I honestly can’t remember how long file previews have been part of our collective, digital realities. I’m sure at some point in either the Windows, MacOS or Linux history, the OS developers thought it would be a good idea for users to have at least a snippet of visual info about the file they are looking for in the moment. It was added and picked by most file browsers and, at this point, it would feel very odd to browse through your files and not have a visual representation available for making the right choice in your selection.
Chrome OS has been good at this for quite some time, offering tiny file previews in the list view of the Files app and nice, large visual queues when you switch to the thumbnail view. As we all know, certain files don’t work with this whole system for good reason. Zipped, archive files obviously don’t really have a proper preview to see and things like font files aren’t really much to look at either. We really only expect this sort of preview with visual files like photos and graphics, but one of the most prolific visual files out there has been left out in the cold when it comes to preview thumbnails: the PDF.
If you open up your Files app right now and look at the list or thumbnail view, you’ll basically see a simple PDF logo and the file name underneath for all of your PDF files. For users dealing with multiple PDFs that may not come appended with the most descriptive names, this could get confusing quite quickly when the time comes to attach a few of those files in an email.
To be fair, the file preview (select a file and hit the spacebar) does show the PDF in a quicker fashion than fully opening the file, so there’s a bit of a workaround that already exists. But it ultimately would be far easier if the basic thumbnail was just there with the other image previews though, right? That’s what I think and what the Chrome OS team seems to think as well. In a recent code change, a proper thumbnail preview for PDFs is on the way in Chrome OS and is already live in the Canary Channel. Instead of the view we just saw pictured above – currently in the Stable channel – we now have a thumbnail preview of PDF files for quick sorting on the go. Check it out.
This is a subtle-yet-useful change that will go a long way towards trimming precious time off many users’ workflows. Having a visual aide to help you deal with the file you need right when you need it can make a ton of differnce throughout your workday, and I’m very glad to see this change coming in the Files app for Chromebooks. Canary is currently on version 87, but I could see this update rolling down the channels and showing up sooner than that. We’ll be on the lookout for its arrival in Chrome 86 or up.