Page Thumbnails Pane – A single window toolkit

What is a Page Thumbnails Pane

Page thumbnails pane is a powerful tool in Adobe Acrobat which give access to you to a range of features in a single window enabling you to edit your PDF document seamlessly. It shows thumbnails of the pages of the active PDF document and you can do page level operations while looking at the previews.

How to access it in Acrobat

Page Thumbnails pane is available in the left hand navigation pane. In Acrobat X the icon of the pane looks like two pages with one on top of the other. The below snapshot shows the icon with the corresponding tool tip.

If the pane is not enabled in your Acrobat then you can enable the Page Thumbnails pane in the navigation pane through two ways. First is through the View menu.

And the other is through the right click menu of the navigation pane.

What all you can do in Page Thumbnails Pane

You can navigate through the PDF document in this pane by selecting the page thumbnails. The page in view corresponds to the thumbnail selected in the pane. There are various other features which one can access in this pane apart from simple navigation. In fact this pane is a dream come true for a knowledge worker who needs to manipulate pages in a PDF document.

Through this pane you can work on the PDF document while viewing the entire file in a single window. You can resize the pane to cover the whole Acrobat chrome and complete your work. You can come back to the page view by clicking on the collapse button on the top right of the pane.

You can access the features available in the Page Thumbnail pane in two ways. Either through the drop down on top left or by right click context menu of a thumbnail in the pane.

One advantage of working in this pane is that you can preview the contents  and do page manipulation in the same window. Another advantage is that different features automatically take the range of pages selected in the pane as an input, you don’t need to renter the page range. The features you can access in page thumbnail pane are:

  1. Insert Pages: to insert new pages from a supported file, clipboard or even a blank page. The shortcut for Insert Pages from a file is Shift+Ctrl+I and the shortcut for Insert Blank page is Shift+Ctrl+Q.
  2. Extract Pages
  3. Replace Pages
  4. Delete Pages
  5. Crop Pages
  6. Rotate Pages
  7. Page Transitions
  8. Number Pages
  9. Print Pages
  10. Embed or Remove the Page Thumbnails in the PDF
  11. View Page Properties
Apart from these features which are available through a menu there are many other good features in the pane which can increase your productivity.
You can enlarge the thumbnail size to view the contents effectively. You can access the feature of increasing/decreasing thumbnail size from the top right drop down of the pane and also from the Page Thumbnail pane context menu. You can also increase the thumbnail size using keyboard and mouse by pressing ‘Ctrl’ on the keyboard and scrolling the mouse wheel.


You can also zoom in the page contents through this pane. For this first select a page in the pane and then zoom in the page contents by resizing the black bounding box surrounding the selected page in the pane or by pressing the ‘Ctrl’ key followed by ‘+’ or ‘-‘ key on the keyboard.

Resizing the pane reflows the thumbnails correctly and also keeps the selected page in the view.

You can reorder pages of the active PDF document by dragging and dropping pages in the pane. You can drag and drop a single page or a page range (both continuous and non-continuous). In the snapshot below I am dragging pages 8, 9 and 14 and dropping them after page 16.

You can also select a group of pages by creating a rectangular marquee selection in the pane using the mouse.

Let me end this post by telling you about one more feature supported in the Page Thumbnails pane. You can actually drag and drop an Acrobat supported file from your system onto the pane and Acrobat will add the file for you in the active PDF document at the exact location where you had dropped it. If you drop a non PDF file, Acrobat will first convert the file to Adobe PDF and then insert it at the selected location. In the snapshot below I am dropping a MS Word file onto the pages pane after page 2 and Acrobat first converts it to PDF and then insert it into the PDF.

I hope this post will help you in understanding Page Thumbnails pane better and you will find this feature useful. Stay tuned for more such posts on your favorite software Adobe Acrobat.

~Pulkit Jain

17 Responses to Page Thumbnails Pane – A single window toolkit

  1. Leandro says:

    Do you know why the thumbnails are so far apart in the latest Acrobat versions? We could easily fit twice as many thumbnails in the same area if they were close together. I have tried to configure this, but didn’t find anything in Acrobat Pro XI.


