How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (2023)

Your Windows PC may be home to Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, photos, images, videos, music, audio files, and more. Wouldn't it be great if you could view each of those files quickly and easily without having to open them through their associated applications? Well, you can perform that feat with assistance from a file viewer.

Beyond helping you check out your own files, a file viewer can help you view unknown files. In some cases, you may not know which program to use to view such a file. In other cases, you may not even have the necessary application to open the file.

File Explorer in Windows 10 and 11 comes with its own preview pane that can display certain types of files. However, you can also enlist the aid of several third-party programs, including QuickLook, WinQuickLook, Cool File Viewer, File Viewer Plus, and All Video Player HD.

File Explorer Preview Pane

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (1)

First, let's check out the preview pane in File Explorer. Open File Explorer in Windows 10, click the View tab, and select Preview pane. Click a file you wish to view, such as a Word document, Excel sheet, PowerPoint presentation, PDF, or image. The file appears in the preview pane. Increase or decrease the size or width of the file by dragging the separation bar left or right.

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (2)

In Windows 11, open File Explorer, click the View menu, move to Show, and select Preview pane. Click the file you wish to view to see it in the pane.

QuickLook

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (3)

QuickLook(Opens in a new window) offers a cool and convenient way to display files. Install this free app, and it integrates into File Explorer. There's now no need to manually open any type of preview window or pane. In File Explorer, just select the file you want to view and press the spacebar. The QuickLook window pops up to display the file in a dedicated window.

With QuickLook, you can view a variety of file types, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, HTML files, and ZIP files. You can even play many audio and video files. To use the program with Microsoft Office files, you'll need to install a free plug-in, which you can find on the developer's Available Plugins page(Opens in a new window).

You can also easily navigate through multi-page documents and scrub through audios and videos. As in File Explorer, just resize the window to increase or decrease the size of the viewed file. And you can open a file through its native application just by clicking the Open button.

WinQuickLook

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (4)

The $1.99 WinQuickLook(Opens in a new window) works similarly to QuickLook. After you install the program, it hooks into File Explorer. Select the file you want to view in File Explorer, press the spacebar, and the file appears in its own window. From there, click the "Open with" button if you want to open the file in its native application. WinQuickLook supports a variety of file types, including Microsoft Office files, PDFs, HTML files, and many audio and videos formats.

Cool File Viewer

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (5)

With the free version of Cool File Viewer(Opens in a new window), you can view a limited number of file types and play certain audio and video files. However, the true power of this program comes with an in-app purchase of the $20 paid Pro version.

(Video) How to Preview Files Without Opening Them - Windows 10 Trick

The full Cool File Viewer Pro program gives you the ability to view PDFs, all types of images, and a variety of video and audio files. You can view and extract compressed files in ZIP and RAR formats. Plus, you can view and edit Microsoft Office documents.

Cool File Viewer doesn't integrate directly into File Explorer but runs as a small standalone window. You can position the window alongside File Explorer and then drag and drop each file you want to see into Cool File Viewer.

As another option, click the Choose button in Cool File Viewer and select a file to view. You can also peek at files through File Explorer by choosing Open with > Cool File Viewer.

File Viewer Plus

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (6)

The free version of File Viewer Plus(Opens in a new window) will display files from Microsoft Word and Excel as well as PDFs, image files, and HTML files. You can also play a variety of audio and video types. To view additional files, such as PowerPoint presentations, you'll have to shell out $29.99 to upgrade to the paid version.

Like Cool File Viewer, File Viewer Plus runs as a standalone window that you can position next to File Explorer if you wish. Drag and drop each file you want to view on top of the window or grab a file by browsing to and selecting it from the program. You can also view files directly in File Explorer by using the "Open with" command and selecting File Viewer Plus.

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The File Viewer Plus window is feature packed. Open a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, and the toolbars and commands for Word or Excel appear. You can then change the formatting and other attributes to view the file in different ways.

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With the paid version, you can retain whatever formatting changes you make and then save, convert, or print the file. Open an image file, and you can adjust the brightness, contrast, sharpness, size, rotation, and other effects.

By default, File Viewer Plus displays an info pane next to the displayed file with its metadata and other details. However, you can turn off this pane and the toolbars to view the file full screen.

All Video Player HD

How to View Files in Windows Without Opening Them (10)

Looking for a program that can play video and audio files? Look no further than All Video Player HD(Opens in a new window). With this utility, you can tune up a variety of formats, including MP4, AVI, WMV, MOV, MP3, M4A, and M4B.

