View and Convert Images and PDFs in Mountain Lion Preview

You use Preview in OS X Mountain Lion to open, view, and print PDFs as well as most graphics files (TIFF, JPEG, PICT, and so on). PDF files are formatted documents that can include text and images. User manuals, books, and the like are often distributed as PDF files.

You can’t edit the existing text in a PDF file with Preview, but you can leaf through its pages, annotate and mark it up, and print it. You can often select text and graphics in a PDF file, copy them to the Clipboard (Command+C), and paste (Command+V) them into documents in other applications. It’s also the application that pops open when you click the Preview button in the Print dialog.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. You can edit one certain type of PDF file: a form that has blank fields. Preview allows you to fill in the blanks and then resave the document. And although it’s technically not editing, you can annotate a PDF document by using the Annotate tools on the toolbar.

One of the most useful things Preview can do is change a graphic file in one file format into one with a different file format.

For example, say you’re signing up for a website and want to add a picture to your profile. The website requires pictures in the JPEG file format, but the picture file on your hard drive that you’d like to use is in the TIFF file format. Preview can handle the conversion for you:

  1. Open the TIFF file with Preview by double-clicking the file.

    If another program (such as Adobe Photoshop) opens instead of Preview, drag the TIFF document onto the Preview icon or launch Preview and choose File→Open (shortcut: Command+O) to open the TIFF file.

  2. Choose File→Export.

  3. Choose the appropriate file format — such as JPEG — from the Format pop-up menu.

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  4. If you want to make sure you don’t confuse your original image with the one in the new format, change the name of your file in the Export As field, too.

  5. Click Save.

As you can see, Preview lets you convert any file it can open to any of the following file formats: JPEG, JPEG-2000, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, and TIFF.

Chances are good that you’ll never need to convert a file to most of these formats, but it’s nice to know that you could if you needed to.

Almost every OS X program with a Print command lets you save your document as a PDF file. Just click and hold the PDF button (found in all Print dialogs) and choose Save As PDF. Then, should you ever need to convert that PDF file to a different file format, you can do so by using the preceding steps.

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