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§ Thumbnails for a text editor?

The Visual Studio blog has a post on how to re-enable thumbnail preview in Visual Studio 2010 RTM.

I can't see why thumbnails in a text editor are compelling, myself.

Here are three thumbnails I took from text files, using Visual C++ Express 2008's Ctrl+Tab dialog:

Thumbnail 1 Thumbnail 2 Thumbnail 3

The first thumbnail is C# code from a file transfer program. The second thumbnail is C++ code from my POKEY emulator. And the third thumbnail is from a Persona 3 walkthrough.

Thumbnails are useful for images, but text files aren't terribly distinguishable in thumbnail form, especially when they're all from the same project and same language.

Comments

Comments posted:


The standard worthless bloat that accumulates in projects once developers can't think of anything else useful to add, but are still compelled to continue adding things.

Glenn - 06 06 10 - 11:15


Well, I remember a feature in Gnome that you get shown the text file's characters in the icon, and you can actually stretch the icon (and only that icon) and you'll see more of the text.

But this? Meh.

ggn - 06 06 10 - 21:07


I thought the same when I read that. Unless you've got source with very particular shapes in the code, shrunken thumbnails aren't that useful.

They might be useful when you also have UI editors open as well, but I at least tend to only have one or two of those open at a time so they're never hard to find in the first place.

Text-file thumbnails *can* be useful, IMO, but only when drawn so you can actually read some of the text. And usually only when looking through a folder of files where it's not obvious any of them are in text format, to quickly find the ones which are and see if they're human-readable.

I wrote a plugin for a file manager to do this (turns out Linux has something similar, too):

http://www.pretentiousname.com/textthumb..

(The shrunken thumbnails on the folders are not so useful. I turn them off now.)

Going back to Visual Studio's document flipping, the one glaring omission it still has is the ability to quickly toggle between .h and .cpp files in C++ projects. I really miss that from the old WndTabs VC6 plugin. :( I was thinking yesterday that I could probably write a simple macro to do the same thing. (Dunno why I didn't think of it until now. I know a couple of other add-ons provide the same function but the ones I've seen come with other stuff I don't want.)

Leo (link) - 06 06 10 - 21:13


From those thumbnails then you can kind of see that one doesn't look much like code and that one has more comments and keywords visible than the other, but they're not overly useful.

As for the feature in Gnome, Nautilus (the file browser) can show previews of text files. I've enabled it and find it useful at times, but that's because it'll show you the text at a readable size (probably related to your system font size). That means that I can have a list of text files of different sorts and see if it is an XML file, log output, something like a bash script, or various other standard headers based on the first few characters of the first few lines without opening all of the files. It isn't always perfect and won't give you enough information every time, but more often than not then it seems to give me enough to go on.

IBBoard (link) - 07 06 10 - 00:01


Crap, looks like someone started flaming on the VS blog with a backlink to my blog post. I didn't mean for it to be incendiary. :P

Phaeron - 07 06 10 - 15:10


Text files thumbnails are useless in most cases. But there's at least one amazing application for them.

The free Visual Studio extension RockScroll (http://www.hanselman.com/blog/Introducin..). It replaces the vertical scrollbar of the vs text editor with a thumbnail of the text file. Whenever you double-click a word in the editor all occurrences in the text file are displayed in red in the thumbnail, so you can navigate to the occurrences by just clicking on the thumbnail.

I can't live without it !!!!

davidnr - 08 06 10 - 20:47


Seems you never played Mass Effect 2 :)

Igor Levicki (link) - 24 07 10 - 11:13


I have always liked this feature. For some text files I purposefully format the top few lines with the most important info so it can appear in the thumbnail. However after upgrading to the latest Linux version, text no longer appears in the thumbnails, even though I have the Text file Preview turned on!

Arrggghhhhh...

Anyone know how I can get it back? Mail me A.Thyssen@griffith.edu.au

Anthony - 04 02 11 - 22:30

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