How-To Geek

Preview Documents Without Opening Them In Word 2007

If you have a lot of Word documents and are not sure which one contains the information you need, Microsoft Word 2007 allows you to preview a document within Word without having to open each document.

Open Word and click on the Microsoft Office Button and choose Open.

The Open Dialog box will appear.  On the right hand side of the toolbar click the down arrow on views and choose Preview.

This will open the preview pane.  Click on any file on the left hand side and preview what inside the file.  When you find the file you need just click Open.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 05/21/07

Comments (46)

  1. nick zara

    This doesn’t work on vista:)

  2. The Geek

    That’s interesting… I’ll have to figure out why.

  3. Matt

    “This doesn’t work on vista:)
    nick zara on May 23, 2007 8:18 pm”

    Did anyone ever figure out anything about this?

  4. jm

    Yes, This feature is not available on Win Vista Ultimate either… Any clue why not?

  5. Paulofcroydon

    Yes it is, to preview a Doc in Vista using Word 2007, use open as above when the dialog pop’s up select Organize – Layout – Preview Pane, this will stay on until switched off.

  6. Bud

    I have Vista and Word 2007 and I cannot preview a document without opening it.

    W. Werner

  7. Howard

    In Windows Vista, and Word 2007, I choose Open > Organize > Layout > Preview Pane and…
    I see the preview pane but when I select a document it does not show in the preview pane??? The pane remains completely blank. Could this be because I am trying to preview .DOC documents instead of .DOCX documents?

  8. Jacci

    no, it doesn’t work for docx either. It does work in explorer on both doc and docx, but i cant get it to show in open in word no matter what I try grrrr.

  9. tjbreaux

    I wish someone would find a fix for this too. When I select Open and click on any Word file the Preview Pane remains blank. I can however preview Excel files, graphics files like .jpg, text files like .txt, but I cannot preview Word files within Word. I opened up Excel and I cannot preview any excel files, but I can preview other file types like Word, graphics, text, etc.

    What is confusing to me is why can Word preview Excel documents, but not its own Word docs? Likewise, why can Excel preview Word documents, but not its own Excel documents? However, using Vista Explorer I can successfully view all file types in the preview pane within Vista.

    I’ve spent hours on this issue to no avail………..

  10. jw

    I am not offered a “preview” option on the views menu

  11. Bud

    I am also not offered a “preview” option on lmy views menu. It is on the Options/layout drop down. But it still does not work the way it is supposed to.


  12. James

    I have spent soooo much time on this. Microsoft said it was a “known” issue that would be resolved with the next service pack. Very annoying.

    If anyone has a fix sooner, please post.

    Don’t bother calling MS. They can’t help.

  13. blindasabat

    Work Around! – just preview them in Explorer rather than Word.

    It seems to be a problem with Word rather than Vista as using Windows Explorer with a preview pane it works fine and the result is the same.

    To enable the preview pane in Windows Vista Explorer, simply launch any Explorer window in folder view. At the folder menu, the select Organize, and then click on Layout, and finally select Preview Pane.

    To set this as the default setting select Folder options and select set this as the default on the view tab.

  14. HB

    Thank you Blindasabat..your solution works fine on my system and it will definitely save me time in searching for documents.

  15. Bob

    Yes, but shouldn’t the feature just work the way it supposed to!?!

  16. blindasabat

    D’ ya think?

  17. John Smith

    So far, I am sharing the strange issues mentioned of Excel able to preview only Word file and vice versa, but I have one more; I use a lot of macros that are kept in Personal.xlsb in the XLSTART folder. If I preview an Excel file in Windows Explorer and then double click to open it, my Personal.xlsb is not available because it is locked by the Excel.exe that is running in the background to power the preview.

    Microsoft, after a dozen emails and 3 hours on the telephone, cannot help. Can any real person help or have an idea for a work around?

  18. Bob Weight

    Lemme makes sure I understand fully – if you run Word 07 on a vista machine you can’t see the previews, but the same program runningt on W03 will show the previews? I have reluctantly migrated to W07 and Vista and not having the preview pane working is a royal pain. The workaroun might help but not very much. Is there any hope of getting this fixed?

  19. Bud

    I agree with you and the otheres. You can see how long ago I recognized this problem and I still have not gotten a solution.

