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February 1, 1999

Use Windows' handy Quick View to look at many types of files

Windows 95 introduced a convenient file viewer named Quick View, but this utility is not well known to many users. If you install Windows 98 from its CD-ROM and select Typical Install, Quick View isn't even loaded onto your hard disk.

Even if you succeed in getting Quick View installed, there may be many file types on your system that it does not know that it can read -- that is, unless you know the secret of unlocking those file types.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of this free viewer. If you really need more power than the free version is capable of, you can install its big brother under Windows 95/98, or Windows NT, as described below.

First, see if Quick View is available on your system.

Under Windows 95/98, click Start, Programs, Windows Explorer. Right-click any .txt file. If the resulting context menu contains an item called Quick View, it's installed. If you click this menu item, a Quick View window displays the contents of the selected text file.

If you're running Windows 98 and you don't see a Quick View menu item, here's how to get it installed from your CD-ROM.

  • Step 1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel.

  • Step 2. Run Add/Remove Programs.

  • Step 3. Click Windows Setup, then Accessories, then the Details button.

  • Step 4. Turn on the Quick View check mark, then click two OK buttons to install it. Windows may ask you to place its CD-ROM in your drive.

Now you have Quick View, but this alone does not engage it for all the file types that it is capable of displaying. Quick View officially supports 36 file types, which are determined by file extension. But many more than 36 extensions are actually supported if you know where to look.

To empower your copy of Quick View, click View, Folder Options in Windows Explorer, then select the File Types tab. This opens a dialog box showing every file type that has been registered by applications on your system. You use this dialog box to tell Quick View to expand the file formats in its purview.

For instance, your system may contain .diz files. These are called Description Text Files in the File Types dialog box. They are often used by shareware authors, but they are just plain old text files. Even so, Quick View does not know by default that it can display them.

To turn on Quick View for files such as these, select the Registered File Type you are interested in. Then click the Edit button in the File Types dialog box. In the Edit File Type dialog box that appears, click the "Enable Quick View" check box if it isn't already on. Click OK twice, and you are done.

After making this change you should be able to right-click the file type of your choice and see the Quick View option on the menu. If you want to edit such a file, you can still click Open to run it within an editor.

Turning on "Enable Quick View" doesn't guarantee that Quick View can read a given file format. Leaving the check box turned off, however, guarantees that you won't even be able to give Quick View a chance.

To support every word processing and database file you are ever likely to run into, you may want Quick View Plus. This commercial product supports about 175 more file types than Quick View and runs under Windows 95/98 or NT.

Quick View Plus costs $59 through its distributor, Jasc Software ( But I've seen it for $46.95 at (

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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Copyright © 1999 InfoWorld Media Group Inc.


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