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How to use the first page as the icon for Microsoft Office documents

Microsoft Office documents that you save on your computer or device use the same generic icon by default. The only distinguishing factors are the filename and the location of the document because of that, the latter only if save Office documents to different folders.

Core Microsoft Office applications support a handy feature to add another distinguishing factor to the documents that you save: to change the generic icon to a thumbnail preview of the first page.

The feature does not require the installation of third-party applications or special file handlers as it is a feature of Microsoft Office 2016 and older versions.

word document preview no preview file icon

The feature is not enabled by default and you have the option to enable it for individual Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents only, or globally so that all Office documents are saved with a thumbnail that depicts the first page of the document.

Save preview images for individual Microsoft Office documents

word save thumbnail file icon

The feature works in all supported versions of Microsoft Office including Office 2013, 2016 and 2019 except for Office 365. Microsoft calls the feature “thumbnail” and not preview image or Word file icon; this makes it a bit difficult to understand when you encounter the option.

Do the following to save individual Word, Excel, or PowerPoing documents with thumbnails:

  1. Open the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document that you want to add a thumbnail to.
  2. Select File > Save As or use the keyboard shortcut F12 to save the document.
  3. Select a save location.
  4. In the Save As dialog, check “Save Thumbnail” at the bottom to make the first page the file icon on the system.
  5. Click Save to complete the process.

The saved document, regardless of whether it is a new document or one that you have created in the past, shows up with the preview image as its file icon on the system after the operation.

Save all Microsoft Office files with the thumbnail image

save thumbnails all office documents

If you like the thumbnail feature of Microsoft Word, you may want to configure Word to always save the thumbnail image so that you don’t have to make sure that the box is checked whenever you save a file.

This should work in Office 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 but not in Office 365.

Here is how that is done:

  1. Open any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document on the system or create a blank one.
  2. Select File > Info.
  3. Click on the small arrow icon next to Properties and select Advanced Properties.
  4. In the Window that opens, check the “Save Thumbnails for all [..] Documents”.
  5. Click ok.
  6. Repeat the process for the other document formats as the dialog makes the change for the Office application that you have used to make it only.

All Office documents that you save from that point on are saved with the preview image.

Now You: do you make use of the thumbnail feature in Office?

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