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Open and View RAW Files in Windows 7

If you own a DSLR, or an advanced compact camera, you will likely have the option to shoot your images in the RAW file format [1]. This format offers photographers the highest quality you can get from your digital camera, but it is not the easiest format to work with because it often requires third party programs to open or edit these files.

If you have RAW files stored on your computer, you can’t see a thumbnail image of the photo in a Windows Explorer window. All you see is a generic icon that lets you know it is an image file. If you double click these files and try to preview them without the aid of something like Photoshop or Lightroom, you get a message saying that this file format is not supported. So, just how do you view RAW files in Windows 7?

How to View RAW Files in Windows 7 (Icons) [2]

With the release of its Camera Codec Pack, Microsoft is looking to change how you work with RAW files. It offers photographers the ability to view thumbnails of RAW images in Windows Explorer, and the option to open JPEG copies of them for editing in the Windows Live Photo Gallery. Simply download and install the Codec Pack, and you will instantly see the difference with how Windows handles your RAW camera files.

How to View RAW Files in Windows 7 (Thumbnails) [3]

The Camera Codec Pack can be used on Windows 7 or Vista with Service Pack 2, and it is offered as a 32 or 64-bit download depending on what version of Windows you currently run. It’s compatible with almost all digital cameras that have ever had the ability to shoot RAW images, and is available for free from Microsoft [4].

Nobody would consider the Camera Codec Pack as a replacement for dedicated RAW image editors, but the convenience of being able to view and open RAW files without the need for a resource-hog like Photoshop, is hard to beat.

~Jonathan Wylie