Thumbnails reloaded

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Thumbnails reloaded

Published by on October 27th 2007.

There used to be an extension for RealWorld Icon Editor 2006.1 that allowed thumbnails in open file dialogs and in Windows Explorer for U3D and R3I files. It was nifty but incompatible with later versions (because it required a lot of entries in registry and that was especially hard to do under Vista). Today, the thumbnail extractor is back in it has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a RW tool…


It extracts thumbnails ;-). From Windows and Mac icons, static and animated cursors, a couple of less common image formats (like jpeg2000, psd or gif), Unicorn3D files, Rendered Images and .3DS files.

Thumbnails for icons, cursors and 3D models

The thumbnail extraction is configured using a Control Panel applet called “RealWorld Thumbnails”, which you can find right next to the display settings (if you are using categorized view in your Control Panel). You can choose the file types actually handled by the extractor.

It is necessary to open and configure the extractor after installation (it is automatically displayed at the end of the installation), because it is turned off by default.

Icons contain images in multiple sizes and the extractor respects that, the generated thumbnail contains all the different sizes in an .ico file to give you better overview of the icon.


Like all the later RealWorld applications, RW Thumbnails tries to minimize the entries in system registry, mainly by using isolated COM, which is only supported on Windows XP and later. Hence, the extractor will only work on XP, Vista, and similar systems (server 2003).

Using shell extensions might be risky business, because the 3rd party code may introduce instability to Windows Explorer. To minimize this risk, all the potentially buggy code was moved out of the shell extension and is executed in a separate process. Only one small dynamic library is loaded by Windows Explorer and all the hard work is done elsewhere. As a consequence, using RW Thumbnails is safe and will not make your Windows unstable.

Windows Vista caches the thumbnails much more aggressively than XP (and it also uses them in many more places). Vista will not generate the thumbnails for files if it already thinks is has the thumbnails. After installation and configuration you may notice that the thumbnails are not created for old files, but they appear if you create copy of the old file (though only for the copy). XP had the “Refresh Thumbnail” command in context menu to resolve these cases, but Vista lacks it. You can use the Disk Cleanup tool in Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\System Tools to remove the cached images.
License & download

RW Thumbnails is freeware and can be downloaded from its homepage:

Recent comments

user icon Anonymous
Vista & Win 7 icons
What about ICL files?
I wish there were...
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