Preview PDF files from Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista

Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista Explorer do not natively recognize previews of PDF files. Discover a free PDF preview handler that offers this functionality and does not require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

PDF documents are so widely used and disseminated that it's surprising they're not natively recognized in the Windows shell (Explorer). Even if you have Adobe Acrobat installed, you won't receive an image of a PDF file in Explorer's preview pane.

This doesn't make sense considering that you can view a thumbnail rendering of the PDF file in icon mode. But instead of blaming Adobe, there are a few steps you can take to fix the problem.

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Programmer Ryan Gregg used the Adobe Acrobat ActiveX control to create his own PDF preview handler. This legacy third-party tool generated previews of PDF documents from Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista Explorer. It required Adobe Reader 7.0 or later. However, since Adobe released Acrobat 8.1 -- which includes a PDF preview feature -- Ryan Gregg no longer offers his PDF preview handler for download.

Fortunately, Tim Heuer and Foxit Software collaborated on the Foxit PDF Preview Handler for Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista. The Foxit PDF preview handler is free to download and doesn't require Adobe Acrobat Reader to be installed.

There are two caveats, though. The Foxit PDF reader doesn't always handle complex PDFs properly; the more complex the PDF, the less likely it is to render correctly. Additionally, Foxit PDF Preview Handler currently requires Windows Vista, but there are plans for a version that will work for Windows XP and Outlook 2007.

Before running Foxit PDF Preview Handler, you need to turn on the preview pane in Windows Vista Explorer (if it isn't on by default). To do this: Click Organize -> Layout and select Preview Pane. The preview pane will appear on the right-hand side of the Explorer window.

If you're using an earlier version of Adobe Acrobat, this is a nice workaround.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight, a newsletter devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for all flavors of Windows users.

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This was first published in January 2008

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