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Mac OS X Tutorial: Preview your files with Quick Look

Finding the file you're looking for can often be a drag. (Pun intended). Have you ever had a bunch of picture/audio/video/Word/Pages/etc files and you're not sure which is the one you're looking for? Wouldn't it be convenient if you could peek inside a file without opening it in the respective application? Mac OS X makes it simple to quickly preview files direct from the Desktop or any Finder window using Quick Look.

This works with a surprising number of different file types. I often use Quick Look to peek inside Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents even though I don't own Microsoft Office. The same goes for PDF's and audio and video files. Once you've found the file you're looking for then it's easy to open it if you wish, or perhaps there's no need.

Either way, these Quick Look quick tips are essential to help you get the most out of this wonderful feature in Mac OS X.

01 - Sneak Peek

Activating Quick Look couldn't be easier than this. Simply select a file in the Finder and hit the Space Bar.

A window containing a preview of the file (a graphic in my example below) pops up. To close the Quick Look window either hit Space Bar again or click on the cross "X" in the top left corner.

You can also select the file and choose File > Quick Look *name of file* or right-click on the file in the Finder and choose Quick Look *name of file*.

Additionally, if you want to preview a file within a Finder window you can choose the Quick Look icon (the eye) in the Finder window's Tool bar.

02 - Navigating with Quick Look

I often use Quick Look by opening a Finder window containing the files I wish to preview and then hit Space Bar. With the Quick Look window open, I use the arrow keys on my keyboard to select a different file. The Quick Look window updates automatically to show a preview of the currently selected file.

Two further options are available in the Quick Look display. The Full-screen mode (two diagonal arrows) will make enter Full-screen mode which is perfect for displays or presentations. You can exit Full-screen mode by either pressing the Escape key or clicking on the Exit Full Screen Mode icon.

The Camera icon will appear if you're using Quick Look on image files. It will add the selected file to your iPhoto Library.

When previewing an audio or video file you'll notice that the Quick Look window looks very much like a QuickTime X window. You can play, pause, mute and scrub along the time line all within Quick Look!

Some multi-page document files, like Keynote presentations, PDF's, Word files, etc will also allow you to scroll through the entire document, or select a page/slide... and all from within Quick Look!

03 - Zooming

This is a little-known tip and one of my favourites. This is useful when previewing image files. Select the file, hit Space Bar and then hold down the Option key and scroll with your mouse to zoom in to the image within the window.

Notice how the mouse cursor turns into a magnifying glass when zooming.

Once you're zoomed in and have released the Option key, the cursor turns into a scroll icon. You can drag within the image to scroll or use the scroll wheel/trackpad to scroll too.

Additionally, your Track Pad's pinch to zoom gestures will work with Quick Look to enter and exit full screen mode respectively.

04 - Multiple Files

Previewing file by file can still take a lot of mouse clicks or key presses to find what you want. An easier way is to select multiple files and then hit Space Bar. There are some extra options at the bottom of the preview window.

The left and right arrows will preview the previous and next selected file respectively. You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard.

There is a play button to allow you to sit back and watch a slide show of your selected items.

Finally, the icon with four panes will create a contact sheet view of all the selected files, which enables you to visually preview all the selected images, documents, video or audio files and choose one if you wish to.

05 - Immediate Slide Show

After selecting multiple files to Quick Look, it's easy to view them in a slide show as we have seen above. No need to open iPhoto or even Preview to do this. But it gets even easier if you are a keyboard shortcut lover.

After you've selected the files, let's say image files, hold down the Option key and hit Space Bar or use one of the aforementioned methods for activating Quick Look. A slide show will begin playing in full screen mode immediately. A great way to effortlessly present photos at a family gathering or even quickly generate a slide show of important info during a business or college presentation!

Want to learn more? Check out these tutorials to become a power Mac OS X user.

Rounik Sethi

Rounik Sethi | Articles by this author

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & the macProVideo Hub. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic (and a self-confessed Mac fanatic) he's taught teachers, professional musicians and hobbyists how to get the best out of Apple's creative software. He has been a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University's Teacher training program, facilitating workshops on using music and digital media tools in the classroom. If you're looking for Rounik, you'll most likely find him (and his articles) on Ask.Audio & macProVideo.com.

Comments

Mar 10, 2011
adam8
Another great tip from a true master of all things Mac. Some great uses for this in the classroom, Rounik!

Many Thanks!

P.S. Found this blog from the link in Gary Hiebner's File Management in Mac OS X and Logic 9.
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