Manage the Quick Look window in OS X

QuickLookIconXThe Quick Look service in OS X is useful for previewing images and other file contents, either directly in the Finder, or in programs like Mail where you might encounter images and documents as message attachments. While you might consider opening a file or attachment directly in the program you have assigned to handle it, you can use Quick Look to take a peek at a file, which can be handy if you only need to look up a word or two in it.

To invoke Quick Look, you simply select the desired document and then press the Space bar, or right-click the item and choose the “Quick Look” option, and an overlaying window will appear that shows the file’s contents. If a plugin for reading the file in Quick Look is not available, then file information such as name, size, and modification date will be shown.

For file types where a plugin is available and you can see its contents, there are several options you can use to manage the Quick Look window, especially if it fills a large portion of your screen.

  1. ZoomTo zoom on a Quick Look window, simply use pinch-zooming on a multi-touch trackpad. If the document you are viewing is an image, then the bounds of the Quick Look window will remain the same and the contents will zoom in. If the item is a non-image document, then zooming in this manner will toggle between standard and full-screen views.
  2. Scroll and panFor any Quick Look document, standard scrolling with two fingers or with a scroll wheel will shuffle you around on the document.
  3. ResizeIn some cases, you may wish to resize the Quick Look window so it is not as intrusive. As with most windows in OS X, this can be done by dragging the bounds of it. You can also apply various hidden window resizing techniques to the Quick Look window, to better resize it according to your needs.
  4. Move the windowThe Quick Look window can be moved around on screen, and while in some cases you might need to move it by its menu bar, for images and some other formats you can simply click and drag anywhere in the Quick Look window.

5 thoughts on “Manage the Quick Look window in OS X

  1. tingo

    Is there a way to *disable* the Quick Look window? It often bothers me when I’m using the space bar to Start/Stop in sound apps, if the Finder happens to be on top for whatever reason.

    1. Topher Kessler Post author

      You can try disabling it by disabling the launch agent that handles it. To do this, open the Terminal and run the following command:

      sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ disabled -bool true

      To undo this, run the following:

      sudo defaults delete /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ disabled

  2. tingo

    Thanks, Topher. Good to be able to rely on someone who’s familiar with the Terminal! And a good thing that you always add the Undo command, one never knows when it’ll be useful.

  3. NYMike

    I liked it when there used to be a quick-look clickable button in older versions of mail – wish they’d bring that back.

    1. tingo

      I don’t use Mail, but the webmail interface of my spam filter service (SpamCop) lets you hover over the headers, so you can see a good portion of a mail’s contents (and the sender’s address) without going through the motions of opening it.


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