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You can set it the way you want and then save it as a custom document profile or as a template. See if that works! It does!
Saving it as a profile works you are going call it Large Thumbnails or something like that.
Here is how you do it make a new document set it up the way you want
go to the layers panel and pick your Large Thumbnails option
then save the file to this directory
Users/ Username/ Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator CS4/en_US/New Document Profiles
Now when you launch Illustrator it will show up in the Start Up screen under Create New so instead of choosing print choose this profile
If you go to the File>New select this profile from the drop down in the New Document dialog.
I see. It is unfortunate, I think, that this is a per-document setting. This is does not solve my problem, but now I know. Thanks.
Well you can if you want change all he preset document profile to this setting and save all of them to the same directory overwriting the original.
then when ver you go File new or use the keyboard shortcut the small thumbs will be available.
Now if you save a copy of the New Document Profiles after he alteration to the specs., then you can always recopy that folder and not have to start from scratch.
So it can be done.