3D printing Software

How to Enable preview Thumbnails for STL files in Windows 10 and Windows 11

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If you often work a lot with 3d printing STL files, I bet you will feel quite inconvenient because by default Windows 10 does not support thumbnail preview for STL files.
This causes a lot of inconvenience in work, you will not be able to preview the 3d printed design before performing the next tasks to proceed with 3d printing such as slice model to create Gcode file.

Enable Stl Thumbnail
In this tutorial, I will show you how to display Thumbnails for STL file format for Windows 10 and Windows 11 (you will also find software that works on Linux in the Alternative software section of this article)

In case you want a dedicated app to view the stl file and do complicated tasks like Measurements, Cross-section view, take note… you may check this article to find the best free STL viewer software.

After following the instructions, you will be able to preview thumbnails of STL files (similar to JPG, PNG image files) directly in Windows 10/11’s file explorer without having to open each file to view the content.

Why we should enable thumbnail viewer for STL files

There are many benefits if you enable thumbnails for STL files. Here are some to be mentioned:

  • You will be able to preview the design of the STL file, quickly find the file you need among the many other STL files in the directory.
  • You will be able to quickly find out which STL files are corrupted to remove or edit.
  • In addition, you can also colorize the model in the STL file (very useful if you want to preview the color of the filament).

Steps to enable thumbnail preview for STL file in Windows 10 and Windows 11

In a nut shell, you just need to download a supporting software, install it and customize it to display the thumbnail of the STL file exactly as you want.

Step 1: Download the STL preview software

There are many programs that allow previewing thumbnails of STL files on the internet, but I prefer to use lightweight, minimalist software that is being used widely in the 3d printing community.
The software used in this tutorial is Marlin3dprintertool, authored by Johnny Lindén, a free and open-sourced software.

> Download link: https://github.com/cabbagecreek/STL-thumbnail/releases

(Previously, this is just a feature in Marlin3DprinterTool software, but now it’s independent software)

Download Stl Viewer Setup

Step 2: Install the software

After downloading the setup file, open InstallStlThumbnail.msi to start installing STL preview

Just like other software, click on Accept the terms, then Install and Finish

Install Stl Viewer Marlin3dprintertool

Step 3: Configure the STL viewer software

Select Launch STL thumbnail configuration after finishing the installation to open the software

In the software interface, click the button Install and register STL thumbnail 

Install And Register Stl Thumbnail

A few popups will pop up giving system messages, just click on OK to complete the installation

Finish The Installation Stl Thumbnail Viewer

Step 4: Finish

Now you can open Windows 10 file explore to start previewing the STL file thumbnail, here’s the result

Preview Stl Thumbnail In File Explorer Windows 10

If you want to change the color on STL thumbnail, click on Color on STL and select your preferred color

Select Color For Stl File

Here’s the result after changing color to green

Change Color On Stl


Do you know that you can preview STL 3D models directly in file explorer like this?

View Stl File With 3d Viewer

To enable that feature, in file explorer by opening the View tab and clicking on the preview panel option.

Enable Preview Panel For 3d Viewer Stl

Alternative software

Besides the software from Marlin3dprintertool, there is other software that also supports very well displaying thumbnails for STL files on Windows 10/11.
Below I will list some pretty good software that can be a perfect replacement for Marlin3dprintertool.

Papa’s Best STL Thumbnails

Papa Best Stl Thumbnails

Download link: https://papas-best.com/stlthumbnails_en

Papa’s Best STL Thumbnails is a shell extension that enables thumbnail preview for STL files in Windows 7, Windows 10 and Windows 11. The software also supports other popular file managers like Total Commander and FreeCommanderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neSVtUGqf5A

Stl-thumb by unlimitedbacon

Stl Thumb By Unlimitedbacon

Download link: https://github.com/unlimitedbacon/stl-thumb

Stl-thumb by unlimitedbacon is written in Rust and use OpenGL to render thumbnail, the software works on both Windows and Linux. The software does not have many options for you, you just need to install and run to preview the entire thumbnail of the STL file.


I hope the above article has helped you find a solution to preview thumbnails for STL files on Windows 7, Windows 10, or Linux.
My number one priority in choosing software to display thumbnails for STL files on Windows or Linux is that the software must be light and not interfere with the system.
If you have anything to contribute to this article, or you would like to share with the community the software you are using that is not listed in the article, feel free to drop a comment below. We would be grateful for your sharing.

Hung Tran is the founder of 3dsage.com, he loves sharing 3d printing experience.

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