The third article in a five-part series, Paul Stoecklein has headed up the documentation department at MadCap Software since its inception, overseeing the development and publication of all online Help systems, PDF manuals, and video tutorials for all applications in the MadCap product family.

If you haven’t used thumbnail images in your project yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. As the name suggest, a thumbnail is a very small version of an image, about the size of the average thumbnail. What’s so great about thumbnail images? Well, it’s not that they’re cute (but they really are pretty darn cute). It’s that they can make documentation better for both you and your readers.

I like to use thumbnail images in my online output for similar reasons that I use drop-downs. Because they help make a topic less intimidating and easier to read. Plus, some people need an illustration to grasp a point, others don’t. So I create image style classes and put thumbnail settings on them. This initially makes the image really small. If you want to see the image, you click it. If you don’t want to see it, you ignore it. It’s as simple as that.

Before a Thumbnail Image is Clicked:


After a Thumbnail Image is Clicked:


To do this, create a class of the img style. Then tell Flare how you want the image to be accessed and how big you want the thumbnail. I use popups and keep the default setting (Max Height 48 pixels).

Stylesheet Editor:


Internal Text Editor:


When you insert an image in Flare, you can select your style class.

Thumbnails aren’t supported in print-based outputs, so they’ll show up larger, which is what you want anyway. That’s another reason to love them; they’re easy to deal with in both online and print-based output.

Take a look at your online output. Click from topic to topic and scroll up and down. Do you have lots of full-size images that are taking up loads of space and just being generally obnoxious? If so, consider using styles and turning them into little thumbnail images.

If you’re like me, I think you’ll soon discover that you really like thumbnail images. After all…

They’re useful.

They’re easy.

And they’re darn cute.

If you have any questions about best practices for including examples in your MadCap Flare projects, please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or on Twitter at @MadCapDocTeam.

About The Author

Paul Stoecklein

About Paul Stoecklein

Paul Stoecklein has over 20 years of experience as a writer, editor, and documentation specialist. In that time, he has worked for a wide range of companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Edward Jones, and eHelp Corporation. Since the formation of MadCap Software in early 2005, Paul has headed its documentation department.

Last Modified: January 20, 2016

This entry was posted in MadCap Flare, Tech Comm, Tips & Tricks. Bookmark the permalink.


  • Robert Bernobich February 11, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Hi, I’m trying out the thumbnail feature and it looks great — just what was needing! EXCEPT I’m having trouble getting print output to ignore it. Not talking about MadCap’s print “Targets” but the “@media print” in my CSS — trying to turn off thumbnails when printing the HTML page, but can’t seem to get it to work :
    mc-thumbnail: none;
    mc-thumbnail-max-width: auto;
    max-width: 500px;
    border: solid 4px #0000dd;
    padding: 16px;
    I threw in a goofy border / padding to see if *anything* was sticking, but the entire entry is being ignored. What am I missing?

  • Paul Stoecklein Paul Stoecklein February 11, 2016 at 1:11 PM

    Hi Robert,
    It looks to me like you might have discovered a bug. When you generate a PDF using the print medium, it ignores the thumbnail setting, as it should. And it should do the same when sending the online output topic to a printer, but for some reason it’s not. I’ll look into it more and make sure it gets reported to the right people. Sorry about that.

    • BETH WENDLAND November 23, 2016 at 9:24 AM

      Hi, I was wondering if you had any more information about this. I’m in the same boat as the person to whom you replied. When I generate pdfs, my thumbnail images are the larger size I specified in my stylesheet’s print medium. But when I print from a web output, the print medium setting for the thumbnail isn’t being used. Thank you!

      • Paul Stoecklein Paul Stoecklein November 29, 2016 at 8:55 AM

        Hi Beth, I wish I had something new to report, but I don’t at this time. The bug has been reported, just waiting for a fix. I will follow up with our developers though.

  • Robert Bernobich February 11, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    Thank you for the reply. My workaround for now is to simply use two divs and toggle “{display:none;}” and “{display:block;}” for print/online display:

    It’s klugey but this project is full of large screen shots that I can’t easily reduce and keep legible, so these thumbnails will be a godsend even with that extra effort.
    A nice complement to the thumbnail, btw, is using the “::before” property to display a hint:
    display: block;
    content: “(Click image to enlarge.)”;
    color: rgba(150,150,150,1.0);
    font-size: 0.9em;
    font-style: italic;
    without cluttering up my topic content with that extra text.
    Looking forward to next blog post!

  • Kevin Southwick February 16, 2018 at 7:57 AM

    Hi Paul,
    Is there a way to slightly delay the thumbnail expansion on hover? We use lots of them and sometimes they popup when sliding the cursor across a sentence. I’m thinking there must be a way to add a delay code in the Slideshow.css.

    • Paul Stoecklein Paul Stoecklein February 16, 2018 at 10:55 AM

      Hi Kevin,
      That’s a great question. My thumbnails all work on popups, so I haven’t even thought about that until now. I think ideally you’d be able to do it using transition-delay on a style, but so far I haven’t gotten that to work. I’m going to tinker with it and let you know if I come up with a solution. I will also mention this to our dev team to see if we possibly could add this in the UI to make it easy for authors to implement.

      • Kevin Southwick February 23, 2018 at 7:51 AM

        I think you’re right about using transition-delay. I opened the Slideshow.css and tried to place it there but without success though I may be close. Below is the “Slide Thumbnails” where I’ve tried to place it. I don’t know what “a” on “a:hover img” is, and that may be a clue.
        Thank you!

        /* SLIDE THUMBNAILS */

        .mc-thumbnail {
        text-align: center;
        margin-top: -30px;

        .mc-thumbnail a img {
        margin: 0 3px;
        padding: 3px;
        border: solid 1px #ccc;
        width: 50px;
        cursor: pointer;

        .mc-thumbnail a:hover img,
        .mc-thumbnail img {
        border: solid 1px #5280DD;

        • Paul Stoecklein Paul Stoecklein February 28, 2018 at 11:36 AM

          Hi Kevin,
          I wasn’t able to get it to work. I had another person give it a try and no luck there either. I suspect that we’re having issues because we’re dealing with some style settings that are unique to MadCap, not standard CSS. So we’ll need our developers to give us a solution. It’s been entered as a feature request, so unfortunately we’ll just have to wait. In the meantime, if it’s really causing problems, you might consider changing from a hover to a popup where the end user needs to click. Then when we get a fix, you can go back to the hover. Hope that helps.

  • Kevin July 18, 2018 at 11:27 AM

    Hi, Paul. We use thumbnails in our online help; they’re great! Recently, we noticed a strange behavior in our source control (Git): we are getting duplicate images with the names appended with “_thumb_250_150”.

    Any idea what’s happening here? Is Thumbs.db a possible culprit? Any info you can share is really appreciated!

    • Paul Stoecklein Paul Stoecklein July 18, 2018 at 1:04 PM

      Hi Kevin. The files you’re talking about look like output files that we generate upon compilation of the target. But you shouldn’t be seeing them in source files. The only way I can think of that happening is if someone imported their output files back into the Flare project. You might want to contact tech support if that doesn’t explain your situation. Paul

  • Kevin July 19, 2018 at 5:44 AM

    Hey, Paul, thanks very much. OK, I can see how that could be possible. I’ll do some further research here to see if your supposition might be the culprit. Thanks again!

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