Microsoft has today made their RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer PowerToy available for download. This utility provides for viewing of Canon (CRW & CR2) RAW and Nikon (NEF) RAW files as well as TIFF images and other standard image formats (BMP, GIF, PNG, JPEG etc.). The utility is split into a Windows XP shell extension which provides preview / edit / print commands for RAW files as well as a RAW viewer application. It weighs in as a 47 MB download!

Click here to download the Microsoft RAW thumbnail and viewer (for XP SP2)

Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer

Below is an example of the RAW Image Thumbnailer in action, providing correctly orientated thumbnails of Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II RAW files in a normal Windows XP Explorer window. Note that if you hover your mouse cursor over an image a tooltip will appear with basic file and shooting information. The right-click menu provides no option for file conversion.

Double click on an image or right click and select 'Open with' allows you to view the selected RAW file in a larger window and optionally with shooting and exposure information. From here you can magnify the image, render it in higher quality or print. Note that the only thing you can't do is save the RAW file as another format (such as JPEG or TIFF), which does seem to be a pretty serious shortcoming.