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How to enable markdown file previews in File Explorer on Windows 10

File previews are an incredibly useful feature on a desktop OS. Windows 10 provides previews for a few common file formats but not all of them. If you happen to have the Office suite installed, you will get previews for Office documents and spreadsheets but for a lot of other formats, you need to install additional File Explorer extensions. Markdown is a file type that can be opened with a common text editor like Notepad but File Explorer cannot show a preview for it. Here’s how you can enable markdown file previews in File Explorer.

Markdown file previews in File Explorer

In order to enable Markdown file previews in File Explorer, you will need to install an extension for File Explorer. This particular extension is included with PowerToys, a free open-source tool that has been developed by Microsoft. You can download it from Github.

PowerToys feature several tools and they are useful but if you aren’t interested in using them all, you can choose to enable only the ‘File Explorer’ feature. Once it is enabled, you will need to restart File Explorer before the extension will start working. To restart File Explorer, open Task Manager and look for Windows Explorer in the Processes tab. Select it, and click the Restart button.

After you restart File Explorer, you need to open it and navigate to the folder that has the markdown file. Go to the View tab, and click the Preview Pane button. A preview pane will appear on the right and it will show the contents of the file.

Enabling the File Explorer feature in PowerToys will also enable previews for SVG files.

You must keep PowerToys running in order to get previews for markdown files.

If you want previews for unsupported image files, you can install another File Explorer extension that does the job.

File Explorer extensions are generally light-weight so you won’t have to worry about PowerToys slowing it down. It’s almost a shame that this file extension is tied to PowerToys. Users may be averse to installing PowerToys if they do not intend to use all its features but at least the features can be enabled/disabled individually. In fact, the latest version of PowerToys makes it really easy to enable/disable them from a single screen in its settings.

Windows 10’s limitation to not being able to preview files that are text-based is somewhat similar to what macOS has, though macOS supports previews for far more file types.

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