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Visual Studio
VS 2010+

Visual Studio IDE Navigator Thumbnails

The IDE Navigator provides a quick tool for switching between open code and designer windows or to cycle through tool windows. In Visual Studio 2008 this included a thumbnail preview. In Visual Studio 2010 this has been removed but may be re-enabled.

Thumbnail Previews

The IDE Navigator is a useful tool within Visual Studio that allows you to cycle through the open document and tool windows until you find the one that you wish to work with. In Visual Studio 2008 Microsoft introduced a thumbnail preview to the IDE Navigator, which displayed a small image of the window that was about to be selected. However, this preview was removed by default in Visual Studio 2010.

The thumbnail preview was not entirely removed in Visual Studio 2010. Instead it became a hidden feature that could be enabled by manually editing the registry. NB: If you are not confident editing the registry you should not attempt the modification displayed below. An incorrect setting can cause your software, including the operating system, to stop functioning correctly.

To enable the thumbnail preview, start the Registry Editor software. Using the tree structure, browse to the key, "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\10.0\General". Check if this key contains a value named, "ShowThumbnailsOnNavigation". If the value does not exist, right-click the General key to show the context-sensitive menu. Expand the "New" submenu and choose to add a DWORD value. Name the new value, "ShowThumbnailsOnNavigation".

Now that the ShowThumbnailsOnNavigation value exists, double-click it and change its value to 1. When you restart Visual Studio the thumbnail preview option will be enabled and the IDE Navigator should appear similar to that shown below:

Visual Studio IDE Navigator Thumbnail Preview

NB: If you are using a low-powered computer or a virtual machine to run Visual Studio and the visual experience is set to automatic, thumbnails will be disabled.

12 October 2011