Viewing File Contents With Quick Look

Quick Look gives you the ability to view the contents of files without needing to open them up in an app. You can easily view a single photo or document by pressing the spacebar. You can also page through PDF files or view groups of photos. If you open up the Quick Look window you can continue to select different files with the cursor or arrow keys and the window will reflect whatever is selected.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Viewing File Contents With Quick Look.

One of the best features of Mac OS is Quick Look. But I'm surprised at how many people don't know about Quick Look or don't use it very often. Or just don't know about all the functionality inside of Quick Look. So let's take a look at it. It's basically the ability to look inside a file without actually opening an application.

For instance, if you want to look at an image you can select it. Just click on it in the Finder and then the simplest keyboard shortcut of all, just hit the spacebar. Now there's two different ways to do it. I can tap the spacebar once and it opens up Quick Look and a nice larger view of whatever's in the file. In this case an image. I can tap the spacebar again and close it. But another way to do it is to tap and hold the spacebar, and I'm still holding the spacebar, and when I release it goes away. It's a really quick way to look at what's inside a file.

Now it works for other types of files as well. For instance, if I want to look in this pdf here I can tap and hold the spacebar and I can see there. If I tap once to bring up Quick Look I can even browse the contents of this pdf here with this little sidebar here that shows all the pages. There's a close button. There's an enlarge button to make it even bigger. There's Open with Preview and the ability to share right here from Quick Look without opening up the file or doing something in the Finder.

In Mojave there will be even more up here. There will be the ability to mark up a file. There will be the ability on a photo to rotate it and things like that.

You can do some other things as well. For instance, with Photos, you can select multiple photos. So I'm going to hold the Shift key to select multiple photos here. So four photos. Now when I hit the spacebar I get the first photo just like before except there's some new buttons at the top. These arrow buttons here and I can flip through those four photos back and forth. I can also tap this little grid button here and it brings up a grid of all the photos I have opened. It works with way more than four photos if you want. Then you can select one and jump right to it. So you've got that as well.

Also, Quick Look will move with whatever it is you have selected in the Finder. So I'm going to select this icon here. Notice if I hit the right arrow key on the keyboard it goes to the next one over and go to the next one over there. I can go back with the left arrow key. Now if I activate Quick Look with the spacebar and I do the same thing, you can't see it, but underneath I'm actually moving which file is selected. You see the Quick Look window remains up. So if you have a whole folder filled with images you can simply use the arrow keys.

Now if I do this in List View, so I know that up and down are the only options, it even works better. So now I can go up and down the list. It even shows me things like folders. Here's a RTF file. So I can go through all of this stuff and see what's inside these files.

So Quick Look has a lot of really cool functionality to be able to quickly look inside files and see what's there. Even show things that you don't need to open an app for. For instance, if you were doing a presentation and you wanted to show these images you could show them just here using Quick Look and going through them without actually having to open them up in Preview or put them into a Keynote presentation or something like that.

Comments: 6 Responses to “Viewing File Contents With Quick Look”

    8 months ago

    I have always wished I could have the option to display file information along side the image using quick look. In other words, instead of clicking Command I, that I could simply space-bar the file and then optionally display the file info. Do you know of any utilities that would do that?

    8 months ago

    Lance: If you use the Preview pane (View, Show Preview) in the Finder, you get that. You don’t even need to hit the spacebar. You could also use the Info panel (Comand+Option+i) and the Info “window” will stick around and display information for any file you like.

    Lauren Eisen
    8 months ago

    gary, i’ve been having an intermittent problem with quick view which i do use frequently. sometimes when i press the space bar the item i am trying to view will open but then will quickly close on its own. other times it will open as it should and stay viewable. any ideas why this happens? thanks so much for all your great tutorials!

    8 months ago

    Lauren: My guess is that you are holding the spacebar too long, as I show in the video. If you hold for too long, it opens and then closes when you release. You have to tap quickly to have it open and stay opened until you tap again.

    8 months ago

    In earlier os there was a hack (?) titled zip.qlgenerator or something like that that allowed one to view contents of zip files using QL. Now that doesn’t work on the latest OS and would sorely like to have that method available via QL.

    8 months ago

    Thank you! I never knew this, and it will be so convenient. Really appreciate your tips.

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