The app is versatile as you can access and play videos and audio files a variety of ways. Drag and drop a file from File Explorer onto the All Video Player HD window, and it immediately starts playing, or just open a file from within the program itself. You can add an entire folder of video or audio files, and All Video Player HD will queue them up to play one after another. You can easily view a history list of past audio and video files that you've played and replay any of them.

All Video Player HD can even play videos from ISO files and certain DVDs by loading the .vob files from the disc's VIDEO_TS folder. The app will also play videos and audio directly from the web through a URL. You can view any file's metadata, such as the size and frame rate. The basic version is free but saddles you with ads. Pony up $4.99 and the ads go away.

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FAQs

How do you view files in Windows without opening them? ›

File Explorer Preview Pane

Open File Explorer in Windows 10, click the View tab, and select Preview pane. Click a file you wish to view, such as a Word document, Excel sheet, PowerPoint presentation, PDF, or image. The file appears in the preview pane.

How can you get information about a file without opening it? ›

Windows has File Explorer which makes it easy for you to access files without having to open them. File Explorer is one way to view files in Windows without opening them.

Which is the easiest way to view files and folders? ›

To open File Explorer, click the File Explorer icon on the taskbar, or double-click any folder on your desktop. A new File Explorer window will appear. Now you're ready to start working with your files and folders. From File Explorer, double-click a folder to open it.

How do I Preview a file without opening it in Windows 11? ›

Enabling in Windows 11

Open Windows File Explorer, select the View menu in the File Explorer ribbon. Hover over Show, and then select Preview pane.

How do I Preview a file without opening it in File Explorer? ›

How to Preview Files Without Opening Them - Windows 10 Trick - YouTube

What is cool file viewer? ›

Cool File Viewer Pro allows you to view any file on your PC. Simply select any file on the program window and save your efforts to decide which application should be used to open a file. Cool File Viewer Pro supports play many common audio and video formats, and can display many image, Web, and page layout file types.

Which part of a window lets you see a file's contents without opening the file? ›

Use the preview pane to see the contents of a file, such as an Office document, without opening it in an app. If you don't see the preview pane, tap or click the View tab, and then tap or click Preview pane.

How do you view pictures in a folder without opening them? ›

About This Article
  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Open your folder.
  3. Click the View tab.
  4. Click Options.
  5. Click the view tab.
  6. Uncheck "Always show icons, never thumbnails" box.
  7. Click Apply and then OK.
  8. Click View.

How do I view a folder in preview? ›

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.

What are 4 of the ways you can view the icons in a folder? ›

“Extra large icons,” “Large icons,” “Medium icons,” “Small icons,” “List,” “Details,” “Tiles,” and “Content” are your view choices. To change the view of a folder, first open the folder within the File Explorer window. Then click the “View” tab within the Ribbon.

How do I view files on my desktop? ›

Your desktop icons may be hidden. To view them, right-click the desktop, select View, and then select Show desktop icons.

How do I see all files in a subfolder? ›

There are a number of ways to display a folder in File Explorer: Click on a folder if it's listed in the Navigation pane. Click on a folder in the Address bar to display its subfolders. Double-click on a folder in the file and folder listing to display any subfolders.

How do I Quick View in Windows? ›

How to Preview Files With Spacebar on Windows 10
  1. Open the Microsoft Store and search for QuickLook, or jump right to the QuickLook download page.
  2. Click Get to download the app. ...
  3. To preview a file, highlight it and press the Spacebar. ...
  4. Press Space again (or Escape) to close the preview.
10 Jul 2018

How do I view all files in Windows 10? ›

Windows 10 
  1. In the search box on the taskbar, type folder, and then select Show hidden files and folders from the search results.
  2. Under Advanced settings, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives, and then select OK.

How do I Preview files? ›

Select any file and press the space bar. The file will open in a simple preview window. Press the space bar again to dismiss the preview. The built-in preview supports most file formats for documents, images, video, and audio.

How do I Preview a PDF before opening? ›

Open Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. On the Edit menu, choose Preferences. In the Preferences dialog box, choose General in the Categories list, and then select the Enable PDF thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer check box.

