A Hidden Gem – the Preview Pane View in SharePoint

Toward the end of my wiki article last week, I showed a web part added to a SharePoint wiki page. While people liked the idea of adding web parts to a wiki, what got even more reaction was the web part itself.

The web part, shown below, contains a list of the pages in my wiki. That’s nothing new, but what got folks excited was the ability to roll-over the titles, and see a preview of the contents of that page. People are looking all over the place for the "Preview Pane" web part, and asking me where to find it.


Well, I have a confession to make – there is no "preview pane web part". Per se.

But wait – don’t run away! I wouldn’t be here very long if I went around faking up web pages to make a point. That view is very much a part of SharePoint – even WSS. I just said it wasn’t a web part. And that’s why people can’t find it.

So how do you get a preview pane? Here’s the secret – although the preview pane isn’t itself a "web part", it is available as a style in almost any list view!

How to do it

The example in the other article was a wiki, but it didn’t need to be. You can use a custom list as well. To show how this works, I’ll start with a site’s home page.


I select Edit Page from the Site Actions menu, and click Add a web part. I’m going to select the Songs list. This is just a custom list that has some content in it on my site. It could have been a wiki, Announcements, or any other list. This list just happens to have some useful content.


Notice that this is starts as simply a standard view of the list.


Now the fun begins! Select Modify Shared Web Part from the web part’s menu:


In the task pane, select "Edit the current view." (Note: I also changed my toolbar type to summary, to make it smaller.)


On the Edit View page, scroll down towards the bottom, and expand the section entitled "Style". There you will see a number of display formats. One of them will be the "Preview pane":


Select it, and Click OK. Click OK in the task pane, and your view will be updated with the rollover and preview!


Other Aspects

Since this is just a view style, you can use it on almost any list or library. In addition, you don’t need to create a web part first. You can just add this as a view on your list’s settings page.

When you create the view, make sure you choose the "Standard" view as the base format:


Once you do that, you will see the same view settings screen described earlier.


SharePoint offers a lot of different ways to look at the information in your sites. One of the most interesting is the Preview Pane view. Although it doesn’t show up as a web part on its own, you can use it in almost any list or library simply by modifying the view settings.

I hope this article has encouraged you to explore this, as well as some of the other view formats available to you!