    • Pulkit Jain says:

      Hi Leandro,

      As per my local tests I didn’t find any difference between Acrobat XI and Acrobat X.

      Still you can reduce the thumbnail size by zooming out. For this in Acrobat XI you can use the zoom slider given on the top right of the thumbnail pane or you can use the keyboard shortcut ‘SHIFT +’.

      Hope this helps. If you need any more help please do let me know.

  2. liz says:

    The navigation panels are “grayed out” and I can’t turn on page thumbnail! HELP!

    • Pulkit Jain says:

      Hi Liz,

      Can you give out the details, like which version and flavor (PRO, STD) of Acrobat you are using. When did it started happening. Does it happen with all kinds of PDFs you have or with a subset of them. Along with it please mention the steps you follow to invoke the pages panel. Also mention the OS details.

  3. Janet Barnes says:

    I am using Adobe XI Pro. I would like to extract some pages from a pdf document but the button on the tool bar to extract is “greyed” out together with the others – delete, rotate etc. How can I get these to work?

  4. Dawn says:

    Why does only one document show? I don’t see thumbnails (it’s all grey). I’m using Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Version 9.5.1

  5. Josh says:

    When i try to drop another pdf in the thumbnail panel it won’t let me. It shows a circle with a slash through it. Is there a way to fix that? It won’t allow for word docs either.

  6. Rick says:

    Is there anyway to save the thumbnail size/layout settings in Acrobat Pro XI? In previous versions (most recently we used Acrobat Pro 9) it would use the most recent size. I always like to have it in 2 columns (so odd pages are on the left, even pages on the right). In v9 I did that once, and after that any file I opened with the same page size or smaller would display thumbnails that way. In XI, I have to reduce thumbnails and manually size the side bar to make it fit 2 columns. Every time. Every file.

    • Pulkit Jain says:

      I opened a file and adjusted the pages panel so that I get only two columns of thumbnails. I closed Acrobat and then opened another file. Opened pages panel and it opened in the same state as I had closed it previously. Can you try these steps.

  7. Josh M says:

    I just installed XI pro on my new machine, and the thumbnail view is indeed different, and it will not let me zoom out/reduce thumbnail size nearly as much as previously. This is frustrating, because I use the thumbnail view to move pages around and add more pages to longer documents. So being able to make them really small and see 20 or more thumbnails in one view was very helpful. Can you please return this feature or advise how I can get this to work in XI.

    • Pulkit Jain says:

      Can you try out the expand view in Acrobat XI. For this you can click on the Expand button which appears on the top right cormer of the Pages panel.

  8. SD says:

    Adobe X used to automatically convert doc/xls files that I dragged into the thumbnail pane of an open pdf. Now anytime I drag a file into the thumbnail pane, it trys to open word/excel to convert it as a pdf, requests a “save as” location, and does not automatically add the file to the pdf.

    How can I have adobe X continue to automatically convert doc files that are dragged into a pdf thumbnail pane?

  9. Marc D says:

    I noticed the same thing Leandro and Josh did, that the thumbnail view now spaces the individual thumbnails farther apart than before, and more than is necessary. I can make the thumbnails themselves larger or smaller, that is not the issue. The issue is that the larger spacing between images wastes valuable screen space when dealing with a document with lots of pages, which is what I think the other comments were getting at. I cannot think of a reason to space them out so much and would like to have a way to control that, or an update that simply spaces them closer together like they were in older versions.

  10. Cameron McGuire says:

    In previous Adobe’s the page which you were currently viewing was completely highlighted in the “page thumbnails” panel. For this Adobe, there is simply a small black box at the lower right corner. Are we able to change this so the whole page is once again highlighted?

  11. Martyna says:

    I wanted to make a presentation but program only allows me to have one thumbnail can’t add anything else to it do i have to purchase full version or something as i only have version which i download for free from the internet????

  12. Rick says:

    How can we STOP the grey left pane (pain) from displaying every time we open Acrobat? It is terribly annoying, serves no purpose, takes up valuable screen space, wastes time trying to find how to close it, etc. So please explain – not your logic in displaying such a hoax, but how we can PERMANENTLY close it?!?!?!?