    The best work around I have found is using Windows Explorer. You can preview your docs there.

    It is amazing that in Word 07 you can preview PDFs but you cannot preview docs.

    I am very disappointed in MS.


  20. Kim

    Having spent hours trying to figure out how to preview in Word 07, I was thrilled to find the work around for this problem – only to have my hopes dashed when I found that even in Explorer, I can’t preview Word files saved on our server (it says the files are “online” and it reads files “offline”. Well, unless someone else has a suggestion to fix this problem (she says hopefully)…

  21. Bud

    It still doesn’t work on VISTA.

    This is absolutly disgraceful for Microsoft to ignore this problem for almost 2 years!!!


  22. Eolivas

    For some files I’m getting a message: Preview not available.
    I know that the files that I can preview now; I check mark the preview box in properties when I save them in Microsoft 2003 but I can not find that box anymore. Can you tell me if is in another place?

  23. Joe

    I have had the same issue with Vista and Word 2007 and I did the following as mentioned above.

    In Windows Vista, and Word 2007, I choose Open > Organize > Layout > Preview Pane and…I see the preview pane but when I select a document it does not show in the preview pane. The pane remains completely blank.

    Although, I funny thing just happened yesterday. The preview pane started working and I have no idea why. I got completely out of word and it would not come back. I got it back a couple of times and currently it is not working. So it does work, but something is blocking it.

  24. john w

    When I discovered the preview many months ago, it worked in Excel under Vista. Then lately, as discussed above it doesn’t work. So, I conclude some MS update had an unintentional effect on a neat tool.

  25. Bud

    Be aware if you save your older documents in the new format from explorer (Word 07.docm and .docx) you will no longer be able to view those documents in Explorer. Work around. Save them again in Word 97-2003. Then you will be able to view them in Explorer. Isn’t that stupid!!

  26. JO

    Thanks-This is really useful.

    By the way, it works in Word 2000 too.

  27. DaaDDAA

    Some problem in windows7 RTM and office 2007 – In Open dialog in Word, I can not preview doc or docx files, but xls, xlcx I can…
    In Excel, I can not preview xls, xlsx, bud doc, docx yes… This is offices problem.

  28. Eric

    The work-around does not work for me. Using Vista and Office 2007, I cannot preview either .doc or .docx files in Word, Excel, or Explorer, but I can preview .xlsx and .pptx files. I can preview the same files (doc and docx) using Word 2002, so the problem is not the files…

  29. hlacom

    I use w2007 and vista home basic, and I stil visit similar problem: no preview before open in word 2007. but it can preview in Expoler(I choose Open > Organize > Layout > Preview Pane ) but it spend ~45s to preview

  30. Saint

    I work with Word 2007 and Vista Business SP1 and I have had this problem with the preview pane from day 1 of purchasing the computer. Like Joe explained above, last week my preview pane started working and I thought great assuming an automatic update had fixed the issue. Alas, I turned my computer off for the weekend and when I started it again on Monday the preview pane was not working again.
    The is a long ongoing issue and it is about time Microsoft sorted it.

  31. tris

    I have Vista and Word 2007 and the same problem occurs with me. A blank space where the doc preview should be! But I found out it ONLY works after restarting your computer and it only works one time. When you select your document and open it then try to preview documents again its back to being blank. Its so frustrating but the Excel program works fine for previewing documents–just make sure you switch the viewing option from “all excel files” to just “all files” and then right click to open the doc in Word–so that will have to do for now.

  32. petad

    I think I have found a trick with the Preview showing up, then not showing up when you restart within Explorer. If you open the Preview Pane, then view a .docx word doc, it will not show the preview. Then go and view a previous version .doc, which should preview, then come back and preview a .docx, and viola!, you should be able to see the .docx.

    Still really annoying that it won’t work in Word, though.

  33. MarkS

    I have Vista a Word 2007 and preview doesn’t work. Works great on my laptop with XP. I spent alot of time trying to find a fix and gave up. So, I just bought a Win 7 computer for my secretary, and installed the standard version of Office 2007. Guess what, no preview in Word 2007, and preview pane says Microsoft Document Viewer Error. Clean computer, with almost nothing on it and it doesn’t work. Alot of people have said how great Windows 7 is, well, I’m not that impressed, and the lack of file viewing on a brand new clean machine with a clean office install, is infuriating.

