MacMost Now 347: Quick Look

Take a closer look at Quick Look, the ability to view the contents of a file without opening it. Just select a file in the Finder and press the spacebar. You can also navigate between files with Quick Look active, and browse around inside the contents of a file. Quick Look also works in Time Machine, Mail and iChat.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 347: Quick Look.

On today's episode, let's learn about Quick Look. So Quick Look has been around for a while. It's the ability to preview what is inside a file without opening it. Basically you select a file in the finder, press the spacebar and you'd get a view of what's inside. But it's actually more powerful than that. Let's go and take closer look. So here, I have a finder window filled with document. So, I can select any one of these documents and press the space bar. And I get a view of the doc inside a little window. Press the spacebar again and it instantly goes away. So it's very quick to be able to go and look at what's in this document. Now it works for a variety of different types of documents. You saw the images there and you saw what happens when I open up a text document as well. You can also look at sounds and actually play the sounds for you and you can look at videos. You can even look at PDFs as well. You can even use it for documents like keynote document, PowerPoint, excel, word. There's a whole bunch of different things that are supported and if for some reason the file isn't supported, it will at least show you some information about the file and file size. If it's a folder, it'll show you the number of items in the folder.
So one of the coolest things about Quick Look is that you don't have to exit it to view other documents. For instance, if I select this image here and I look at it in this quick look window. Now I can use the arrow keys without exiting quick look and move to other documents in the window for instance I go down to the text file. I'd go down one more to look at this file here. This movie here and I can go around looking at the sound file and keep navigating through. It doesn't matter if you're in list format or if you're in icon format like this. If you're in column format you can basically navigate through your entire structure with Quick Look open looking at the content of files. Now different types of files support different types of functionality inside of Quick Look. For instance, here's a large photograph. I'd bring that up on Quick Look. I can shrink the window down by grabbing. Now I can also use option and the scroll wheel on the mini mouse or the magic mouse, adjust it. To zoom in. as long as I hold on down the option key, once I zoom in, I can then pan around just by dragging. That function is available for just pictures. You also have a button here as an iPhoto for a picture that you view. Down here, you also have a full screen button that appears is most Quick Look windows that would expand the entire thing to take up the full screen. If you select more than one photo in addition to full screen, you also get the ability to do slideshows.
The pdf files also allow you to navigate through them. You can use the scroll bar on the right and this is the multipage document. You can also zoom in this time with the PDFs you use the command and plus button to zoom in, and minuses to zoom out. Now if I select a video, I would get a video of the playback bar at the bottom here. Also get the same thing for sounds as well. Not only does quick look work in the finder. It works in a few other places. You can use it in time machine to preview the content of a file without having to restore it. You can also use it in mail and iChat to preview an attachment. Just select the file and press the spacebar.
Here's another thing I love about Quick Look. If I select a bunch of items like I have here. Press the spacebar to launch Quick Look and shrink that window so you can see it. I can use these arrow keys at the bottom to flip through the items. I can use the play button to play them like a slide show. I can also press this index sheet button here. And see all of the items that I have selected and select one and zoom in on it. Also, when I'm looking at a single item like this, I can double click instead of going back to the finder window.
Did you also know you could get plug-ins for Quick Look that allows you to preview the content of certain special file types. All you need to do is to search for quick look plug-ins online. Now a lot of these will only work in leopard. They don't work in snow leopard so it's not as useful as it used to be. So you can find some interesting things that you can use. So once you get into the habit of using Quick Look you'd find it indispensable and you would use it all the time. Till next time this is Gary Rosenzweig on

Comments: 3 Responses to “MacMost Now 347: Quick Look”

    9 years ago

    Check out this option: Before hitting the space bar, hold down the option key. Now the quicklook window will be full screen right away. This is very handy when looking at a pdf.

    David L
    9 years ago


    I often get Word or Excel files that have the proper extension but are NOT viewable with quick look – only shows a generic icon rather than the preview of the file.

    I sometimes receive files through Windows firefox/outlook running inside of a vmware fusion VM.

    Could this problem be related to either a mime type or creator code not being set properly from windows or via firefox on windows download? I haven’t determined a common trait to Word, Excel files that do work vs. those that don’t work properly with quicklook.

    I really enjoy your podcast. Keep up the excellent work.

      9 years ago

      That’s a tricky one. While the .doc and .xls extensions have remained the same, the formats themselves have changed a lot over the years. It may just be that Quick Look can only display previews of simpler doc and xls files, or ones that don’t have certain features.

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