Seeing Thumbnails and File Formats

July 14, 2011

A question was posted on the wall of the Graphics Unleashed Facebook page earlier this week and I have a feeling it is an area that a lot of users have questions. As a quick sidebar, you can post questions on our wall too if you have “liked” our page. In this particular question, the user was unable to see thumbnails of WMF files in CorelDRAW X5. First, I’ll address the thumbnail question and then I’ll tell you why you should be avoiding WMF files.

The thumbnails you see in the Open/Save/Import/Export dialog boxes in CorelDRAW are provided by Windows, not by CorelDRAW. This is also true for Corel CONNECT. Corel does install something called the “Windows Shell Extension” that allows Windows to show thumbnails for CDR and CPT files. Some users aren’t seeing these thumbnails and they should insert their CorelDRAW DVD (or run the downloaded installer) and make sure the Windows Shell Extension is installed. Remember, Corel provides this to see thumbnails for only CDR and CPT.

Now let’s talk about WMF. It is a format created by Microsoft. Microsoft also creates Windows so one would think a thumbnail viewer for their own format would be supplied. It isn’t. I featured some products last fall that add thumbnail support for many file formats. The first was FastPictureViewer Codec Pack and it mainly focuses on bitmap file formats. For WMF support, MysticThumbs Thumbnail Manager solves the problem. Not only do these utilities allow you to see more formats in CorelDRAW, Corel PHOTO-PAINT and Corel CONNECT; they will add them to all Windows software. That includes Windows Explorer. Yes, they have a small cost associated with them. If you want to see more formats, they solve the problem.

Now let’s talk about the WMF file format in particular. The person asking the question because they could “break apart” the artwork. That is true of all vector file formats. As vector formats go, WMF is the absolute worst format. It only supports RGB colors which may or may not be an issue for you. The problem is that it doesn’t support curved lines. If you see something that looks like a curve, it is actually a series of many straight short lines. By extension, this means obscene numbers of nodes. I’ve written about that problem in Clip Art and Excess Nodes and Excess Nodes Revisited. If your only choice is WMF, it can be better than a bitmap format. But if there are other vector formats available, it should be avoided. While you can remove the excess nodes, the process can be quite time consuming.

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Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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