Add a thumbnail column for documents and media in a SharePoint Online document library

Mark Rackley recently tweeted about the ability to create a calculated column in SharePoint online document libraries that would automatically render thumbnails for documents. In the GIF from his tweet, it shows how this works for media files.

Naturally curious, I had to see how this worked for documents of .docx, .pdf, .pptx, etc. types. What I found is that it only currently supports some file types:

Supported file types (there’s likely even more I didn’t test):

  • Word (.docx)
  • PDF (.pdf)
  • Emails (.msg)
  • Images (.png, .gif, .jpg, etc.)
  • Media (.mp4)

Not-yet-supported file types:

  • Excel (.xlsx)
  • OneNote (.one)
  • PowerPoint (.pptx)

Create a thumbnail column in SharePoint Online document libraries

1. Add a new column to your document library (library settings > Create column).

2. Set the column name to Thumbnail. As for type, you have two options:

  • Leave type as Single line of text. Thanks to Dario Cassinerio for sharing that Single line of text type works as well as (and more simply than) Calculated set to [Title].
  • Mark Rackley suggests sticking with Calculated set to [Title] (see example screenshot) to prevent users from editing the text field in forms.

3. Click OK.

Supported file types will have thumbnails rendered (like .docx and .pdf in the example below) and others will just be blank (like .pptx and .xlsx in the example below).

Click to enlarge

Here is an animation demonstrating the entire process, start to finish using Single line of text as column type:

Click to enlarge

And another animation but using the Calculated column set to [Title] type:

Click to enlarge

Create one-click, direct download links

You’re sending an email, or creating a new page on your intranet instructing people to download a file.

You can always just link to an image or document and then have people figure out how to download it themselves. But methods of downloading vary by browsers and versions and content types (images vs PDFs, for example) so it’s much easier to just provide a link to users that automatically initiates the download for them regardless of context.

Note: This downloads to their default download folder/location.

Using a direct download link will save them some time by providing a one-click download option. No need to right-click-save-as, or save-and-name.

Simply add the word “download” after the href URL before closing the tag.

...www.sharepointlibrarian.com" download>Download here!</a>

For example, if I want people to download the print icon below I would link it in my HTML-formatted email or on my webpage/intranet using the script following it. The red text could be an image (download button?) or text like “Download the icon.”

<a href="/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/print.png" download><img src="https://natechamberlain.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/print.png"></a>

And for a PDF I don’t want opened in the browser, it might look something like

Download the latest newsletter

<a href="/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/DownloadMe.pdf" download>Download the latest newsletter</a>