to set this particular setting. Thus, macro-saved workbooks are not saved with a thumbnail, and the only way that I know of to save that thumbnail is to later open the workbook and manually go through the Save As steps to save it with the thumbnail.

If you still cannot see the thumbnails in a Windows Explorer window, make sure you have the view in that window set to use medium (or larger) icons. Any other views may not display the desired thumbnails.