Some pdf files have a nice preview thumbnail in Windows (7) Explorer, e.g. those produced by my the software of my scanner:

pdf w/ thumbnail

For my LaTeX files produced with pdfTeX, however, it just shows the boring Adobe symbol:

pdf w/o thumbnail

Is there a way to make sure to get these thumbnails via pdfTeX? A package, hyperref option, . . . ?

I have to admit, I'm not even sure if it really depends on the producing software; the scanning software seems to get it right every time, but then again there's a tool apparently fixing this problem (haven't tried it yet), which hints at a problem on Adobe's side. Any clarification is appreciated.


  1. The problem is not getting the inline preview pictures of pages.

  2. Looking at PDF-Versions and producing programs, this actually seems to be a flaw in Adobe Reader's production/display of thumbnail pictures (cf. comments). Taking this into consideration, the question is: Can AR's behavior be influenced in any way or are there any "rules" according to which it behaves?

  • Seems silly to ask, but… Are there still no thumbnails after generating the files and then reloading (F5) the folder view? Explorer might try to render the previews immediately after the files are created, but then they have no content for some time. Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 22:15
  • That's an absolutely legitimate question, but I had actually tried that before, and it didn't help. This problem occurs with every single one of my pdfs created with pdfLaTeX, no matter if old or brand-new.
    – doncherry
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 22:39
  • @doncherry: Next guess, then: Do the PDF versions of pdfTeX- and other software-generated files differ? (You can see the version in file properties in Adobe Reader.) Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 10:01
  • Yes, they do: pdfTeX produced 1.5, the scans are 1.3. I've found something else though: The PDFs procuded by the scanner software only have thumbnails if they were produced on the computer I'm using right now; those that I transferred from another computer (with the exact same soft- & hardware) don't have them. And I've found a totally different file with 1.3 that doesn't have thumbnails; it was produced with Mac OS X 10.5.7 Quartz PDFContext. So it really seems to be some issue with Adobe Reader's way of displaying thumbnails - still, there might be a way to prepare the file optimally?
    – doncherry
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 10:15
  • 2
    @doncherry: Interesting question! Perhaps post something to meta to raise the issue and see what the feeling is. I can certainly see the point of doing this.
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 20:53

3 Answers 3


It's been settled that this problem is not related to pdfTeX, it's a bug in Adobe Reader. Other OS show previews just fine, as Martin pointed out.

This being said, there is an (inofficial) fix for Adobe Reader (it appears to be a problem limited to 64-bit Windows only) that, well, fixes the problem :)

Here's proof that and how it worked, the same three files I posted in the question:

fixed thumbnails

So as direct answers to the title and the question: Yes, there is a way to influence the thumbnails, and no, there is no way to make sure to get these thumbnails via pdfTeX.


I had the same issue but resolved it by installing foxit PDF preview handler from http://timheuer.com/blog/archive/2008/05/09/foxit-pdf-preview-handler.aspx

Adobe PDF thumbnails are now displaying correctly.


thumbpdf should take care of that.

  • Thanks, but I think this is not what I'm looking for. From the thumbpdf readme: Thumbnails are small images, pictograms or reduced images from the pages of a document. They support the navigation through the document if the viewer supports it (e. g. AcrobatReader). This is just the basic feature of including thumbnails of each page within the opened document. (AR does that automatically in current versions.) I'd like to get a preview (probably of the first page) to look at in the file explorer when the file hasn't been opened yet.
    – doncherry
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 20:58
  • @doncherry: The Explorer might take the thumbnail of the first page as preview. Give it a try. I can't because I don't use Windows. Nautilus, the file explorer under Gnome, Linux shows preview images for all PDFs. Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 21:07
  • @Martin I tried it, but it doesn't work - I'm pretty sure the problem is that I don't have a perl interpreter installed for running thumbpdf, the package itself doesn't do all the work. You don't think there is an easier way to do it (as in just adding a package)? If I'm reading the readme correctly, thumbpdf would give me two extra runs for every compilation?
    – doncherry
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 21:43

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