If you are managing large numbers of documents on a file-system, and you want to browse them quickly (the electronic equivalent of licking your thumb and flicking through the folder). Then computers never quite measure up to having the paper. People work very visually when skimming a file for a particular item – they remember the ‘shape’ of the document text, the colour of the letterhead logo, and other very broad things that are very hard to capture with a search engine. You don’t want to open each file to see if it’s the one you want, and Windows’ own integrated preview abilities are somewhat limited (in the size of the thumbnail, and speed of operation).
I’ve been pointed in the direction of the best solution for this problem I’ve seen:Explorer View, from an Australian company called GetData.
In my MYOB days, we used to recommend Quick View Plus, indeed we even wrote specific links to QuickView in Singleview. It’s fine, but it also proved to be a bit flaky at times (particularly with PDF files), and the licensing costs could sometimes be a bit on the high side for Citrix users.
Explorer View, rather than acting as a replacement for Windows Explorer, actually embeds itself inside Windows Explorer – adding a preview pane at the base of the screen – just like the one in Outlook. It supports lots of file formats (including Word 2007 DOCX but not XLSX yet), zooms up to full size, lets you look at all pages of a document, and it’s really fast.
Even better, you can break the preview pane out into its own window. This means you can put the preview pane full-size onto your second monitor (you DO have dual monitors don’t you?) and run Explorer on the other – just flick down the documents in Explorer, and see full-sized previews of each one – as fast as you like.
It’s also pretty reasonably priced – a 50-user licence is US$499 (£350 quid – give or take)
I just bought a copy, and I’m showing it to clients whenever the need arises.