How to Get the Most Out of Apple's macOS Preview App

All of Apple's Macs come with Preview, a feature that's built into macOS. Preview is the default app that opens up whenever you view an image or a PDF, and it actually has quite a few useful tools built into it, which we've explored in the latest video over on our YouTube channel.

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  1. Editing a Clipboard Image - If you copy an image to your Clipboard from another app, you can quickly edit what's on your clipboard in Preview. To do so, copy an image, open the Preview app, and use the Command + N keyboard shortcut. Alternatively, choose File --> Open New From Clipboard in the menu bar.


  2. Filling Out Documents - When you open up a PDF in Preview, there's a whole toolbar of tools that you can use to fill out blank boxes. To access these tools, select the Markup icon (a pen in a circle).


  3. Signing Documents - With the Markup tools for editing PDFs, you can even virtually sign a document with your own signature. From the Markup toolbox, choose the signature icon, and select "Create New." From here, you can sign using your trackpad, or sign a white piece of paper with a pen and then hold it up to your Mac's camera. Both of these techniques work remarkably well, making it simple to get a virtual signature onto a digital document.


  4. Quickly Remove an Image Background - Preview is no match for software like photoshop, but there are some basic image editing tools included. If you want to remove the background from an image like a logo, there's a quick way to do so, with the steps outlined in detail in the video above. This feature really works best on images with a lot of contrast, such as a colorful logo with a white background.


  5. Photo Editing - In the same Markup toolbox that's been used for most of these tips, you'll find some basic photo editing tools for adjusting color, exposure, and other simple parameters. To open up these image editing tools, click on the little icon that looks like a triangle. You'll see options for exposure, contrast, saturation, temperature, tint, highlights, shadows, and sharpness, plus there's a histogram for more advanced edits.


  6. Adding and Removing PDF pages - If you open up a PDF in Preview, you can remove unnecessary pages or add additional pages. Using the Edit options in the menu bar, select Insert --> Page from File to add a new document to an existing PDF. Deleting is as simple as selecting the thumbnail view, selecting a thumbnail, and selecting delete. You can also use the sidebar to rearrange pages with simple drag and drop gestures.
If you've never really delved into the Preview app beyond viewing an image or PDF, it's well worth checking out some of the more advanced features. Have a favorite Preview feature we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Tag: Preview


Top Rated Comments

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16 weeks ago
Adding pages to a PDF can actually be accomplished a bit more easily than the method described here. With the Thumbnails showing in the Sidebar, simply drag another PDF from the Finder to the desired location.

Preview also provides an easy path to creating a JPEG from any app. Select Print/PDF/Open in Preview. Then, in Preview, select File/Export. You can set the DPI and a compression slider to control file size. You will also have access to a number of other generic image formats, such as TIFF and PNG.

Select multiple JPEGs in the Finder and use CMD-O to open all of them in a single document, one image per page.

Preview also serves as a handy quick-viewer for a wide variety of file formats, including Word and PowerPoint. If you keep Preview in your Dock (which you should!), simply drag the files to the Preview icon.

Preview is a powerful and under-appreciated app!
Rating: 8 Votes
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16 weeks ago
An oldie-but-goodie is cropping all pages in a PDF document:

1. Open your PDF document in preview. Display both the pages and thumbnails in a thumbnail pane.
2. Select one page in your document to crop manually.
3. With the Tools->Rectangular Selection tool, select the crop region you want on one page. Remember: that crop region will be applied to all pages; and odd-even pages may have different borders.
4. Click on the thumbnail pane. Select ALL pages.
5. Crop the pages (Command-K).
6. If you messed up the crop, you can undo it (Command-Z), change the rectangular area, and crop it again.
7. Save the correctly-cropped document.

I wish that preview had a "crop to eliminate all blank borders" command to do this automatically, but it is very easy to do manually.

One other trick: when connecting a camera to your Mac through a USB cable, you can do an import of a handful of images straight into Preview. This is good if you want to quickly copy a few images up to a website. You can annotate or crop the image in Preview.
Rating: 7 Votes
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16 weeks ago
No one mentioned that preview can show .STL 3D model files. I use this all the time when I make iterations of 3D models to 3D print. Just select the file in finder and hit space bar!!
Rating: 4 Votes
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16 weeks ago

Preview is great except for the new autosave function. If you flip an image sideways for example and close it, it will be saved without asking. The default should be to have a pop up dialog asking you whether it is OK to save changes. I can't count the number of times I messed up an original file this way...


This behavior can be controlled globally in the General preferences pane. Checking the box "Ask to keep changes when closing documents" will return the older method of confirming on document closing.

Even if you don't select this behavior, you should be able to undo almost any change you've made to a file. CMD-Z is your friend!
Rating: 3 Votes
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16 weeks ago
Preview was one of the best built-in apps, but while it has retained a lot of useful functionality, performance has really gone down a lot in recent macOS iterations.

I have rendering problems on basic text PDFs (text never really gets sharp), and on complex line-art PDFs, it is incredibly frustrating to watch the PDF continually re-render as you scroll around. And all this is on fast i7 computers. What on earth did the developers do to Preview to break its basic PDF rendering so badly?

On El Cpaitan, zooming in to PDFs too far causes them to go completely blank, and the pixelated/re-rendering problem is just as prevalent on Sierra, so upgrading didn't fix much.
Rating: 3 Votes
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16 weeks ago

How do you scan with preview? I'm genuinely curious to know more about this.

In Preview, select File from the menu and from the drop down list select Import from Scanner.

Enjoy.
Rating: 3 Votes
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16 weeks ago
I think Preview is one of the best apps Apple has built. Windows has no built-in tool that compare. I'm a huge Preview fan. I'll have to check out these tutorials.
Rating: 3 Votes
Avatar
16 weeks ago
Preview is great except for the new autosave function. If you flip an image sideways for example and close it, it will be saved without asking. The default should be to have a pop up dialog asking you whether it is OK to save changes. I can't count the number of times I messed up an original file this way...
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
16 weeks ago

Preview was one of the best built-in apps, but while it has retained a lot of useful functionality, performance has really gone down a lot in recent macOS iterations.

I have rendering problems on basic text PDFs (text never really gets sharp), and on complex line-art PDFs, it is incredibly frustrating to watch the PDF continually re-render as you scroll around. And all this is on fast i7 computers. What on earth did the developers do to Preview to break its basic PDF rendering so badly?

On El Cpaitan, zooming in to PDFs too far causes them to go completely blank, and the pixelated/re-rendering problem is just as prevalent on Sierra, so upgrading didn't fix much.

Yes, the PDF viewing is broken in El Capitan and maybe some other versions. I was grappling with the blurring issue before and opening PDFs in Safari instead. I haven't seen issues in High Sierra or Sierra.
Rating: 2 Votes
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16 weeks ago
I think they should rename it, “Preview” really doesn’t give any indication of all this stuff it can do!
Rating: 2 Votes
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