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I'm a beginner in 3d printing, so please bear with me.

I downloaded a zip with about 100 STL files. I now want to pick one or two to print. The names of the stl files are not very helpful so I need to look at them to find the ones I want. I can open all of them one by one using Cura, or Tinkercad, but that is a very slow and long process with so many files. Ideally I would like to have an overview of all the files in little previews so that I can get an idea what they are to narrow down which files I need to open to inspect the details.

Is there a program with which I can do something like that? I'm on Linux, but tips about Windows/Mac software would also help since I can use it to search for Linux alternatives to that software. All tips are welcome!

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe there are tools for both windows and mac that integrate with their respective file managers to give you live thumbnails of STLs. Unfortunately, I haven't used either recently, so I don't know if they are still available. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Jul 17, 2022 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I can confirm that the macOS file manager "Finder" does give a preview thumbnail of the .stl but it is static. I did try the fast stl viewer suggested by fred_dot_U and it does give a full 360 deg view of the file. $\endgroup$
    – agarza
    Jul 18, 2022 at 0:31

4 Answers 4

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Using the search terms, "linux stl viewer," a number of results appear. One of the more promising programs, for Mac, Windows and Linux appears to be fast stl viewer, aka fstl. Image from linked site. Instructions included on the linked site to make fstl the default viewer for STL files.

fstl screen capture

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    $\begingroup$ Does it have functionality to batch generate thumbnails? $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2022 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ ^ This -- without the ability to generate thumbnail images from the STL files, it would be useless in this instance, the OP clearly needs some level of automation functionality that a GUI wouldn't provide. $\endgroup$
    – Raleigh L.
    Oct 31, 2023 at 20:56
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#!/bin/sh

if [ ! -d thumb ] ; then
  mkdir thumb
fi

for e in stl STL ; do
  for i in *.$e  ; do
    j=`basename "$i" .$e`
    if [ ! -f thumb/"$j".png -o "$i" -nt thumb/"$j".png ] ; then
      echo $j
      echo "import(\"$i\");" > x.scad
      openscad -o thumb/"$j".png --imgsize=100,100 x.scad 
    fi
  done
done
rm -f x.scad

Quick and dirty script I've used to maintain a thumbnail directory. It uses OpenScad to generate the default view for a part; not always the best view, but for most parts, this is sufficient. Once you have the thumbnails, use gthumb or something to view them.

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If you are on Linux, and a little capable in programming or scripting, a very handy tool is OpenSCAD. It can even be used from the command line from a shell.

You can load in STL files and offset them in a graphical view or loop through a list.

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    $\begingroup$ It's not too hard to write a script to use OpenSCAD to generate thumbnails for every stl and then normal image viewers like gthumb will work. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Jul 17, 2022 at 20:15
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Cura's probably your best bet. You can select several STL files and it will open them all, (memory allowing) then try to place them for printing. If they can't fit on your print bed the items get placed off to the side. Clicking on the object will show its name in the lower-left, so you can go rename the file to be more representative.

Tinkercad can only import one item at a time, and tops out at 25 Mbytes.

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    $\begingroup$ prusaslicer (and probably most slicers) can do this as well. I've used this method myself often for a small number of parts I want to choose between. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Jul 17, 2022 at 20:39

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