Late last year I highlighted what I believed to be the 5 best features in Vista that often don’t get any recognition. Among those features I talked about the file previews in the new Windows Explorer, which can be opened by going to Organize -> Layout -> Preview Pane. This gives you the opportunity to view the content of the file without needing to open an additional application. It’s quite clever actually.
The only problem that I’ve found with it is that you’ll often need to have a third-party application installed to get previews for certain types of files. For example, you won’t be able to preview PDF’s without a program such as Adobe Reader installed. And no Microsoft Office will mean that you can’t preview your Office documents. It would have been much better if more preview handlers were included out-of-the-box, but maybe we can makeup for Vista’s shortcomings.
The How-To Geek scrounged up a free program that will ease some of the burden, but only after he walks through the daunting steps to configure the preview handler manually. The free app is called PreviewConfig (no install needed), and it can be used to associate some additional file extensions as plain-text or media. There are quite a few areas where this would be beneficial, such as a CSS (cascading style sheet) file which is really just a text file with a special extension. With PreviewConfig you could associate that with being plain-text so that a preview will be available. Similarly you can find media extensions that do not have a preview available, but they have to be playable in Windows Media Player.