How to Use Quick Look on a Mac

By Edward C. Baig

Apple gives the Mac a clever way to peek at the contents of files on the computer without having to launch the applications that created or can otherwise open those files.

More than living up to its moniker, Quick Look lets you look at a file as a pretty decent-size thumbnail or even full-screen. Quick Look might also be called Quick Listen because you can even play music. Indeed, the feature works with all sorts of files — PDFs, spreadsheets, Word documents, movies, and more — because Quick Look plug-ins for many other formats are available on the Internet.

Here’s how to invoke QuickLook:

  1. Highlight a file in Finder.

  2. Click the Quick Look button on the toolbar or press the spacebar on the keyboard.

    The file jumps out at you in a window. To display the file full-screen, click the button that looks like two diagonal arrows pointing in opposite directions.

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  3. If you’re looking at a picture and want to add it to your iPhoto image library, click the Add to iPhoto button (visible only in full-screen mode).

  4. If you decide to open the file you’re previewing inside its associated program, click the Open With button in the top-right corner of the screen.

    The Mac suggests the program with which to open it: Preview, Word, and so on.

  5. To exit Quick Look, click the x in the circle or press the spacebar again.

You can preview multiple images in Quick Look. Just highlight more than one file and click the Quick Look toolbar button or press the spacebar. You can then use the Forward or Back arrow to navigate through the files manually or click Play to preview the files in a slideshow.

Finally, you can click the Index Sheet button — visible only if you’ve selected more than one file — to peek at documents in a grid. The button resembles a rectangle with four small squares in it. A good way to find all your photos in one place is to click All My Files in Finder, sort them by Kind, and start sifting through all those that are picture-type files.

Throughout OS X Mountain Lion and its successor, Mavericks, Apple added a Share button and so-called Share Sheets that make it simpler to share digital files with other folks. So it goes in Quick Look.

If you click the Share button, you can whisk the file off in an e-mail, share it in an instant message (through Messages), or share it with another nearby Mac through AirDrop. You can also post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or Vimeo.