How do I turn on Preview in File Explorer? ›

How to Show the Preview Pane for File Explorer in Windows 11

How do I Preview a PDF in Windows? ›

To preview a PDF file in Windows Explorer:

Open Windows Explorer, and navigate to a folder containing PDF files. In the Windows Explorer dialog, click Show the preview pane (H). The Preview pane appears on the right side of the window. Click on a PDF file for the Preview pane to show the contents of the document.

What is free viewer? ›

FreeFileViewer is a non-bloated, simple file viewer and music player. For example, it will enable you to display Adobe PDF files and Microsoft Office documents without Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office being installed, and PSD files without having Adobe Photoshop installed.

What is a universal File Viewer? ›

Universal Viewer is an easy tool that enables you to open and view many kinds of files. These include text documents, MP3 music, image files and various internet documents. This simplifies the process of file viewing quite substantially.

How do I use Free File Viewer? ›

File Viewer Lite - The Free File Viewer for Windows - YouTube

What is the difference between details view and content view? ›

The Preview pane lets you see the contents of a file without opening it or, in the case of audio and video files, it lets you play the file without opening it. The Details pane lets you view and change many of a file's properties and tags.

Why does the Preview pane not work? ›

Check File Explorer Options

While the Preview pane is enabled, it may fail to function normally if the handlers are not enabled. These handlers are responsible for displaying the read-only style snapshot of the file you select.

What is Preview pane? ›

In the Preview pane of a Finder window, you get a small view of what a document contains or an image looks like, and a comprehensive list of all the metadata for the file.

How do I view all pictures in a Windows folder? ›

The Photos app in Windows 10 gathers photos from your PC, phone, and other devices, and puts them in one place where you can more easily find what you're looking for. To get started, in the search box on the taskbar, type photos and then select the Photos app from the results. Or, press Open the Photos app in Windows.

How do I Preview pictures in a folder? ›

Check Folder View Options
  1. Select the Search icon or box on the taskbar and type file explorer options.
  2. Select Open.
  3. Switch to the View tab.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.
  5. Select Apply, then OK.
13 Dec 2021

How do I get Windows 10 to show pictures instead of thumbnails? ›

Press Win+R, type in sysdm. cpl, then hit Enter key on keyboard. Step 2: In System Properties window, select Advanced tab, under Performance, click Settings. Step 3: On Visual Effects tab, check Show thumbnails instead of icons option.

Why can't I see a preview of my files? ›

Ensure the Preview Pane Isn't Disabled

Click on the Windows Start button in the bottom-left corner. Open File Explorer. Go to the View tab. Select the Preview pane option in the ribbon.

How do I show files in navigation pane in Windows? ›

Show or Hide File Explorer Navigation Pane
  1. Press Windows key + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Click/tap on View on the menu bar.
  3. Click/tap on Show.
  4. Now, Check (show – default) or Uncheck (hide) Navigation pane option per your requirement.
  5. Exit File Explorer when done.
9 Dec 2021

How do I expand the preview pane? ›

Setting the Preview Pane Options
  1. Do one of the following: In Manage mode, click Tools | Options | Preview. In Manage mode, right-click in the Preview pane and select Preview Options.
  2. On the Preview options page, set or change the options as described below.
  3. Click OK to apply your changes and return to SeePlus .

What are the different types of views to view files and folder? ›

There are four different view types: List View, Icon View, Chart View, and Bar View. To switch between the views click on the icons below the Upload and New Folder buttons.

How can I see my desktop without minimizing? ›

How to Access Desktop Without Minimizing Anything in Windows 10 ...

How do I see all folders in large icons? ›

make Large Icon the default in Windows 10 File explorer
  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Open a folder and on the Home Tab, in the Layout section, choose Large Icons or whatever is your preferred view.
  3. Then click the Options button at the end of the View Tibbon.

How do you maximize a window? ›

Windows keyboard shortcuts
  1. Copy: Ctrl + C.
  2. Cut: Ctrl + X.
  3. Paste: Ctrl + V.
  4. Maximize Window: F11 or Windows logo key + Up arrow.
  5. Open Task View: Windows logo key + Tab.
  6. Display and hide the desktop: Windows logo key + D.
  7. Switch between open apps: Alt + Tab.
  8. Open the Quick Link menu: Windows logo key + X.

How do I view open files in Windows? ›

Step 1: Go to the Start menu, press the Windows key, and type Resource monitor in the search box. Now, select Resource monitor and click open. Another technique is to run task manager, select the performance tab and click Open Resource Monitor.