  34. Jeff

    My Word 2007 won’t preview docx or doc files either. Neither can I preview them in explorer. But an interesting side note- txt files do preview. That might be a clue for someone to solve the mystery. And yes I am trying to clean out old files and I have to open them in Word, then close them in Word and then decided whether to delete them. Kind of frustrating.

    Is MS saying anything about this kind of a major problem?

  35. Jeff

    Followup: A couple interesting (and maybe helpful things I noticed)
    1- On my wife’s computer the preview works in Word 2007! When I look at her version info (Word Options, Resources) she shows 12.0.4518.1014 . I have 12.0.6504.5000 and SP2 MSO 12.0.6525.1000 (and mine will note preview). I tried reinstalling and trying preview, then adding patches, checking preview every step of the way and mine would never preview.

    2- Neither would my Explorer preview. And I don’t see how this could have anything to do with it, but I then tried previewing a Word 2007 Doc that had a Word Table in it with Explorer and it previewed correctly. It has been prevewing perfectly in Explorer ever since. This was a great help as I was cleaning out some folders.

  36. Derrick

    I have the same problem. I was hoping that Office 2010 would fix the issue. I downloaded the beta today and am trying it.Still having the same problem. :-(

  37. Ed

    Anyone have any new information about the “error in the Microsoft Office Word previewer”? I read elsewhere that you have to disable the Microsoft Live add-in in Word options. However, Word won’t let me do that, saying I have to be an administrator – but I AM an administrator. In the meantime, the previewer behaves oddly as others have noted – in Excel it will preview Word documents (but not Excel), and in Word it will preview Excel (but not Word). This is not consistent, however, and sometimes depends on whether the other program is open. Wish this potentially helpful feature could be made to work. I use Office 2007 with Windows 7.

  38. Greg

    I did find a temporary workaround. If you start Word with /a switch, if forces the preview pane to work.
    winword /a

    Unfortunately, you must start Word that way each time.

    What’s interesting to me is my wife’s computer is new with Win7 SP2 and Office 2007 and is the one experiencing this problem. I upgraded to Office 2007 from Office 2003 (still on XP Pro, though) and my Preview still works just like 2003 – completely different from the view on hers.

  39. Allan

    You can preview the word document from the word itself. But you have to run the word in XP compatibility mode. You can run in compatibility mode by going to program file->Office 12->winword.exe.
    Right click on winword.exe and click on properties, and click on compatibility mode. Change the compatibility mode to XP.. This will open the word preview from word.

  40. Allan

    You can preview the word document from word in window 7 and vista also. However, you have to change the compatibility mode to XP. You can change the winword compatibility mode to XP by going to program file-> Office 12-> winword.exe. Right click on winword.exe and click on the compatibility mode and change it to XP. This is open or preview the word document from word.

  41. Sadler

    My previewer works in Explorer but not in Word. However, I noticed that when I preview a document, that the date is automatically updated. I formatted my correspondence template to automatically update because my boss makes so many changes and that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. Now, however, in the “Previewer” it automatically updates the date on my document, without even opening it. Which … defeats the whole purpose now doesn’t it? Back to typing in the date on every piece of correspondence, unless someone comes up with a solution!

  42. Gav

    Thanks a bunch Allan the method that you have suggested has worked a treat :-) This will save me so much time!

  43. CaliforniaCbeee

    Nope, no answer, just complaining because i just found this out. Wonder if microsoft ever reads forums? They should have a fix by now, you’d think. And their site is pitiful!!!!! What a pain this is.

  44. jOe

    Allan – thank you.
    Interesting – we seem to have a choice – without setting word’s compatibility to XP you can see pdf’s but when you make it compatible with XP you get to preview the docs but not pdf’s. I appreciate the help and will use Word in compatibility mode with XP as described for file previewing, it helps alot and saves time. For overall viewing and for whatever reason the windows explorer seems to allow preview of these files as well pdf’s images and document files (Windows 7).

  45. Cbyrd

    Allan – thanks for posting the info. I was actually trying to get the properties view to work after getting a new computer with Windows 7, but still using Word 2007. Changing compatibility to XP worked like a charm!!!

  46. Fritz

    Thanks too! Never an Microsoft-Office again! What disadvantages has the compatibility-mode? Is anything important not working?

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