| By Woody Leonhard |
One of Vista’s best new timesavers sits hidden in an obscure Windows Explorer menu.
You can make the new Windows Explorer show you high-quality previews of files and PDFs before you open them — if you know the secret.
In praise of previews vs. opens
If you’ve used any flavor of Microsoft Office since Office 97, you know how handy previews can be. To get them, select File, Open (in Word 97, 2000, or 2003, for example), then click the Views icon up at the top right and pick Preview. Click once on a Word doc. Word presents you with a passably accurate preview of the document before you open it. It’ll even take a fair stab at HTML files, RTF (Rich Text Format) files, and the first page of PowerPoint presentations.
Being able to take a peek at a doc before you open it saves lots of time. There’s a noticeable stutter as you scroll through a list of documents, slapping previews on the screen. But previewing whooshes by a whole lot faster than having to open each file.
Since the files are previewed and not opened, there’s very little chance of getting stung by an infected macro in an unfamiliar document. And, you don’t have to make any decisions about running macros or responding to antivirus reports as you mindlessly push the down arrow in pursuit of the file that fits.
Fast. Simple. Safe. What a concept.
How to turn on Vista previews
While Office has shown previews for a decade, Windows itself has never offered previews — at least, nothing beyond a limited icon-like look at the contents of a file. Until Vista came along, if you wanted to look at a file, you really had to open it — the Pandora’s Box approach.