How do I change the view in Windows 10? ›

Change file display in Windows 8 and 10
  1. Press Windows Key + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Click the View tab at the top of the window.
  3. In the Layout section, select Extra large icons, Large icons, Medium Icons, Small icons, List, Details, Tiles, or Content to change to the view you want to see.
5 Dec 2021

How do I get File Explorer to show all files? ›

View hidden files and folders in Windows
  1. Open File Explorer from the taskbar.
  2. Select View > Options > Change folder and search options.
  3. Select the View tab and, in Advanced settings, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives and OK.

How do I make all files view as list? ›

Open File Explorer. In the left side Navigation Pane, click the C: Drive. At the Top of the window, click the View Tab. In the layout section click the List option.

How do I view multiple folders at once? ›

How To Open Multiple Folders At Once In Windows 11 - YouTube

How do you view pictures in a folder without opening them? ›

About This Article
  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Open your folder.
  3. Click the View tab.
  4. Click Options.
  5. Click the view tab.
  6. Uncheck "Always show icons, never thumbnails" box.
  7. Click Apply and then OK.
  8. Click View.

Which part of a window lets you see a file's contents without opening the file? ›

Use the preview pane to see the contents of a file, such as an Office document, without opening it in an app. If you don't see the preview pane, tap or click the View tab, and then tap or click Preview pane.

How do I view all files in Windows 10? ›

Windows 10 
  1. In the search box on the taskbar, type folder, and then select Show hidden files and folders from the search results.
  2. Under Advanced settings, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives, and then select OK.

How do I view a folder in Preview? ›

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.

How do I view all pictures in a Windows folder? ›

The Photos app in Windows 10 gathers photos from your PC, phone, and other devices, and puts them in one place where you can more easily find what you're looking for. To get started, in the search box on the taskbar, type photos and then select the Photos app from the results. Or, press Open the Photos app in Windows.

How do I Preview pictures in a folder? ›

Check Folder View Options
  1. Select the Search icon or box on the taskbar and type file explorer options.
  2. Select Open.
  3. Switch to the View tab.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Always show icons, never thumbnails.
  5. Select Apply, then OK.
13 Dec 2021

How do I get Windows 10 to show pictures instead of thumbnails? ›

Press Win+R, type in sysdm. cpl, then hit Enter key on keyboard. Step 2: In System Properties window, select Advanced tab, under Performance, click Settings. Step 3: On Visual Effects tab, check Show thumbnails instead of icons option.

How do I see all files in a subfolder? ›

There are a number of ways to display a folder in File Explorer: Click on a folder if it's listed in the Navigation pane. Click on a folder in the Address bar to display its subfolders. Double-click on a folder in the file and folder listing to display any subfolders.

How do I view files on my desktop? ›

Your desktop icons may be hidden. To view them, right-click the desktop, select View, and then select Show desktop icons.

What is the difference between details view and content view? ›

The Preview pane lets you see the contents of a file without opening it or, in the case of audio and video files, it lets you play the file without opening it. The Details pane lets you view and change many of a file's properties and tags.

How do I see all files in Windows? ›

Search File Explorer: Open File Explorer from the taskbar or right-click on the Start menu, choose File Explorer and then select a location from the left pane to search or browse. For example, select This PC to look in all devices and drives on your computer, or select Documents to look only for files stored there.

How do I preview files in Windows 11? ›

Here's how you can get it back on your Windows 11 computer.
  1. Step 1: Press the Windows key + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Step 2: Click the View menu at the top, go to Show, and check the Preview pane option.
  3. Step 1: Right-click the Start icon and select File Explorer from the list.
2 Aug 2022

How do I view hidden files in Windows 10? ›

Open File Explorer from the taskbar. Select View > Options > Change folder and search options. Select the View tab and, in Advanced settings, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives and OK.

How do I quick Preview in Windows? ›

To preview a file, highlight it and press the Spacebar. It will appear in a separate window, allowing you to take a quick look at it. Press Space again (or Escape) to close the preview. To open the file in its default program and close the preview, press Enter.

How do I Preview files? ›

Select any file and press the space bar. The file will open in a simple preview window. Press the space bar again to dismiss the preview. The built-in preview supports most file formats for documents, images, video, and audio.

Why can't I see a Preview of my files? ›

Ensure the Preview Pane Isn't Disabled

Click on the Windows Start button in the bottom-left corner. Open File Explorer. Go to the View tab. Select the Preview pane option in the ribbon.

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