Seeing a Worksheet Thumbnail in Windows

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 15, 2020)


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 later versions:

  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 a 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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13206) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Word and Character Count Information

Using fields you can easily insert both the word and character counts for a document into the document itself. As those ...

Discover More

Problems Using Words as Bullets

If you know the secret, you can use actual words as "bullets" in a bulleted list. The built-in bulleted lists in Word ...

Discover More

Finding and Replacing with Subscripts

Want to use Find and Replace to change the formatting of a cell's contents? You would be out of luck; Excel won't let you ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Shrinking Workbook Size

As you work with a workbook over time, it is possible for the workbook to grow to a huge size. If you want to shrink the ...

Discover More

Using a Single Password for Multiple Workbooks

While password protecting a workbook does provide some security for the contents in the workbook, if you have several ...

Discover More

Opening Two Workbooks with the Same Name

If you have two workbooks that each have the same name, opening them at the same time in Excel could cause some problems. ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 8?

2014-08-13 10:57:33


Since the Thumbnail is not something that can be turned on/off programmatically, when creating workbooks in VBA (Workbooks.Add), I would suggest using the FileDialog(SaveAs) immediately after and instruct the users to check the Thumbnails checkbox.

2014-08-11 08:45:01

Jodi Lopiano

Thanks so much for including this tip. I have been wondering how to do this for sometime and thought it was an enterprise setting my company had restricted for the Microsoft suite. Now I can see my worksheets without having to open each of them when they are similarly named.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.