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.
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
- Steps to enable thumbnail preview for STL file in Windows 10 and Windows 11
- Alternative software
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)
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
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
A few popups will pop up giving system messages, just click on OK to complete the installation
Step 4: Finish
Now you can open Windows 10 file explore to start previewing the STL file thumbnail, here’s the result
If you want to change the color on STL thumbnail, click on Color on STL and select your preferred color
Here’s the result after changing color to green
Do you know that you can preview STL 3D models directly in file explorer like this?
To enable that feature, in file explorer by opening the View tab and clicking on the preview panel option.
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
Download link: https://papas-best.com/stlthumbnails_en
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.