How can I preview documents before downloading them from a particular website?

Caroline Balhuizen April 2, 2013
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I have a problem with a site that has a lot of teaching materials that I MIGHT want to download. I am used that you can open documents and view the content and then decide if you want to download or NOT.

“Suddenly” on this particular I immediately go into download mode so have to download, open folder and document and then if I don’t like content have to delete from folder. Such a hassle!

I looked up how to maybe solve this problem (both in Firefox and in Chrome) and found some instructions, but this does not seem to be the problem cause these settings are correct. And also this automatic download is only on this specific site (as far as I have notice so far…….) ?

Would appreciate solution (if there is one…….). Also contacted owner of website, but they weren’t very helpful.

  1. Caroline B
    April 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Hello everyone,

    thank you for your comments. As i am initiate geek maybe my question was not clearly formulated. (and i am dutch and an old(er) woman......)
    Your replies about everything always going into temp folders anyway was new to me. I have always been 'taught' to not just randomly download from internet. But seems I have been doing this al along (into temp.files). Anyway, I was used to files first opening onto my screen so that I could view content and then choose folder to (permanently) download. Last weeks every file I click on (firefox and chrome) immediately asks where I want to download instead of first showing content. Which is, I think, very annoying !! This goes mainly for WORD files , most pdf's do first show content so I can decided to download or not. But I understand from most of your answers I'll have to live with it.
    Pressing ALT and holding is not working on particular site which made me ask this question in the first place.
    BUT, in closing, thank you all for your answers !

  2. Avinash C
    April 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Yes, you can't just read the content without downloading it. But you can do one simple thing:

    Tell your browser to OPEN files, instead of SAVE. When you choose to OPEN file, the file will be downloaded to temp folder and opened. Preview your file. If you want, you can save it to the desired folder otherwise simply close it.

    • Caroline B
      April 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      Hi, how do I tell my browser to open instead of save ?

    • Avinash Chenreddy
      April 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Oh sorry, there is no settings option like that. For firefox, it automatically does. It asks you whether to OPEN or SAVE the file. I don't know about the others.

  3. MakeUseOf TechGuy
    April 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    You can't preview something before downloading it - the very nature of previewing something means it will have already been downloaded.

    I think what you mean is that PDF files usually load in your browser, and you can then click SAVE. What you're actually doing it just moving the saved file to your download location - it's already been downloaded though, and is being stored in your temporary internet files.

    And in this case, the file is going straight to downloads rather than opening in your browser first. Unfortunately, this isn't something you can fix. The site has set up their files to be sent as an octet stream - a string of file bits - rather than as a PDF or whatever document. So the browser has no idea what it is, and just downloads it as instructed. You can't change that.

  4. Harshit J
    April 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    You just find out some document file over the net. And paste your link in address bar of internet browser after the below link

    For example:
    Your searched link is “abc” then your final link would be this

  5. EL
    April 3, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Depends on the website. For example, gmail offers the ability to "view" or "download"

    Note: if you want to make sure that a file is virus-free before downloading it, there are a number of websites that do that. The one that I use is
    You just give it the URL, and it will scan the file for viruses.

    • Caroline B
      April 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Thanx for your tip !

    • Harshit J
      April 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Please tell me how do you make paragraphs in comments here? I press enter to start a new paragraph but it does not work.

    • ha14
      April 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      do you mean to write an answer? if yes you have to scroll down to: Write an Answer and add your comment there.

      if to reply then click on REPLY.

      if nothing works then perhaps it is browser problem, clean it and clean cookies.

  6. Oron Joffe
    April 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    It's not possible to answer this generically. Whether a document will open within the browser or download first depends on the browser (and its configuration), the file format and to a certain extent the design of the web site.
    However, note that even when just "previewing" a document, the entire document is downloaded to the local drive, to a temp folder (at least for "ordinary documents such as Word, PDFs etc), so in terms of speed and bandwidth it makes little difference, and arguably, you'll be saving yourself some bandwidth by saving the files in the first place, since you'll not need to download them twice.

    • Bruce Epper
      April 3, 2013 at 12:08 am

      Unless the file format for the preview version is different than the downloaded version, you wouldn't be downloading the document twice. It would just copy the previously cached copy to your save location on the hard drive. This has been the default behavior of web browsers since at least the early 90s.

    • Caroline B
      April 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Ok, thanx, never realised I have always been downloading to TEMP that I actually double download..... anyway I have now found solution I am happy with extension of Google doc. viewer. (add on in firefox)

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