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It’s easy to preview files without opening them in Windows 10 thanks to the Preview Pane feature in File Explorer. You can see thumbnails of most images, videos, audio files, and some text-based documents. Here’s how to turn it on.

(You may have heard about a security flaw involving the preview pane, but that was fixed on Windows 10 with an update released on April 14, 2020. If you have the latest updates, it’s safe to use.)

First, open File Explorer. To do so quickly, press Windows+E, or click the folder icon in your taskbar if File Explorer is pinned there. You’ll also find File Explorer in your Start menu.

In the menu bar at the top of the File Explorer window, click “View.”

Find “Preview pane” in the upper-left region of the toolbar and click on it.

The Preview pane is now activated. Navigate File Explorer to a folder that has documents you’d like to preview. When you select a file, you will see its preview thumbnail in the right side of the window.

Example of Preview Pane in Windows 10 File Explorer

File Explorer also has a related feature called Details Pane. To turn it on, click “View” in the Explorer menu bar, then click “Details pane” in the toolbar (it’s right next to the Preview pane option).

When you highlight a file with Details pane turned on, you will see a tiny thumbnail (for applicable file times) and some details about the file, such as its size or the date created, in the right portion of the window.

Example of Details Pane in Windows 10 File Explorer

A Keyboard Shortcut for Viewing the Preview and Details Panes

It’s also possible to quickly toggle the Preview and Details panes using keyboard shortcuts. Here’s how.

  • To open or close the preview pane, press Alt+P.
  • To open or close the details pane, press Alt+Shift+P.

RELATED: How to Use File Explorer Without a Mouse on Windows 10

Microsoft’s free PowerToys for Windows 10 can add support for additional file types to the Preview Pane, including SVG images and text documents formatted with Markdown.

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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